I sort of stole this idea from my buddy Teeni, who was pondering how to enjoy Christmas when you haven’t much money or have to watch your budget. So, I thought I would just give you a list of my tips and tricks, since I am notorious for being the bargain queen (well, I am, really.)
Places to shop:
Not all of us can zip through the mall, wielding credit cards and checkbooks with wild abandon. In fact, chances are you’ll pay more for anything in a mall than you would if you looked a little further. I only go to the mall to get ideas (if at all) then I check online to see if I can find it for a better price. For electronics/computer stuff try Tigerdirect.com – they have great prices on many things and their delivery is pretty quick. Overstock.com is an Amazon competitor and frankly, they tend to have better prices, much cheaper shipping costs and quicker delivery. They don’t have the enormous selection of Amazon, but they’ve got some groovy stuff. If you’re in the market for computers try, electrorent.com – I got a laptop for under $300 and it came with a free case and only $15 delivery fee. Again, quick delivery. The computers are used/refurbished but are in great shape and come with a 30 day return policy so if it’s messed up they will replace.
Thrift shops, used bookstores, garage sales – being the treasure hunter, bargain queen that I am, I love these places. I’ve found amazing things in these places. A set of crystal wine glasses for about 4 bucks, a rare book (that was being bid for on E bay for $30-$40) for a mere $3, tons of movies and cds, designer bags (the best one, a Prada bag for 10 bucks), antique vases and silver serving pieces, antique Christmas ornaments, etc.
The Dollar Store – everyone has some semblance of this in their neighborhood (I think) and once you get past the stigma of being in a cheapo place you can find some amazing things. All manner of great candles and candle holders, gag gifts, wrapping and ribbons, craft items, photo frames, art supplies, small toys, winter scarves, puzzle books, school supplies, garden supplies, baskets, baby stuff (I once put a package together for a friend’s new baby – from bibs to blankets and picture frames and it came to about $10, including the gift bag).
Big Lots – again, get over the stigma of shopping in the discount universe and check it out. They often have great Christmas cards for bargain prices, decorations, coffees, cosmetics, watches, sundries, etc. Occasionally, you can even find good music or movies there. It’s worth checking out anyway.
We all love the beautiful trees and decorations we see in the magazines and department stores and maybe even fantasize about having such things but they can cost a fortune if you’re not careful. Here are some free or almost free ideas:
1. Pine cones and spray paint – if you live in an area where there are pine trees, then you can find tons of cones usually just lying around on the ground. Gather some up and spray paint silver and gold – put them in baskets on your coffee table or dining table – or attach fishing line to them and hang them on the tree. Same for pine branches/boughs – why go to Home Depot and pay a fortune for these things when a walk through the woods will yield all you want for free.
2. Unusual Christmas Tree – I’ve had a few Christmases where I couldn’t afford any kind of tree. And let’s face it, they are expensive. Again, if you live in an area where there are lots of trees or woods, take a walk and look for a fallen branch or bough and take it home. Spray paint it silver or gold, stick it in a tree holder and hang ornaments on it. I know it sounds a little odd but it does make a beautiful and unusual tree. Or if you want something traditional, check the local thrift shop for an artificial tree – Roomie & I found a 7.5 footer for $25 this year and it looks great. Plus, he’ll never have to buy a real tree again if he doesn’t want to. Decorate a large potted plant like a Christmas tree, you’d be amazed at how beautiful it is and after the holidays it goes back to being a regular plant.
3. Spray paint – if you have a couple of cans of silver and gold spray paint you can Christmas up just about anything – bowls, baskets, vases – add a little sparkle and you’re there.
4. Old toys and CDs can be hung on trees as ornaments – spray paint them or put some spray glue on them and sprinkle them with sparkles – if you’re good at crafts, make some from wheat paste and craft paint.
5. Make a Christmas card tree – we all get some and it’s easy to fashion a tree or decorate a wall or mantle with them – they are festive and sweet because they came with love. Why not use them as part of your theme.
6. Put a red tablecloth on a dining table or coffee table, top it with the basket of pine cones – instant Christmas.
1. Christmas movie marathon – all of us have at least a few Christmas movies or if not, tape some that play on television. Dedicate one night to watching Christmas movies till your eyeballs bleed. Add some popcorn and hot cider, with a blazing fire and you’ll get a serious case of the warm fuzzies.
2. Help out at a local charity or church. Giving this time of year especially, will fill you with the Christmas spirit. It’s what it’s all about, right? Almost any church has some sort of meal they host or if you haven’t the time, donate any leftovers from your Christmas party to the church. Help with a food drive. Or heck, just put 5 bucks in that envelope for St. Jude’s or your local animal shelter.
3. A Christmas light walking tour – bundle up everybody one evening and take a tour of the neighborhood to see all the lights and decorations people have put up. There is something wonderful about walking in the cold air and seeing pretty lights and decorations that is invigorating and makes you smile.
4. Christmas Scrabble – Pictionary, Charades, etc – take your favorite board game and play it with Christmas theme – only seasonal words or ideas or movies or characters.
5. Decorate your tree by candlelight with Christmas music playing – it’s warming, a little romantic and sometimes hilarious.
6. Baking parties. Have it with friends or family or both. Baking supplies are pretty inexpensive and there isn’t anyone who doesn’t like getting sweets for the holidays. Wrap them up in clear gift bags (at the dollar store you can get fifty for a buck) and tie with bows and give to the postman, your favorite mechanic, hairdresser, neighbors, co-workers, etc.
7. Write a Christmas story. I try to do this each year. I don’t know why, but it always makes me feel good, even if the story turns out to be silly. If you have kids, have them help you with the story. Then read the story the next year and add to it.
8. Snow ball fight. If you live in an area where there is snow – have a snow ball fight until there is one man/woman standing – then go inside for hot chocolate and a Christmas DVD or tape.
9. Midnight mass – I was raised as a Catholic and one tradition I always loved was Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Even in the smallest church it is usually magnificent and fills you with the wonder of the reason for the season. I imagine other churches have similar services. Get dressed up (take a nap before hand if you need to) and go honor he whose birthday it is.
10. Christmas scavenger hunt – create a scavenger hunt for the kids to find their presents on Christmas morning – rather than jamming it all under the tree and having them open one present after another until their eyes glaze over – leave clues and have them search them out. It’s gets everyone moving and it’s so much fun having to find your presents than having them stuffed in your hands one after the other.
But mostly, just enjoy the day/time. For whatever reason, people seem more open and friendly this time of year. We feel freer to express our feelings and our love for our fellow man. Revel in it. Soon enough, you’ll be back to the day to day grind. Let yourself enjoy whatever it is you have and not worry about what you don’t have. Love is the best gift of all and if you give and receive love, what better gift could you get?