Whether you are frugal by choice or from necessity, Christmas presents a financial challenge. All over North America, there is a growing trend toward creating a less expensive holiday. Incorporating simple traditions and showing our appreciation in simple, yet thoughtful, ways are a meaningful alternative to the traditional Christmas shopping frenzy. By planning ahead, budgeting carefully and resisting the temptation to overspend, you can create a terrific holiday that doesn't wreck your budget. Envision Christmas as an opportunity to be a creative and thoughtful gift-giver-you will enjoy the holidays more!
It's easy to make a few changes that can really make a difference to your budget. Here are sixteen suggestions that will help you stay within your budget.
- Plan your shopping so that you make as few trips as possible. Use the bus if you have good urban transit. Take a friend shopping so only one car is used; you'll enjoy spending time together while you shop. Phone ahead to see which stores have the item you are looking for.
- Think carefully about the gift you are giving. Is it truly something the recipient needs or wants? My grandmother used to say, "Don't give old people something they have to dust. Food or a plant is better." You can't go wrong with a cheery poinsettia or a basket of warm muffins.
- Consider pooling your resources with other family members in order to give one really special gift. Most people have too much stuff and would be thrilled to get one item they really want.
- Give gifts that will last. Visit local craft fairs; you'll find lots of high quality items made from wood, stained glass, or hand-woven materials. Often the prices are very reasonable.
- Shop at antique shops, thrift stores and second-hand bookstores. You'll find wonderful treasures to delight even the most difficult to buy for person.
- Make a couple of denim shopping bags for an environmentally conscious friend for Christmas.
- Use wrapping materials you already have in the house. Scraps of material can be sewn into re-usable bags. Brown paper bags can be cut apart, turned inside out and stamped with gold paint. Add some raffia and a piece of cedar or fir bough for an elegant package.
- Use your extra photos as gift tags-the recipients will love them!
- Make your own wreath from natural items rather than purchasing a plastic one. Buy or make a loosely woven grapevine wreath and tuck lots of cedar or fir boughs between the twigs. Wire on some pinecones and a big bow. Wreaths make wonderful, inexpensive, environmentally sound gifts. (Ask recipients to save the grapevine base to reuse next year.)
- Use natural materials like cedar boughs and pinecones to decorate with. They can be used for mulch or compost after the holidays are over.
- Give a savings bond. There's no wrapping and no waste.
- Recycle last year's cookie tins and baskets by filling them with newly baked or purchased cookies, bars, or muffins. If you don't have time to bake, fill mason jars from your local thrift store or recycling depot with a cookie mix-in-a-jar or brownie mix-in-a-jar recipe.
- Real gingerbread cookies make lovely, edible decorations. Before baking, insert a small tube cut from a paper straw through the top of each cookie so you'll have a hole to thread a ribbon through.
- Give gifts to children that DON'T require batteries but DO require imagination.
- Popped popcorn makes a great packing product to protect breakables when shipped. Put a note in asking the recipient to feed it to the birds after opening your gift.
- Make a coupon that entitles the bearer to homemade baking once a month for an entire year. This is a gift that is especially appreciated by seniors, who will look forward to your visit as much as your baking. That sounds like a lot, but it's easy to make a few extra muffins or cookies when you are baking some for your own family. Arrange the treats attractively on a plate and add a seasonal decoration such as a paper heart for Valentine's Day. Pumpkin muffins would be terrific for October. Irish soda bread is simple to make in March.
© Virginia Brucker is the author of Gifts from the Heart: 450 Simple Ways to Make Your Family's Christmas More Meaningful. After print costs, Brucker donates her portion of the book's sales to the Canadian Cancer Society for research. By this December, Gifts from the Heart will have raised over $80,000 for the CCS and an additional $110,000 for the schools, daycares, churches, service organizations and other groups who have used the book as a fundraiser. News of the project has been shared by CBC Radio, Canadian Living magazine and Canadian Living Online as well as The Canadian Centre for Philanthropy. Janice Kennedy of the Ottawa Citizen says "Gifts from the Heart" is a "miracle disguised as a book." You may reach Virginia at vlbrucker @telus.net or visit her website at webelieve.ca
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