It doesn’t take money to make the holidays special. It helps, but there are just some years when gifts aren’t in the budget. Other times, you just may be exhausted by the rush and pressure to buy things and decide to opt out. (I can relate totally.) While I love a deal, this website isn’t just about getting things. It’s about living well while living within your means. And sometimes that means having a no-money (or very little money) holiday.
This post was inspired by an email I received earlier today from a reader who doesn’t have the budget to do gifts. I have a long history of Christmases spent on the cheap, but nearly every year we’ve had fun despite the lack of big-ticket gifts. Here are some ideas for having fun this year, whether or not you have millions in the bank. Some of these suggestions are from readers, and I welcome YOUR comments on this post. Let’s help each other enjoy what we do have, whether that’s a lot or a little.
(Note: Attitude is everything, at least for me. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a stalled ox and hatred therewith. You can be the one with the love, if necessary.)
So here are the no-money/little-money ideas for enjoying the holidays:
Decorate on the cheap:
- Jim suggests: Use your imagination when it comes to Christmas decorations.
- Make salt dough ornaments.
- Make your own easy holiday wreath. (Instructions are at the link. I haven’t tried this yet, but I love the idea.)
- Use inexpensive ribbon as garland. Wrap it around the tree, a railing, or tie a bow in it and hang it on the wall.
- Make a popcorn garland. We love this idea, but our puppy-dog will eat it. We know this from experience.
- Take pictures off the wall and wrap them to look like gifts, then re-hang them. I had a friend who did this one year and it looked so great! If you’re not buying wrapping paper, wrap them in newspaper, plain white paper, or brown paper bags and use red ribbon to decorate.
- Jim suggests: Drive around and look at Christmas lights in Wichita. (Find the cheapest gas in Wichita.)
- Sing. It’s free.
- Go caroling. That’s also free, and you might score some hot chocolate from your neighbors. (I’m kidding. You can make your own hot cocoa very inexpensively.)
- Make hot cocoa.
- Listen to free Christmas music. Pandora, Amazon, B98 FM
- Play games. I love the Five Ws game mentioned in this post at LivingontheCheap.com
- Christmas Radio Hour at the Wichita Orpheum If $5 admission is too much to take the whole family, listen live on KNSS radio.
- FREE Breakfast with Santa Donations appreciated but not required. RSVP on Facebook is required. (Click the link to RSVP and get more info.)
- Friends of the Wichita Art Museum Holiday Open House All ages are welcome to attend this free event. Click the link for more details.
- Tell jokes.
- Tell stories. Kids love to hear stories about themselves, how you met your spouse, how grandma got run over by a reindeer, or whatever else you can come up with.
- Play cards.
- Build a house of cards.
- Do a puzzle.
- Melissa suggests: Gather to watch a holiday movie in your pajamas with hot cocoa and popcorn.
Food and snacks:
- Can’t afford a whole ham, even with a coupon? Make a ham and scalloped potato casserole. When I was growing up, we thought this was for special occasions only. We didn’t know it was cheap!
- Baked sweet potatoes are an easy, inexpensive, festive side. Lightly salt and pepper when they’re done, and set out butter and brown sugar for topping. (To cook, clean them well, pierce each one several times with a fork, and microwave on high, rotating once or twice, until the potatoes are tender. Microwaves vary so much, it’s hard to say how long it takes. Mine takes 7 to 10 minutes to cook several potatoes.)
- Sumptuous does not have to be expensive. This dinner from AARP and Eating Well looks gorgeous and delicious, but they claim it’s less than $5 per serving.
- Rice Krispy treats
- Pie is not really expensive, especially if you make your own crust. This is my favorite crust recipe.
- Give each member of the family a genuine compliment, both verbally and in writing.
- Give something you already have that you know the recipient would like.
- Give a plant you started yourself.
- Do your brother’s chores.
- Do your sister’s chores.
- Give someone a free $10 Restaurant.com gift certificate, if they have email or Facebook.
- Pool your limited resources and give someone else a gift. No matter how poor you are, someone’s poorer than you in some way. And I still think that giving money to someone you know or an organization you trust is a good thing to do, even if it’s just $5. If you choose your recipient well, you will never, ever regret it.
- Homemade gourmet granola, caramel corn, or peanut brittle
What about you? Do you have some suggestions for enjoying the holidays affordably?