It’s the first week of December and already the stress is building.
To be honest, I love Christmas, but I hate the pressure to produce “magic” for my kids. I know that they’re all old enough to understand the more “adult” realities of the holidays like budgets and relationship challenges with extended family, but my youngest daughter is still enamored with the romance and pageantry of this time of year.
And I feel like a failure.
Every year as I decorate, I gear myself up for a month filled with cozy family togetherness and brightly lit, dreamy experiences like making elaborate gingerbread houses together and snuggling on the sofa.
But then reality sets in.
All of my people work in retail, so trying to coordinate four work schedules with the available holiday activities is crazy challenging. In blogging world, this is a super busy season because everyone is online this time of year and it’s a great opportunity to reach more people.
And let’s not even talk about money.
Okay, let’s talk about money.
We’ve had a financially challenging year with reduced income and some surprise expenses like Hurricane Irma, so let’s just say that Christmas will be on the frugal side this year.
If you’re like me and you want to enjoy the sparkly magical side of Christmas, but you need to save some dough, check out these ideas.
How to Make Christmas Magical on a Budget
Focus on Free
Most of the fun of Christmas centers around the experiences of the season, many of which are completely free. In our area there are quaint downtown areas with beautiful window displays, parades and concerts that we can attend for free, and of course, all of the lovely light displays.
But you don’t have to leave your home to have fun.
Make some popcorn and hot cocoa to enjoy while you watch a Christmas movie, bake and decorate cookies, make mini gingerbread houses or reindeer doughnuts. Check out The Peaceful Mom Christmas Countdown Activities for more fun ideas!
Eliminate the Non Essential
Maybe you don’t need more activity ideas because your calendar is already too full. Part of making Christmas magical for your kids is preventing yourself from turning into the Abominable Snowman and growling at everyone, so if you’re feeling stress from having too much “fun” scheduled, I encourage you to eliminate some of it.
This year I had an honest discussion with the fam just before Thanksgiving. I printed the Holiday Goals and the Holiday Activity Plan pages from the Happy Holidays Planner (get yours free HERE), and we talked about what would make this season happy for everyone. This helped me know what’s important for each of them so I could narrow down my focus and our schedules.
Add Some Surprise
Much the excitement for children is the element of surprise and wonder this time of year. Capitalize on this sense of wonder by stringing Christmas lights in unexpected places like bedroom windows or doorways, or around a table in the living room.
Hang paper snowflakes from the ceiling, create a candy advent calendar or hang jingle bells on every door knob in your house. Quietly decorate your child’s room with fake snow (quilt batting) and balloons while he’s asleep so he wakes up to a surprise.
When your kids look back on the holiday season, they will remember the little traditions you shared, not how much you spent.
A simple gift can seem much more exciting when you wrap it creatively.
Scavenger Hunt – Make a list of clues which you wrap individually or place inside a blown up balloon for your child to pop. Have your child follow the clues to find the gift.
Box Inside a Box – Wrap your child’s gift inside one box, then place that wrapped gift inside another box and so on. We sometimes add extra items to the box to keep the recipient guessing about the contents.
Gift in a Bottle – Watch my Creative Kid Gift Ideas Video here for details on this idea.
Christmas fun doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, so don’t stress over a limited budget.
And remember, the important thing is to enjoy your time together as a family. Those times will be your favorite memories — trust me.
I would love to hear how you make Christmas magical on a budget so leave a comment. 🙂
We can do this!
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Cat Whatley says
Happy Holidays to your family and all those who are on here with you! Like you, we had many unexpecteds this year that destroyed our budget from which we are still trying to recover. We bought our first house right before DH deployed, and has lead to many “surprises” that the inspectors missed! I find myself facing a very lonely and strapped Season…DH will not be coming home for the Holiday (our first apart since we were married), we have no family and our friends are far away, and I’m juggling a very inquisitive and demanding 16 month old on my own (child care costs are CRAZY!!)…
Luckily for us, I shop for gifts throughout the year…which is my #1 tip…shop throughout the year for gifts to keep down the expense (and hassle) of shopping during the hustle and bustle! So our DD will have gifts from Papa and Mama and Santa!
Downside is we can’t afford a tree, which leads me to tip #2…get creative…We PCS’d to our first overseas duty station just before the Holiday, so we had base loaner furniture and only what we took on the plane…so I draped a green sheet over a chair and cut out color pictures of ornaments and trees and snowflakes from the local free flyers, advertisements and publications…we put our gifts under the chair! I still have that sheet and the cut-outs, so I’m resurrecting that “tradition” in lieu of a “tree”.
Tip #3 is to get out and enjoy how others celebrate…our outings include our town’s tree lighting (free), a local performance of the Nutcracker ($5), light viewing (free/gas), playing in the snow (free), a bow making class at the Library (free), historical Holiday event at a local Historical Landmark/Park (nominal fee)…
#4…Food is always central to our Holiday…but instead of going all out on a Holiday Feast (especially since it’s just me & the little one…), we’ll just bake DH’s favorites, then seal most of them up in vacuum seal bags and send to him…he won’t get any presents, and it’ll be hard for him to be so far away from home, so at least he can enjoy his favorite Holiday goodies from home! I’ll send more than he can eat on his own so there’s plenty for him to share with his Shipmates!
Most important to us is the love…and sharing it brings the most joy. We don’t have very much this year, but it’s important to remember those who have even less…so last, but not least, tip #5 is Charity at Home… To keep my grocery budget under control, I shop with cash. When we leave the store, I give DD the coin change and help her put it in the Salvation Army’s Bell Ringers’ Red Bucket…and she loves doing it! I also helped her pick an Angel off the Angel Tree and choose the gift to donate. We also intend to help any way we can (or as best as a 16 month old can…) at a local soup kitchen.
I hope our traditions can help inspire others to enjoy their Holidays and share the Magic with those who can’t.
Blessings to you all!
Kimberlee Stokes says
Really great tips Cat. I’m sorry you won’t be seeing your husband for the holidays, but it sounds like you are doing an amazing job. Please tell him I’m grateful for his service to our country (and yours too!).
Seasons Greetings Kimberlee! Both my kids have birthdays in Christmas week so this time of year gets pretty expensive and its important to me to have as much fun as we can but without spending a fortune! I always make an activity advent calendar but I’m realising as my kids get older I don’t need to schedule an activity for every day as there just isn’t time somedays! Favourite activities are going to a carol concert (free) , celebrating Christmases from other countries like St Nicholas ( kids have some felt clogs they put out that get filled with sweets and small gifts) and Santa Lucia (make saffron buns for breakfast). Mini gingerbread houses, as you suggested, is a great one. We also take part or visit a local lantern procession put on for free in our town. Finally, right before Christmas we visit the local panto which we book in the January so we get the tickets very cheaply!
Kimberlee Stokes says
Really great ideas Nicki. Thanks for sharing!