My mom was a working mom. Because of that, for a few years, she was really broke and couldn’t buy into the whole consumer thing for her son (my older brother). She found ways to make it work.
At various times, for a lot of reasons, there have been periods when money was tight and a lot of stuff or spending a lot of money just wasn’t possible.
Given who we are, my husband and I, we have kept or discarded many of the usual “traditions” and do the following, not all of them, not all the time, but a mix and match as time and resources allow.
TREES & DECORATIONS:
- Buy your tree on Christmas Eve, they are usually 1/2 off.
- Or, if you have more space than money and can swing it, buy a good fake tree AFTER the holiday when they’re on sale, and use it forever after. You’ll save the gas, time, and money you’d have spent locating, buying, bringing home, and then discarding a tree.
- If you have land and the right sort of tree, then cut one of course!
- Make decorations and garland and keep them rather than buying glass or other fragile ornaments. Or, if you must buy them, get metal, plastic, wood or paper ornaments which will last, rather than fragile ones.
- Cut snowflakes for the tree from the end of last year’s wrapping paper, if you have any. We did that when I was a kid, but I don’t keep wrapping paper around any more.
- Make bead “icicles” (or buy permanent ones) rather than tinsel. Doesn’t take much room, costs less over time and there’s less waste.
- Start traditions which are cheaper and less consumer oriented. The Aunt who hosts the largest family Christmas in our family has a “Yankee swap” where you gift a gag or nice gift, or several.
- Buying a tree on Christmas Eve fits here too.
- One year, DH was out of work. We just couldn’t afford to spend the $ we’d spent before making cookies etc. for the neighbors, so we made bread on Christmas Eve. Twenty plus years later, we’re still making bread. The recipe we make takes 1.5 hours start to finish and we’ve made up to 14 loaves on Christmas Eve,families with kids get 2 loaves, couples without kids get a single loaf. A fave memory of mine is going up and down the street with a bag of still-warm bread to give away on Christmas Eve. Everyone seems to like it and it costs us much less than the expensive cookies we used to make. (One of my acquaintances here made a large array of cookies every Christmas. She used the cheapest ingredients she could find — the cookies were awful. I refuse to do that. I’d rather make ONE cookie or something that’s decent than a plate full of unpalatable stuff.)
- Last year, I gifted my SIL, her husband and 2 kids with decorated cookie tins. They aren’t all that large, but at my request, she sent the tins back to me after the holidays. During the year, I’ve put the little bits I found for everyone in their tin. Next week, I’ll mail them. It isn’t their large gift, but it’s a piece of it and it means that I don’t have to buy wrapping paper, boxes, and ribbons for these. I just have to tape them shut and put a tag on them. I might put ribbon on them, but that’s because I have a lot of ribbon and I’m trying to use it up.
- We put up the tree on Christmas Eve and take it down on New Year’s Eve. My family’s tradition was that we burned the tree in the fireplace on New Year’s. Since we heat with wood and the tree is almost always pine, we don’t do that. We adapted my family’s tradition: when we take down the tree, we cut a log off the bottom and tie a bow on it. It gets put in a bag and put away in the trunk with the ornaments. The following year on Christmas day, we burn the log. This costs us nothing but the space to store the log and it links us to our past in a nice way.
WRAPPING AND TAGS:
- Design your wrapping/gift tags to use (and use up) as much of what you already own as possible. I frequently use metallic or printed tissue for wrapping paper. It’s light, looks great over a layer of white tissue and it’s pretty cheap and takes little space to store.
- I’ve been whittling down my yarn/cord stash for some time with my Christmas wrapping. Last year I wrapped everything in black and white striped paper and then used a collection of blue, green and teal cords for “ribbon.” It worked. One year I used a ball or two of yarn I’d bought to make a sweater . You can, if you save them, make new tags out of last years’ Christmas cards. (I’m always afraid I’ll give the person back the card they sent me, so I’ve never done this.)
- Wax paper is great for making “snowy” cards.