Our Frugal Christmas

My goal for Christmas 1997 was not to exceed $150 for gifts for our children, including stocking stuffers. We have three children to buy for, so that works out to $50.00 per child. Mind you, we don't worry about the dollar values equalling out, as long as they all get comparable gifts. But even so, nowadays $150 doesn't buy very much, particularly when you start adding up the stocking stuffers. Well, for those of you who are interested, we ended up spending a bit more, it was about $250. But that is still an improvement over previous years, so I'm fairly happy with it. This coming year will be a lot different...I have been turning away from consumerism more and more, and I am hoping to slowly bring my husband and my children around to this kind of thinking.

Thrifty Holiday Suggestions

I didn't have time to sew any Barbie doll clothes, but I do plan to do so this year, and to make other handcrafted gifts for the kids. For the rest of the family, I gave personalized home-made gift baskets. Diabetic cookies and bars for one person, packaged in freezer bags so he could pop them in the freezer, together with copies of the recipes giving the food exchanges. Homemade hot pepper sauce, pickled jalapenos and dried jalapenos went to the hot-lover of the family. Cookies and truffles for the rest of the family, with a few small things tucked in to personalize each - small packages of tea, bath puff and bath beads, etc. The kids each drew a picture for each gift box, and a wallet-sized photo of the girls went in too. All in all, the gifts were all fairly inexpensive and I felt good because I had put a lot of thought and love into each one, and the family knew and appreciated this.

In early fall we usually go to K-Mart and buying some things on layaway. There are two bonuses to this: The first is that we only have to pay 10% per week, for 10 weeks till it is all paid for (which makes it really easy to budget around!), and the second is that all the stuff stays at the store till it's paid for! So you don't have to worry about the kids finding your stash, and you don't have last minute panic shopping to do either.

With so many people leading such busy lives, it is too easy to lose touch with old friends. We've overcome this by holding an annual Christmas open house. It's always on the same day, the Saturday before Christmas, and it is understood that people can drop in anytime after 3:00. We serve snacks and non-alcoholic drinks, and I start shopping and baking for it in October so the cost doesn't hurt, spread over a couple of months. Every year it has gotten better and better, one year we had over 50 people visit throughout the course of the day! Although we have never asked anyone to bring anything, some people always do, so there is always plenty of food. (Last year we had more the next day than we started with!) To us, it is a necessary part of Christmas, as we reconnect with people we love. And the cost is more than repaid to us, as we share the spirit of the season with our friends, and they with each other.

Related Sites:
A Simple Holiday To You A really nice article about keeping the season simple. By Debi, webauthor of D Simple Life and Once-A-Month Cooking (OAMC).

From Our Readers:

Gift Buying Ideas

"I found that purchasing all year is the way for me to save for Christmas. We like to hit the tourist areas as the off season approaches. Cute previously overpriced things are rock bottom. I have found that purchasing things in the stores that you do not expect to find them is a big help. Toys, candles, kitchenware and more can be found in several of the chain fabric stores. Christmas cards and candy in the hardware store has been another great buy. Stuffed animals and knickknacks found in clothing stores. I even regularly scout the airport gift shops for buys, although notoriously expensive, like anywhere else the bargains will come.(DH travels on business regularly that is why I am there, besides the company pays the parking! It is cheaper than a cab.) Strange things show up at the garden shops too."
- Karen in Colorado

"It is too late to do this year, but a friend of mine who has a very limited budget made baskets for children by getting crayons, markers and similar items when they are on special at the drugstore, like before school starts, when they have buy one, get a second box for a penny type sales. She also augmented these by freebie stickers and similar materials that she got by mailing in ups symbols on some products. Other sources for this kind of thing are articles in magazines usually titled something like "50 free things for kids" that cost little besides the price of a stamp. Baskets can be obtained at yard sales or resale shops for under $1.00. These turned out very nicely and all the recipients loved them, but as she pointed out, she got these things at absolute minimal cost by constantly being on the lookout, all year long. Not a last minute deal."
- Michele

If anyone else has any ideas or suggestions to have a thrifty Christmas, please let me know!! I'd love to post some more suggestions here.
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