Wednesday, December 7, 2011

GUEST POST: Christmas On A Zero-Budget

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

 Brandy, The Prudent Homemaker, has put together this special post! I think all of us will find it very helpful and encouraging, as we seek to make Christmas a special time for our families.

What do you do when you have no money to spend on Christmas gifts? What if your budget is small, but you'd still like to give more? What can you do to still have gifts under the tree? Here are some ideas for an enjoyable Christmas without spending a dime.

Rather than spending the money to mail Christmas cards, send an email Christmas card instead. You can send a Christmas letter or a regular card-style Christmas greeting.
If you want to include a family photo in your card, or just have a family picture to hang on your wall or give as a gift (to grandparents, etc), set up an at-home studio.
Create a backdrop by using a solid colored sheet or blanket (or even curtains!) hung from a curtain rod, a broomstick, or, at my house, leftover electrical conduit. You can use safety pins to hang the sheet from this. Hang your backdrop between a ladder and another high object (I used a ladder with a box of diapers on top, and a piano with a box of diapers on top.)

Arrange for seating for your family in front of the backdrop. We used a piano bench before, and we have also used a chair for individual photos.

Dress in your Sunday clothes for a more formal picture, or whatever outfits you want for your portrait.

Set up your camera on a tripod and take a few test photos ahead of time. Use your camera remote to take pictures, or ask a friend to come by and take them for you. Take lots of pictures!

If inside doesn't appeal to you, take the photos outside! You'll have great natural light.

Crop your finished photo in the computer.
If you have a faux Christmas tree, it can be a great blessing at Christmas because you don't have to buy one. In some areas of this country, a tree can be $10. Where I've lived, a cut tree is always about $65-$120. Having a fake tree saves us money every year. If you don't already have a tree, but you have some paper, consider a paper tree taped on the wall (either butcher paper, painted green, pieced construction paper-whatever you have) and have your children help you make the ornaments to glue on it.

If you haven't been able to buy ornaments, consider homemade. Use popcorn, sew or crochet some ornaments, have your children make paper chains and paper ornaments. My grandfather carved baskets from walnut shells that we hang on our tree each year.

Cut some paper snowflakes to hang on the windows or on your tree.

Don't have a nativity, but would like to display one? Use this printable nativity to make one.

Use greenery from your own yard, whether it's evergreens and pine cones, boxwood, magnolia branches, to "spruce" up your home.

If you don't have money to spend, use what you have.
This might mean making over old clothing to fit your children. It may mean using the fabric (including scraps and old clothing) that you have on hand to make dolls, doll clothes, needed clothing, mittens, dress-up clothing, puppets, slippers, or a Bible cover. Click here for free printable sewing patterns and tutorials for all of the above and more.
If you want to give candy or food gifts, in your family's stockings, you can make your own! Make caramel popcorn, cookies, and candies from items on your pantry shelves. Wrap them beautifully and put them in stockings or under the tree.
What about your spouse? Perhaps there is a service that you can perform for your sweetheart. Is your husband needing some pants hemmed, or some shirts mended? Maybe there is a project around the house that you've been meaning to take care of, but haven't taken the time to do it. If you have the supplies already, take care of it for your gift.
Consider homemade French Bread, cookies, breakfast muffins, or canned fruits and jams from your garden. Give herbs that you have dried from your garden or seeds you've collected.

What about charities? Do you want to give to others who are in need more than you are? If you're looking for ways to serve others without spending money, read here.

We tend to forget that traditionally, all of one's Christmas presents fit in one's OWN stocking. They weren't the big decorative stockings that we hang today; they were simply your own socks.
Today we tend to put most of our presents under the tree. So when you're wondering what to put in your family's stockings, don't feel like it has to be a lot of presents. It can be simple things.
Or, you can do things the old-fashioned way, and put all of the presents in the stockings!

Here are some other ideas for stockings:
-Printable paper dolls and paper toys
-A coloring book made from printable pictures found online.
-Handkerchiefs: I make these for my children and they really like them! I have used an old top sheet (after the bottom sheet wore through), as well as flannel, muslin, and broadcloth. My children like these with their initials embroidered into a corner.
-Hair ribbons and barrettes: Take the ribbons you've been saving and turn them into hair ribbons. Change simple old barrettes into something different using a few tutorials.
-Jewelry: Have any bits of broken jewelry? Using a pair of needle-nosed pliers, put those together into something new.
-Candy and cookies
-Nuts or raisins from your pantry (bought in bulk and then repackaged into smaller packages, tied with ribbon)
-apples and oranges
-Click here for printable paper dolls, 3-D toys, bookmarks, gift tags and boxes, and more frugal gift ideas.

If your needs are tight this year, its okay to let others know. This might mean having grandparents buy needed clothing for your child. It might mean that someone you know shares their hand-me-downs with you and you wrap some as gifts for your children. Last year, a friend gave us 4 outgrown scooters from her children, and we put them under the tree.

Perhaps you can do the same for another family this year, who may need baby or toddler toys and books that your children are no longer using.

If you sew, let others know. Many older women who don't sew anymore have quite a large amount of fabric. They may not be sewing anymore, but would love to bless someone else who COULD use that fabric. You may be able to make many gifts from this fabric. Perhaps your children need a warm blanket on their bed. A quilt made from other's leftover fabric can fill that need. A warm dress, pajamas, a fabric crown, etc. could all be under your tree this year. They will be under mine, thanks to several kind women who shared their fabric with me this year.

A Special Thanks to Brandy for taking the time to put this special post together. May the Lord use it to bless others.
This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday
Brandy has added even more to her site since this post that will help you with Christmas.
Dollhouse Printables
Birthdays- there are ideas here that could help you with Christmas too!
Frugal Gifts- this is linked above but she's continued to add to it.
Encouragement- "Lifting yourself up on the difficult days."


Anonymous said...

What great ideas!!! And I've found if you start these projects early, it just prolongs that holiday feeling.

Angela said...

Great ideas. Brandi is always full of great money saving, practical living tips. :)

Sherry @ Lamp Unto My Feet said...

Great ideas! :D Definitely will use some of these. :D

Greg and Donna said...

These are wonderful ideas! Thanks for the post.

Amy said...

Such great ideas! I'm planning to give home canned pickles, dilly beans, and jam for Christmas. When it gets closer I'm also going to make cinnamon rolls and chocolate truffles! Everyone is always excited to get homemade goodies and it's usually much better received than a gift card or a sweater that Aunt Ruth isn't particularly fond of!

I actually wrote a post recently about what our family is doing this year here:

Abbi said...

That is full of great ideas! So much can be done with a very limited budget! A lot of fun can be had doing it too as long as a postive attitude is had.

Thanks very much for linking up to A Handmade Christmas.

Millie said...

Wonderful ideas. Stocking stuffers are something that I struggle with. I love the handkerchief idea.

The Prudent Homemaker said...


I just had another bottom sheet wear through, leaving me with a very soft top sheet all ready to be used for handkerchiefs!

I find it easiest to draw (with the washable fabric marker for sewing) four handkerchiefs at a time. I leave room for the seam allowance, and then I trace the initial for each child in the corner to be embroidered. I just print out their first initial on the computer in a font that looks good, and I trace through that. (obviously this won't work if you are making dark handkerchiefs, but my sheets are white). I use more scripty fonts for the girls and more block-style fonts for the boys.

My husband thinks it's really strange that the children get so excited for me to make them handkerchiefs, but they really like them!

I make sure they take them to church, too; no moisy fumbling for disposable tissues that way.

'Becca said...

Lots of great ideas!!

Click my name for two other ways to make your own artificial Christmas tree.

One stocking stuffer that's been popular in my family is toothbrushes. Buy a super-deluxe variety (maybe with a character, for kids) that the thrifty person normally wouldn't get. It's a special yet very useful item for only $2 or so.

One of my son's favorite gifts last year (age 4) was a dozen pads of sticky-notes in different colors!

Lenetta said...

Wonderful, wonderful suggestions! I linked to this on my weekly roundup - post is here.

And Brandy, thank you for linking up to my Handmade Christmas post. :>) I've gone back and updated with pictures of what I've done so far, and hope to continue to do that. Thanks again!!

Mel said...

WONDERFUL ideas. Thanks so much!

Christa said...

How refreshing to hear someone else admit that it's okay to give your kids secondhand toys!! We do this all the time, and some people think we're really strange. :)

I'm all about saving money and enjoying it. We don't have many friends to swap toys and clothes with (at least not close to us), but we find incredible deals at thrift stores to help offset that.

Thanks again for such a wonderful post!

Jen said...

Wow, what a lot of really great ideas. I am making doll clothes this year and using all of my scrap material. I bet they will be my daughters favorite over the expensive gifts.

Anonymous said...

These are great ideas! I already have some gifts for my daughter (she's 21) because I look for big bargains throughout the year and buy all year long but I always need to get a few last things at this time of year. With her in university, me on disability, and our house needing some renovations, money is tight. These ideas will come in very handy!

Sharon said...

these are great ideas! And you're so right about the stockings -- just keep it simple, right?

Baking, Music, the lights on the tree... those are the memories I have... toys? not so much!

Michelle said...

Great post, Brandy!

anoo said...

Great ideas!!!

Anonymous said...

One free gist my kids love is a personalized coupon book. I print them out or make them on construction paper and put things like good for a trip to the park, stay up late, for me to clean their room, no dinner chores for a night, trip out for a doughnut, get to chose a movie to watch. My kids love these so much it really surprised me!

Sarah said...

Wonderful ideas! Thank you so much.

Jenn said...

I've bookmarked this post!! So many great ideas!!


Aiming4Simple said...

I appreciate these ideas on how to simplify Christmas. As far as using what we have on hand, I guess I got a head start when I made a yo-yo from bottle caps (pic available on my site if you want to see). I'm thinking of using these for stocking stuffers, along with some fresh fruit.

LS said...

Thank you for this lovely post!

Anonymous said...

These are such wonderful ideas! I've always said that there is nothing more special than a homemade gift! A lot of thought goes into gifts like this and I think more people should consider "homemade goodness". I personally love baked goods! Great post!

Ruthie Denise said...

What memories these homemade gifts and decorations would make. Such good ideas.

Anonymous said...

Great ideas but sometimes some families have nothing in their pantry or home to make or gift something out of ! This can't be called a zero budget christmas unless you find someone who will gift you the supplies .

The Prudent Homemaker said...


I understand your feeling, as our Christmases have been like this the last few years. I thought about calling the post something else, too.

All of the fabric that was seen in the photos above was given to me. The tapestry came from scraps that my Mother-in-law had. The gold damask for the fabric crown came to me from curtains that were given to me from a woman who lost her house and was downsizing. (I used the rest of the curtains in my sewing room). The red corduroy for my daughter's jumper came from an older woman who was no longer sewing and offered a lot of fabric to me (in fact, my daughter is wearing a dress right now made from some broadcloth that she gave to me).

The pomegranate jelly in the picture came from pomegranates that I gleaned last year from a woman who had hundreds on her tree and offered me some. That same week, I was offered some sure-jell from someone who was diabetic and was no longer making jelly. I had the sugar.

The pears in the pear butter were also given to me last year. I had the sugar and the cinnamon already.

The aloe plant came from my aloe plant, that sent up a baby plant. The container is leftover from the tomato plants that I bought in spring (the fabric around it came from the woman who gave me the other fabric). The ribbon I bought years ago.

The seed packet is printable from my website, and the seeds are from my hollyhocks in the garden.

The handkerchief I gave to my son last year, and it is made from an old sheet of mine (I had embroidery thread).

The barrette that the bow is sen to is from Target; they have a pack for $1 of small barrettes, which is the least amount of money I have seen for barrettes. I bought the ribbon years ago.

The locket is one that I was given when I was a teenager, with a jump ring attached to it and a new chain that I bought for it at Joann's (my old chain wouldn't work). The chain cost $1.49 on 40% off sale. I had not planned on buying a chain for this but the old one did not work.

My husband was able to print the paper dolls for me, but in the past I have printed them in black and white because my printer is only black and white. I understand not having the money for paper; I really do.

Many of the sewing links show to make clothes over from clothing that you already have. Last year I made pajama pants for my little boys from my husband's pants.

If you have nothing in your pantry to bake with, pray. The first year we were married, someone who knew of our need told others at church. Groceries were delivered to our door, including everything to bake chocolate chip cookies.

Let someone know of your needs. Visit your local food pantry if need be.

I will pray that there is something for you to feed your family.

The Prudent Homemaker said...

I wanted to add, that we don't always have the money for fruit in the stockings. We have had friends who brought our family a gift or oranges. Though the children saw them come, we still put one in each stocking last year.

Jenn @ Beautiful Calling said...

Wow! Completely awesome post. Last year for DH's birthday I gave him a years worth of ironing everything for him. This was a treat since DH had always done his own ironing (having been a bachelor for 15 years before we got married! LOL.

Anonymous said...

My husband of 37 years and I raised 4 kids with this way of celebrating Christmas, I looked all summer at yard sales and events for items I could use for ornaments which I made my kids one every year and they now have a nice collection, putting up the tree watching christmas movies with cookies and popcorn, christmas pagents in our area that are free, I made my daughters new dresses most of the time with old dresses, made quilts that my kids still use.. I did visit the food pantry once in a while thats what they are for.. its all in your prospective about the holidays, how your children will view this. our kids never knew we were poor because in our hearts we never were... celebrate like you have it all even if your all is diffrent than that of your neighbors, we put up 3 christmas trees in our little house and when the kids told others at school they were so envious it never occured to them that we did that because we didnt have much else...but fake trees and lots of homemade decor they were beautiful and now that things are easier for my husband and me I still think those were the best christmas's ever...

thediaperdiaries said...

Fantastic ideas. I have been trying the last few years to avoid getting sucked into the spend a thon that Christmas has become. I'm not very crafty so I have to get creative :)

Kyle Montgomery said...

These are great ideas. I'm looking for ways to decorate cheap up here at school and some of these really will help out.

Janika said...

Thank you for such wonderful ideas. I loved the comments as well--especially from the woman married 37 years. It makes me think that her simple Christmases were much like that very first humble Christmas and are the kind of Christmases that Christ hopes we will have--simple and loving vs. hectic and greedy. Thank you for helping me put all this gift-giving into perspective!

Angie said...

Great ideas!! I recently wrote an article about frugal gift giving as well. Rounding up gift cards, spare change, items to re-gift, thrift shopping, making gifts, etc.


Robbie said...

Anonymous, I feel your pain. I do. We were there last Christmas, and only by the grace of God are not there this year.

This year, my kids have gifts because I sale-shopped like crazy. They are getting summer clothes bought on clearance. My daughter is getting a used DVD from the used kids shop. My son is getting sippy cups and "big boy" underwear in his stocking. It certainly is not glamorous.

Last year, I apologized profusely and felt horrible because I didn't have gifts for others, other than photos from a $10 package at the mall. Let's be honest though. The vast majority of us have "enough" in our life - enough clothes, enough toys, enough things.

I hope your family members understand and appreciate your situation.

If you feel like you should give something to other family members, consider a night of babysitting. Or coupons for a dessert and coffee night at your place. Or maybe your children could make handmade ornaments.

I pray your situation gets better soon! Have hope!

Joy said...

Hey There!! Great post. Just wanted to let you know that I've linked to it on my "This 'n That Thursday" post.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tanisha said...

Great ideas. I'm definitely going to have my kids make our extended family members some candy for Christmas. Thanks for this post!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jennimajor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
allen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daily New Deals said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

love the ideas, however I disagree on sending a christmas card via email, I personally view that as tacky...just a personal preference.

Tracy said...

When my kids were little I would give them toys that were like new but not new. I used to open any new toys and put in batteries if needed and untie it from the box, so they could play with them once opened. It eliminated frustration on Christmas morning, and was also convenient because my kids never thought anything about the packaging not being there or not being in tact, so it seems normal for them to get a gift not in plastic. They are now teenagers so they are a little wiser now but they still wouldn't be upset about it. I am glad I am among others who sees the sense in giving things that are not new. I enjoy your posts!

go to market template said...

awesome tips... we can save a lot utilizing these tips... thank you very much for the useful share..

Jessica White said...

I came across these "12 Christmas tips from Zopatioss" that I really liked:

Maria said...

Save Live Tress to be cut down and helps lessen carbon footprint practical mom.

May Carl said...

I recycled all my Christmas decor every year I just add a few new decor each year.