Perhaps this year more than ever, people are looking for ways to cut down expenses. Of all the expenses a person may have, Christmas is right up there. Holidays are especially tough when you are just making ends meet, whether because you are under-employed, on unemployment or just seriously trying to cut back and pay down debts.
Though if you are like me, you aren’t willing to pass on Christmas altogether. Whether you have kids or not, Christmas is often the time of year that people want to celebrate.
How to celebrate Christmas without breaking the bank
Gifts/decorations: Gifts probably take up the majority of the Christmas budget and they can be a challenge, especially if you have a large list or a big family. Places where you may find some bargains:
Thrift or consignment shops: If you are a diehard, savvy shopper, finding bargains and treasures in second hand and consignment shops may be right up your alley. My local thrifts shops are pretty good and I have found things like:
Prada handbags (under $10)
Art deco silverware
Christmas decorations (vintage and otherwise)
High-end label clothing
Dollar stores are also good places to find:
Some food items
Other discount stores: Stores like, Big Lots, Marshalls, TJ Max, Ross and box stores like Sam’s Club and Costco – often offer closeout items at deep discounts and you can get anything from designer clothing to movies and books.
Online merchants: Like Amazon, Ebay, and Overstock also offer items you might otherwise not be able to afford and can be great places to find vintage, unusual and hard to find items.
Cutting corners—when you’re really broke
I can hear you now, yes, all good advice, but what if you can’t even afford discount stores? Believe me, I understand and I’ve had some pretty broke Christmases myself. On my brok-est Christmas, all I could afford to send anyone was a Christmas story I wrote. I printed it on Christmas stationary and sent it to everyone on my list. It wasn’t fancy or expensive but it came from the heart and surprisingly it was a bit of a hit.
Yet another year I couldn’t afford a Christmas tree but that didn’t stop me and I decided to improvise. I found a good sized tree limb that had snapped off a tree in my neighborhood, spray painted it silver, put it in a tree stand and covered it with my large assortment of Christmas ornaments. Unconventional, yup, but in fact it was one of my favorite holiday trees ever. Following through on my nature theme, I collected pine cones galore (lots of pine trees in my area) and also spray painted those silver and gold and piled them into baskets with pretty ornaments. The cost was about $5 for the spray paint, everything else was just the effort and creativity involved in putting it together.
What about Christmas dinner?
One of the great things about Christmas is the food, but a typical turkey dinner for Christmas can cost a pretty penny, even if you cook it yourself. If you are a host or hostess for Christmas dinner, why not consider getting together with friends/family and do a potluck dinner? Each person is only responsible for one dish, which don’t have to be traditional – how about Christmas lasagna or Christmas stir-fry? The joy is in the sharing of the meal and contributing to it, not necessarily the menus. Pot lucks also reduce the time spent in the kitchen, saves money and maybe even makes the meal more festive because everyone has added to the feast.
Not everyone sends them but for those who do, between the cards and the postage you can drop a good bit of cash. In lieu of traditional Christmas cards you could:
Send free ecards. There are several sites online that offer free e-Christmas cards from funny to sentimental – many of them quite beautiful and no postage.
Christmas postcards. Either buy them or have your own made. Places like Staples and Office Depot or local print shops can take a festive photograph and make them into personal postcards for a relatively nominal fee. And the postage for postcards is about 30% less.
Buy cards at discount stores. If you prefer to still go with traditional cards places like your local dollar store and Big Lots often have a large selection for mere pennies of what you would typically pay.
The bottom line
While most of us have our own image of what makes a great Christmas and we get disappointed when we can’t make that happen, it doesn’t mean that Christmas is impossible or miserable. The bottom line is this, where there is a will there is a way. You can create a wonderful Christmas on a shoestring if you want to and if you have to. And honest to God, sometimes those are the very best ones of all because we really had to be creative and resourceful to do so.
No matter what kind of Christmas you have, I wish for you the merriest and happiest—and that you are surrounded by people you love on that day.