Still Be Merry Without All the Spending
Christmas Coloring Pictures
The other day I heard something that
surprised me. A recent nationwide study showed that 70% of those polled
planned to spend the same amount or even more this Christmas than they did
last year. When I read this, I couldn’t help but wonder who the pollsters
talked to when they did their poll.
They must not have talked to my
friends, Chuck and Melinda, who were both downsized from their jobs a few
months ago. They couldn’t have contacted Mike and Faye, a single-income
family struggling since Mike lost his job. The survey surely didn’t
include input from my friends Sarah or Rachel, both of whom have been laid
off for close to a year. Maybe someone, somewhere is planning to spend
more at Christmas, but certainly not anyone I know.
The truth is that many Americans are facing the challenge of celebrating
the holidays this year on limited budgets due to cutbacks and downsizing.
This prospect can be both discouraging and unnerving for those who have
always done Christmas in a big way. Even families who normally celebrate
rather simply are looking to simplify even more during these tight
Unfortunately, most Christmas
traditions involve spending. Just think about all the dollars each year
that go for gifts, wrapping paper, live trees, decorations, greeting cards
and traditional meals with all the trimmings. But for those experiencing
layoffs this year, spending a small fortune or charging up the credit
cards for these things is not a prudent option.
Are there ways to enjoy the holiday season without all the spending?
Thankfully the answer to this question is, "Yes." Here are some ideas for
keeping the celebration simple, yet meaningful for your family.
- Handcrafted gifts and decorations
– Experience the joy of giving something made with your own two hands.
Handmade gifts are not only unique but they also show you care enough to
invest time and energy into your giving. Check out library books
containing homemade gift ideas or use Yahoo.com or Google.com to do an
Internet search. The same goes for decorating your home. Instead of
buying decorations, use your creative abilities plus things you already
have on hand to give your home a festive look and feel.
- Electronic Season’s Greetings -
Sending Christmas cards instead of gifts is a great way to save money,
but the cost of store-bought cards adds up quickly. Even if you make
your own, the cost of postage can be restrictive for those on a tight
budget. For friends and relatives who use email, consider sending
electronic Christmas cards instead. Many websites send e-cards for free,
and they offer a wide variety of cards from which to choose. Visit
Gcards.com or 123greetings.com or do an Internet search for other free
greeting card sites.
- Free family activities – When
cutting corners, don’t cut out all the fun. Look for ways your family
can enjoy quality time together without spending. Check your newspaper’s
community calendar for free church programs, musicals or community
events. Just driving around looking at Christmas lights while sipping
homemade hot cocoa can be great fun when you do it together.
- Focus on giving rather than
receiving – Instead of moaning about what you can’t afford this year,
why not focus on how you can give of yourself? Many non-profit
organizations need extra helping hands during the holiday season.
Contact your local Volunteer Center or United Way office to inquire
about opportunities for service in your area. Volunteering together
allows family members to experience the joy of giving without expecting
anything in return.
- Low-cost or no-cost gift giving –
Rather than exchanging gifts with extended family members and friends,
plan a special evening together with each family during the holiday
season. Enjoy a simple meal and then watch a favorite holiday movie or
do a giant jigsaw puzzle together while munching on popcorn and snacks.
Another option is to give gifts of time or service such as free
babysitting, housecleaning, cooking, etc., to those on your gift list.
Look for ways to give meaningfully instead of materially.
Nancy Twigg is
the author of newly revised book, Celebrate Simply: Your Guide to Simpler, More Meaningful Holidays and Special Occasions (www.celebratesimply.com). Celebrate
Simply is filled with ideas and insights to make all your holidays
and special occasions what you really want them to be.