Ahh, blog how I've missed you. It's been a long time; what, with that pesky thing called life always getting in the way. I never got around to finishing my Thanksgiving post, so I'll post here about some money saving tips, as we're only 17 days away from Christmas!
Christmas is not so much about "Christ" any more, as it is about "mas". "Mas" is the Spanish word for "more" which is what the holiday seasons are becoming more and more about. More spending, more frivolous gifts, more people out for themselves, trying to get the best deals and not caring about those they hurt in the process. I ABSOLUTELY REFUSE to take part in black friday shopping. I absolutely hate shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas, even just for groceries, because this time of year seems any more to bring out the worst in people. Tangent aside, I decided this year that this year Christmas for my family is going to be more about spending time together doing things as a family and not quite so much about what's under the tree.
There's one thing I'd like to ask of you before I get on with this post. Take the time to do something for those less fortunate. Get your kids involved. No matter how small, any gesture can be a life-changing difference for those in need. While we should do this all year round, take the time to donate a toy to toys for tots, take some food, warm clothing, or blankets to your local shelter, or some cookies to a senior home to brighten their day. It's an incredible experience to see the light in someone's eyes when you make that selfless gesture. This year I've decided to get a group of friends together and have each one make a gallon of soup and freeze it, and take it down to our local shelter along with some holiday cookies. While the cookies aren't necessarily a need, I'm sure they'll brighten up someone's day, even if just for a few moments.
Sorry, I like to talk-a lot.
Let's start with gifts: Gifts do not have to be over-the-top and expensive, or even purchased for that matter. Gifts that come from the heart and are made/purchased with the receiver in mind are the best of all. My son is very much into superheroes right now; so one of his gifts is going to be a Batman cape that I am going to sew for him. For my friends I am taking all the homemade goodies I canned this year and making gift baskets.
Decorations: My one splurge is to take the kids and hubby out and each child gets to pick a new ornament to put on the tree each year. My hubby and I choose one together, because our anniversary is two days before Christmas. The rest of our tree is decorated with ornaments made by the kids at school and daycare. We also make gingerbread men and hang them on the tree. They're very inexpensive, make your house smell awesome, and the kids love making them and then eating one off the tree each day as we get closer to Christmas. We get to spend time together doing it, and these are the memories we will treasure forever. You can also decorate with cheap things such as stringing ropes of cranberries and popcorn, glitter-covered pine cones, and more. Do what they used to do in the old days, and look to nature.
Christmas cards: I always buy them, plan on sending them out, and then never do. This year when I opened my box of stuff from last year, I found a brand new box of cards, but couldn't use them because the insides were stamped with 2010. Then the lightbulb went off and I realized I could tear the fronts off and turn them into Christmas postcards! This way I didn't have to waste the cards by tossing them out. If you save Christmas cards that you receive from friends, do the same with these. Cut the pretty side away and recycle it as a postcard.
Wrapping paper: This stuff is ridiculously expensive, and not worth it for the amount you get.
*Use the comic section of your local newspaper to wrap gifts. Use your children's artwork, or create your own on rolls of plain white or brown paper. Your money will go much further on a roll of brown packing paper than a roll of Christmas paper.
* If you sew, scrap fabric also makes great wrapping paper. You can also use plain or colored tissue paper. Make gift tags with small pieces of wrapping paper. Don't waste money on expensive bows and ribbon. If you really need it, check out the dollar store, you'll find stuff just as pretty and half as much!
Food: Many grocery stores are offering great deals during the holidays, some are even giving away food, or cash! Read the paper every week for your local deals, or if you don’t subscribe to the newspaper, pick up the free ad flyers at the store and take it home so you’ll have time to look it over really good before shopping.
*Compare prices. I like to buy whatever’s on sale at one store, then a few days later when we need more milk anyways, I go to a different store and get their best deals. It’s a great money-saver.
*Store brands are great when making casseroles and side dishes… no one will even notice. Stock up while everything’s on sale, just an extra can or box here and there…but not a storage closet full! If you end up with too many bargain buys, share them with your local food bank!
*Last of all, make your party a potluck; this way you're not stuck footing the food bill for a huge party.
Entertainment: It’s wonderful to take your family to the movie theater during the Christmas holiday break, but this could also be a good time to catch up on the videos that have come out for rental during the holiday season. With Netflix you can rent DVDs online or stream movies instantly. No more charges for late fees or crazy amounts of money spent on popcorn.
*Another great and frugal way to entertain the family through the holidays is to take a drive around your town, or another town nearby to see their Christmas lights. It’s a family tradition of ours to do this during Christmas week and we look forward to it every year.
*Get out the board games; the kids will love spending time with you. If you don’t have many to choose from, maybe you can borrow a new game from a friend or neighbor. You never know-they might have a closet full they never even use and would be delighted to share them with you.
*Playing cards is always fun too, even when the kids are little you can play Go Fish… we’re making memories here folks!
*Sing, sing, sing! Many churches and groups even have caroling get-togethers in December, what fun. Sit around a warm fire, or cozy up in the living room with blankets and cocoa.
*Tell family stories… or have everyone take turns saying how they have been blessed throughout the year, like we do at Thanksgiving. Being thankful shouldn’t end in November, keep the spirit going.
*Have a family gathering to decorate the tree, wrap gifts, or bake cookies. Check out a Christmas book from the library and read it together as a family. Or, decide on a story and have everyone contribute a chapter to create a new Christmas book... maybe even one about your own family! My husband has all our children snuggle up to him while he reads "The Night Before Christmas".
These are just a few ideas to get you started. Take this time to reflect on all the things you are thankful for, and spend some quality time with your family. Whichever holiday you celebrate, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyful Kwanzaa, and Winter Solstice.