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How to Celebrate Christmas when You Can't Afford to Celebrate Christmas

by Nancy Twigg

When gathering with friends for caroling, when's the last time you sang this song: Have a pricey, costly Christmas? Or what about this one: O Christmas bills, Christmas bills, how much this season costs me!?

Okay, maybe these aren't the words to real Christmas songs, but they might as well be since so many of the typical Christmas traditions involve spending. Just think about all the dollars each year that go for gifts, wrapping paper, Christmas trees, decorations, greeting cards, and traditional meals with all the trimmings. While each of these traditions has its place, the cost of them all can be burdensome for families who are struggling this year due to layoffs, unemployment and other financial setbacks.

So what do you do if your family cannot afford to celebrate Christmas in the traditional pricey fashion? Are there ways to enjoy the holiday season without all the spending? Thankfully the answer to this question is yes. Here are several ideas for keeping the celebration inexpensive, yet meaningful for your family.

* Handcrafted gifts and decorations - Experience the joy of giving something made with your own two hands. Handmade gifts are not only unique but they also show you care enough to invest time, energy and creativity into your giving. Check out books from the library or do an Internet search for homemade gift ideas. The same goes for decorating your home. Instead of buying decorations, use your creative abilities plus things you already have on hand to give your home a festive look and feel.

* Electronic Seasons Greetings - Sending Christmas cards instead of gifts is a great way to save money, but the cost of store-bought cards adds up quickly. Even if you make your own, the cost of postage can be restrictive for those on a tight budget. For friends and relatives who use email, consider sending electronic Christmas cards instead. Many websites send e-cards for free, and they offer a wide variety of cards from which to choose. Visit or or do an Internet search for other free greeting card sites.

* Free family activities - When cutting corners, dont cut out all the fun. Look for ways your family can enjoy quality time together without spending. Check your newspapers community calendar for free church programs, musicals or community events. Just driving around, looking at Christmas lights and sipping homemade hot cocoa can be great fun when you do it together.

* Focus on giving rather than receiving - Instead of moaning about what you cant afford this year, why not focus on how you can give of yourself? Many non-profit organizations need extra helping hands during the holiday season. Contact your local Volunteer Center or United Way office to inquire about opportunities for service in your area. Volunteering together allows family members to experience the joy of giving without expecting anything in return.

* Low-cost or no-cost gift giving - Rather than exchanging gifts with extended family members and friends, plan a special evening together with each family during the holiday season. Enjoy a simple meal and then watch a favorite holiday movie or do a giant jigsaw puzzle together while munching on popcorn and snacks. Another option is to give gifts of time or service such as free babysitting, housecleaning, cooking, etc., to those on your gift list. Look for ways to give meaningfully instead of materially.

Nancy Twigg is the author of Celebrate Simply: Your Guide to Simpler, More Meaningful Holidays and Special Occasions. For more information about low-cost, high-value celebrations, visit Nancy online at

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