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Make a Thrifty Christmas into a Merry Christmas

Christmas is a month-long state of mind for me. This festive time of loved ones, parties, gifts, and religious celebrations is so special.

thrifty_christmas

Make Your Christmas Merry Even If Money Is Tight

I grew up during the 1950s and at times the family struggled with lay offs, bills, a recession and a house full of children. Despite that, our Christmas holiday was a happy time for us all. Perhaps the lessons learned by my thrifty parents during their childhood in the Great Depression prepared them for those lean times.

I'll share with you some tips for turning your homemade Christmas into one of the best the family has ever had.

(photo: Christmas card made with stamps by my sister, Shannon Marie Hyle)

Christmas Fun in the Good Old Days - My sister and dad - a 1950s Merry Christmas

thrifty_christmas

Turn Off the TV and Get the Family to Interacting

Sure the kids want to watch the Charley Brown Christmas Special, but get them away from the commercials. Those persistant ads just build Christmas wishes and dreams that Santa won't be able to fill this year. Borrow some Christmas videos from the public library and watch those together (no commercials).

Get the children involved baking cookies, making gifts for each other, and putting up the decorations. These are things they will remember years later as family fun times.

Unplug the Christmas Machine

Will This Year Be a Thrifty Christmas for You?

Free Activities for Your Merry Christmas

for a frugal holiday

Communities have many free events during the holidays. To find these, check through the newspaper event listings, look on community bulletin boards, check online and call around to likely places (church, library, museum). It doesn't cost money for the family to attend the downtown tree lighting ceremony, to go Christmas caroling with a club you belong to, or to attend the Christmas Eve church service.

Can You Sew? Make Unique Gifts for Family and Friends

Here's my sister making a doll from a pillowcase. It was a quick project using a vintage lace edged case that she found at a yard sale.

Here's my sister making a doll from a pillowcase. It was a quick project using a vintage lace edged case that she found at a yard sale.

Make Some Gifts - Homemade = Love

Here are craft projects tested by me or my mom. Just follow the instructions to make some one-of-a-kind gifts that you won't find in a store. Perhaps they'll be handed down for years to come.

Making Christmas Presents Together Makes Great Family Memories

Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV told me "As a single mother, my children and I made painted cookies together and we also made wooden painted Christmas ornaments. They loved doing it because they could personalize them and see the ornaments on the tree. They still have fond memories of both things...they didn't realize that we were poor and I was trying to find ways to make their Christmas Merry."

Check eHow, Blogs, and WikiHow for Crafts to Make for Gifts

Switching to Homemade

Helping Others Makes You Feel Good

"The richest people in the world are not millionaires. They are volunteers."

Volunteer for the community Christmas dinner for the poor. Everyone in the family can help serve food, clear tables or other assignments. It gives them a chance to see some people who are in great need, even homeless and to feel good about helping.


Find Ways to Contribute Your Time and Caring

  • Random Acts of Kindness - Teach your kids how to make the world a better place one random act of kindness at a time!
  • Random Acts of Christmas Kindness - It's a sad Christmas if someone lacks gifts or food. When others see that and help them out, that sad holiday becomes a joyful one. A random act of kindness gladdens both the giver and the receiver.
  • Teen Volunteer Opportunities - Volunteering helps teens become more involved in their community, explore their interests and gain valuable new skills. This article looks at volunteer opportunities for teens, along with the benefits and challenges of teen volunteering.
  • Volunteer Projects for Teenagers - This is a pretty good list of Volunteer Projects for teenagers. The Salvation Army, Adopt a Highway and the Humane society are a few reviewed here.

I used to make Christmas decorations at school when I was little, but I think doing this as a family tradition so you have something unique to remember each year, maybe a family photo for each Christmas turned into an ornament, is something that will be cherished for years to come, and it's inexpensive too. Christmas gifts don't have to be expensive, it's really the thought that counts after all, and the memories that follow year after year.

— Tony Payne from Southampton, UK

Christmas Decorating on a Budget

Read Christmas Stories

Christmas Stories by ChristmasCafe

Christmas Stories by ChristmasCafe

Thrifty Tip

Get these books from the public library and read some aloud or have family reading time in the evening. Turn off the TV and let everyone read on their own.


Check the titles listed below or get old favorites.

Best Christmas Pageant Ever (great to read aloud)

A Cup of Christmas Tea

Find Simple Craft Projects to Stretch the Budget

Check your craft supplies and figure out what you can make.

Check your craft supplies and figure out what you can make.

Get Crafty - Love a Homemade Gift

Check at the public library to borrow some craft books for free. Most libraries will have a big display of Christmas books and craft books all ready for you to browse.

You can also find lots of craft projects online. Browse on Pinterest and all the pictures will inspire you. Click on one and it takes you to the website or the blog where the instructions are.

Craft Ideas - for special gifts that are inexpensive

  • How To Make a Scrabble Necklace Using a Scrabble Tile - Would you like to learn how to make this beautiful piece of art (scrabble necklace) using a scrabble tile, an image of your liking and a few other things along with a little bit of technique? I will teach you how.
  • DIY Christmas Gifts and All Occasion Gifts - This page has a wealth of good ideas for anyone who likes to give and make budget-friendly gifts. Have fun and enjoy your creative side!
  • DIY Gifts for Teachers - Remember a gift does not have to be expensive to let a teacher know they are appreciated; simple is probably a good thing. If you still can't decide, a homemade thank you card from your child is fine!
  • DIY Gifts Under $10 (Many under $5) - Many of my DIY gifts started out as one thing and ended up another. In fact, several of the DIY gifts shown on this page came about by accident.

A Homemade 1960s Christmas

Here I am with all my siblings with our homemade gifts. What a happy Christmas we had. Mom made me a new dress and some stuffed toys for my sisters.

Here I am with all my siblings with our homemade gifts. What a happy Christmas we had. Mom made me a new dress and some stuffed toys for my sisters.

More Tips for a Frugal Christmas

  • Free Christmas Gifts To Give - Everyone likes a good deal and having free Christmas gifts to give to others is cool. The economy has been tight so saving a few coins by employing freebies will work for anyone. Free Christmas gifts can keep the cost of Christmas gifting to a manageable level.
  • How to Make a Free Christmas Wreath - Christmas is an expensive time of year for most people, so I try to economize as much as possible. A couple of years ago a friend gave me an idea for how to make a free Christmas wreath, and I've worked on perfecting that.
  • 20 Easy - Cheap DIY Christmas Gifts - These 20 easy-cheap DIY Christmas gifts will take the stress out of Christmas. Just see what you can make for the price of a cup of coffee. Included are ideas for stuffing stockings. Enjoy!
  • Christmas on a Budget - If you are of the millions who find themselves struggling around that time of year because you just cannot seem to locate the extra money. You are in luck, there are some thrifty ways to have a remarkable Christmas, on a budget.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Virginia Allain

Add Your Tips for a Thrifty Christmas

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on October 25, 2014:

Great ideas for sharing the season without spending a lot of money.

marsha32 on December 26, 2012:

I am ready to start on Christmas 2013! I saved one of the books you suggest above to my wishlist over on amazon.

Ann Hinds from So Cal on December 24, 2010:

Came back to bless this lens. We are having a thrifty Christmas and it's just more fun.

poutine on November 10, 2010:

Over the years I have knitted scarfs for a few friends and some of my family.