Christmas on a Budget
The holidays can be a depressing time when you don’t have money. Everything costs money all year round, but in December it seems amplified. There are presents to buy, holiday events to attend, gift exchanges at work, and even our energy bills are higher. You end up focusing on every cent spent instead of the spirit of the season. It seems like all hope is lost and you scramble to make ends meet in time to start your New Year’s resolution to save money. No wonder December seems to fly by. Well, part of the Christmas spirit is hope and to quote my spirit animal, Clark Griswold, you can have the “hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye” no matter how much (or little) is in your bank account. It just takes some faith, creativity, and a whole lot of unabashed holiday cheer.
- Holiday movies and specials: Lots of channels have holiday programming. If you’re partial to cheesy Hallmark flicks, you are in luck. The Hallmark channel plays their holiday fluff around the clock. ABC Family has their 25 days of Christmas movies throughout December. The basic cable networks serve up holiday offerings like A Charlie Brown Christmas and Frosty The Snowman. Redbox ups their selection of holiday favorites and makes them available for just over a dollar a day.
- Crafts: ‘Tis the season to craft. Check Pinterest for endless ideas for budget-friendly, DIY Christmas crafts. Go old school and make paper snowflakes. Add glitter for that sparkle and shine and then you can forgo the lights and save on that electric bill. String a festive popcorn garland. Snack as you craft and this becomes a two for one holiday activity. Ransack Mother Nature. There are so many craft projects out there that utilize pinecones, leaves, branches, and acorns. Make gifts for family and friends instead of buying something.
- Music: No need to break the bank on iTunes. Pandora, Spotify, iheartradio, and Rdio all have the option to listen for free and all provide holiday themed playlists. Your local radio station may also play Christmas music exclusively during the season. It’s usually an easy listening station. You can just hang out in any retail store and jam to the free holiday tunes. Or make your own music. As Buddy the Elf says, “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”
- The Christmas tree: There are so many cool alternatives to the traditional evergreen. For the literary minded there’s the book tree. Make a cardboard Christmas tree if you have spare boxes. Decorate it with drawings or chalkboard paint and have holiday visitors make their mark. Find access to free pallets and you have found a thousand ways to make a “tree” to trim. Use washi tape to make a modern wall tree.
- Events and activities: There are a plethora of holiday fairs and fests in December. Choose ones that provide free activities and attractions. Avoid ones that only offer shopping options, like holiday bazaars. Some will have free crafts for the kids or entertainment like carolers. When making the tough decision on which Santa to visit, see if any offer a free picture with the jolly guy or allow you take your own. Avoid the mall Santas as they force you into buying a photo package and prohibit personal photography. Cruise your neighborhood to look at Christmas lights. Go on foot to save on gas.
- Charity: I guarantee you that nothing will fill your heart with the holiday spirit more than giving. You don’t need money to give. You can donate your time. Help out at the soup kitchen, sing carols at the senior center, host a food or clothing drive. Buy an extra coffee at the coffee shop and give it to someone braving the cold and the streets. Bring a reasonably priced toy to a toy drive or pick a wishing star for a less fortunate child. Usually the kids in need aren’t asking for expensive gifts.
Even if you aren’t broke this holiday season, it’s important to focus on the real Christmas spirit. Deck the halls with meaningful, homemade crafts, not designer decor. Create memories, not more debt. Spread holiday cheer, not consumerism. Spend time with family and friends, not at the stores. Get your head out of the (check)books and you’ll see all the season has to offer.
originally published at collective lifestyle 12.10.2014