A frugalicious Christmas
I try to avoid Christmas as much as possible because I believe it exists simply for the purpose of making us all go dilly and spend, spend, spend. Then in January, you live in fear of the credit card debt you’ve accumulated. This year, we are spending Christmas with a great friend and her family. You might ask: what about your family? Well, most of them are overseas or no longer on the planet. So what better way to spend Christmas than with some great people (rather than things you’ve bought) and some simple food.
So here are my essential tips for avoiding a credit card headache in January and enjoying a simple “back to basics” Christmas. None of the ideas involves lots of $$$$ and they involve spending time making things or being with your family.
- get that credit card out of your wallet and leave it at home. Do what I do: hide it somewhere secret and then forget where that place is. A decade later you’ll discover it! You will most likely get caught up in department store displays and bright, shiny decorations that are calling you like a siren – but if you don’t have your credit card with you, it might just stop you from buying what you (or others) really don’t need. Remember that interest rates are likely to rise in 2010 and remember we aren’t out of the GFC yet.
- prepare a gift budget. You might have heaps of people to buy gifts for but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune. Make a list of who you need to buy gifts for and the amount you have for buying all the gifts. As you buy each gift, subtract the money you spent from your total budget. A simple technique that encourages you to be frugalicious. You don’t need to buy to impress people – think about the person’s personality and a simple gift they would appreciate. If you have the ability, make a few gifts.
- don’t use expensive gift wrapping. In the past, I’ve cut up old maps, calendars and comic books, used newspaper which I’ve coloured or used plain white paper that I’ve drawn on. I’ve taken photos and scanned them onto paper (like my background for my Twitter page). Use your kid’s drawings that they did at school for wrapping paper. A few years back, I presented a family member with a gift wrapped in aluminum/aluminium foil – learn how. And the most frugal technique is to buy your Christmas wrapping paper straight after Christmas because it will probably be at 75% discount and you can use it in 2010.
- gift tags and cards. Why pay a commercial card company to write a personal message that you should be writing? Cut up your Christmas cards from last year, make a collage out of them and compose your personal message on the back of it. You could send an e-card but I don’t think they have the personal “I care” touch. So why not make a Thankful Leaf – and idea that we have used in my family over the years – get a piece of paper, chuck a leaf onto it, then spray around the leaf or watercolour around it, using bright colours. Take the leaf off and you’re left with the shape or silhouette of the leaf. In this space, write what you are thankful for eg I am thankful for our friendship. Go here to see some examples and a Thankful template you can use.
- Bring the outside inside. Maybe when you were a kid, you decorated pine cones with gold or silver spray paint. Do it again and even sprinkle with a lovely essential oil. A Christmas table looks fabulous with gold-tipped pine cones snuggling together in a festive looking bowl or even a shiny stainless steel bowl. Plonk some twigs from the garden in vases and tart them up with glitter and use as a table decoration. Make some paper fans to decorate the tree – go here to learn how and also how to dip pine cones in white paint. Make some merry mice. Don’t light up your house like a Christmas tree – just have the Christmas lights on for a couple of hours each night so it’s a special time.
- Do stuff together. When I was a kid, Christmas lunch was followed by an intense game of Majong. Or the Monopoly board would be whipped out. Why not turn to some simple entertainment – play cards, get the karaoke machine out, tell stories about what you are thankful for, read a Christmas story together. Bake Christmas cookies together or work on a huge jigsaw puzzle. If you’re up for it, put on a pantomime. Go to the Put on a Panto website for ideas. You don’t all have to disappear into your respective rooms to watch TV or surf the Net.
- If you are totally clueless as to what gifts you might be able to make – go here for ideas. If you have a cat, make a cat mat for your kitty cat. For your canine, make a dog-bone wreath. And there are plenty more ideas for crafty, budget-conscious gifts here.
- Share the love. Because of the economy going belly up, there are many homeless people out there or people suffering from a long illness or people who are less fortunate than you. To really embrace the Christmas spirit, why not volunteer your time. Spend some time at a homeless shelter helping prepare Christmas lunch or take yourself off to a retirement home and chat with some of the seniors (they have a lot of rich stories to tell). Above all, don’t stress out. Take a little time each day to just enjoy things – go for a walk, read a story with the kids, make yourself a cup of hot chocolate and relax.
A good friend said to me the other day “I count my blessings every single day”. Why don’t we all do that over Christmas.