“It’s the most
wonderful expensive time of the year.”
For I love the holiday season with the ember glow of a fireplace, the spirit of giving, and the kindness of people. However, with this time also comes quite a bit of unnecessary expense.
Often times, we find the demons following us from overdrawn accounts and maxed out credit cards into the New Year. So, I thought I would create a list for ways you can keep the holidays from blowing your budget and turning kindness into debt and remorse.
The obvious solution would be just to say don’t do Christmas or Thanksgiving. But then I would be the Scrooge and that’s no fun. The holidays really can be a time of joy and happiness.
So let’s not eliminate the feelings of this time of year. Let’s just try to eliminate some of the expense while also favoring ‘greener’ options over the less practical and earth-trashing ones.
Make meals or side dishes out of your pantry.
For most of us, when we say, ‘We have nothing to eat.’ We don’t really mean it. Many times, our pantries are jammed packed with balsalmic vinegar, peanut butter, and canned spaghetti sauce. Not necessarily appetizing together, but with the right mix of ingredients — we could surely find something to eat. I could tell you; I lived off peanut butter in high school and college. I used to eat it by the spoonful. Some would call it an addiction.
If you have your heart set on making cranberry and black walnut cookies for the holidays and all you have is a $1 box of chocolate chip cookie mix — make the damn box of chocolate chip cookies. I’m sure it will suffice. They are both packed with sugar, providing your sweet tooth the pleasant calories it craves.
Or maybe you want to make a spinach salad full of strawberries, pears, cranberries, and celery. And when you open your fridge, the only ingredient you have on that list is spinach — well get create my friend. I’m sure you have a bag of nuts stashed in your baking cabinet, carrots hidden in the back corner of your fridge, and a bag of peas and corn in your freezer. Add a little unexpected quinoa and we’re serving up a hot veggie salad. Of course it’s going to still taste hella good. And no it won’t have that sugary taste your craving, but trust me when I say there will be plenty of sweets and desserts at your holiday get togethers.
A good meal and a good time with friends and family doesn’t require you go out and buy gourmet cheeses at $12 a pound and select curated meats that last for 5 seconds. Put some old school salami and cheddar cheese on a fancy plate with those saltine crackers (because I know everyone harvests a box of saltine crackers hidden in the depths of their pantry) and that $5 appetizer will look like a high end, executive-worthy meat and cheese tray worthy of a dinner party.
Use a big houseplant for your Christmas tree.
We have kept a few of our favorite ornaments from the past few years. The Beard is like the plant whisperer (along with the animal whisperer) and he takes care of our North Folk Fern. This year it has been transformed into our living Christmas tree — costing us $0.
If you have a big houseplant, turn it into your Christmas tree. Even better, let your kids decorate their own houseplant with ribbons, pine cones, and homemade decorations.
And if you’re short on houseplants — opt for the indestructible fake tree. These babies can last for generations and can even be handed down. Garage sales are a great place to find used Christmas trees for very little money.
Forget the gift wrap.
Can we stop using this stuff, please? The number one most wasteful product of the holidays right here. I have two options for you.
If you love watching little ones shred and rip that shit all over and it only took 12 hours to wrap, I have a solution. Use recycled newspaper. I’m sure you know someone who gets the paper. Use that as your wrapping paper (just make sure it isn’t the obituary section…oops!). Add a little twine, some spruce clippings and a pine cone and you have yourself a lovely smelling, homemade package right there. It’s cheaper and way more eco-friendly. Then, you can throw that newspaper in the recycling bin or add it to your fireplace. I did this last year and I was probably gloating about how good my gifts looked.
The second option I got from The Beard’s aunt. Sew or purchase reusable cloth bags. Find Christmas pattern fabric and cut it into large squares of varying sizes. Once you’ve sewed them together, add a little ribbon to tie the bag closed. I’m doing this one this year. And I’m obsessed. I can’t stop sewing! This solution is on bad ass eco friendly level and it drastically cuts your gift wrapping time in more than half. No dreaded hours of sitting on the floor with your back cramping, your knees locked up, and your feet going numb.
Unless you have some leftover gift wrap — then by all means use that shit.
Make gifts meaningful, not expensive.
Gifts can get awfully expensive when you think of all the people you need to buy gifts for. Co-workers, friends, family, children, pets, etc. Don’t judge me when I say pets. They’re part of the family. But try and lower this number without being rude. If you still want to give some of your friends and co-workers gifts, make them a card or a Christmas video online.
But those that still make the cut can cost you a pretty penny. And I like all the pennies I can keep. If you can tap into a person’s interest, you likely won’t have to spend as much. Say your grandpa loves gourmet coffee, find a local supplier and get the best coffee they have. He doesn’t need that $60 tie.
Maybe your son wants a skate ramp for his skateboard and scooter, make him one. Or make it together. And I know your daughter is screaming for the next Barbie. I’m sure she would love for you to make her a doll. Let her pick out the fabric and she will love it even more!
Meaningful and practical gifts don’t have to be expensive. Keeping up with the Joneses is only hurting your wallet. And you won’t feel so bad when your daughter wants to trade in her doll for a bow and arrow.
DIY holiday decorations.
This has been my favorite tip so far. I’ve made garland, faux Christmas presents for under the tree, and a wreath. The Beard let me decorate his homemade wooden lanterns into Christmas decorations.
And I even tied the holiday decorations into our current decor. This means I need less decorations to feel holiday ready. Your entire house doesn’t need to be painted in red glitter with every corner packed with Christmas trinkets to feel cozy and warm. A few smartly designed and placed decorations that work with your existing style can easily transform a place.
I’ve made my garland out of scrap fabric and an old thrift store dress. Previously loved decorations may just need a red paint job to make them feel more Christmasy.
Keep it simple and keep it cheap.
Go all ugly Christmas sweater instead of that cocktail dress and heels.
Secondhand thrift stores are super awesome for finding that ugly Christmas sweater of your dreams. You want some cats playing with the ribbon under the tree? No problem. Or maybe Will Ferrell’s face from Elf plastered across your chest. You got it. And guess what — it won’t cost you more than $4. And if it does, PUT IT BACK! Find another one. Pair it with your black leggings or jeans and you have a holiday ready outfit.
Those specialty dresses and shoes that only get worn 2 or 3 times a year aren’t really worth the price tag. And they sure aren’t worth the ecological footprint.
Cut down on drinking.
Next to presents, alcohol can eat up a budget faster than you can shove that tray full of desserts down your throat. Alcohol is expensive and it really isn’t a necessity.
If your holidays require booze in your hand, (and I have to admit I love my mulled wine) then limit your buying for holiday parties only. Splurge a little, not the whole season. We’re on a budget, remember?
Use decorations that don’t require electricity.
Electricity is already expensive and it feels like we get a paper in the mail every month stating that our electricity prices are rising again. Yes, those houses that are timed up with the radio stations are amazing and a fun activity for your family. However, let your neighbors do that. Your electric bill can skyrocket with outside lighting, blow up Santa Claus in the front yard, and indoor pre-lit garland wrapped around your banisters.
Wreaths, garland, and other decorations that don’t require electricity can be just as eye appealing. Sure they might not show up in the middle of the night, but leave your front porch light on if you must to show off those beautiful window wreaths and wood painted snowmen in your front yard.
Non-electric decorations are also way more eco-friendly than their counterparts.
Host a Cheap Ass Holiday Party.
My favorite. We’re hillbillies at heart. Don’t try to hide behind fancy champagne glasses with cheap champagne in them. Be upfront and tell everyone that this is a cheap ass only party. Only cheap beer, cheap food, cheap outfits, and good people are allowed to come. If it’s not their style, that’s their choice. They don’t have to come. More booze, more food, and less entertaining you have to do.
And I’m pretty sure this will be way more fun than trying to impress your friends with shiny things.
The holidays can be super expensive, even if you’re trying to do it on a budget.
How do you keep the holidays from haunting you in the New Year?