Christmas Can Still Be Magical, Even If You're Struggling Financially

by Holly Garcia
Originally Published: 

Oh, the holidays. They’re magical, and whimsical — and hella expensive. Especially when you have little people you want to shower in all-the-Christmas-things. Even before Black Friday hits, we’re looking for deals and steals to try and take the edge off of the gifting overwhelm and to avoid struggling financially. But at the end of the day, a dollar only can be stretched so far. And with inflation, especially in 2021, struggling financially is a real thing for many folks.

In fact, cites some troubling statistics. The most troubling of it all? An estimated 23% of people expect they’ll incur extra debt trying to afford this year’s holidays. There are sales and deals, and every single YouTube ad on the channels your kids watch convinces them to ask Santa for a ridiculous new toy. (One that they will likely play with for about five minutes put in their closet. And then totally forget about it until you ask them to pick out what they want to donate this time again next year — but I digress.)

Whether you’re currently struggling financially or fear you’ll get into debt this holiday season … just don’t. It’s always easier said than done. So to help you out, here are some alternatives to over-gifting.

Christmas Can Be Magical Even When You’re Struggling Financially

Contrary to what consumerism sells you — I mean, tells you (see what I did there?) — Christmas isn’t all about buying gifts. This might be an unpopular opinion, but there are many different ways you can amp up the holly-jolly vibes without going broke. Because after all, isn’t the Christmas spirit all about the experiences we share, and less about the material things?

Decorate Everything

Mistletoe hung, check. Tree trimmed, check. Paper garland chains you had the minions help you link together? Well, you get the idea. Kids love crafting! Let their creativity run wild. They can create until their hearts are content. And craft supplies are cheap.

It’s a win-win. The kids get to express themselves and take some of the decorating off your hands, and if you’re lucky, they’ll make something special to give as a gift. Because honestly, who doesn’t love homemade ornaments? But please, for your own sanity and whoever is getting said ornament, hold the glitter.

All the Christmas-y Activities

Books, cookies, music, and more! When you’re struggling financially during the holidays, it doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of Christmas activities you can do for free or at a minimal cost.

Make it a family tradition to read from a favorite Christmas book together every night before bed. Or maybe caroling is more your thing, and the kids take turns picking their favorite songs to send them off to sleep.

Another favorite is to decorate Christmas cookies together. That’s got to be my favorite memory from my childhood: spending a few hours the week before Christmas having a cookie decorating extravaganza. All the sprinkles, all the frosting, and yes, the inevitable sugar high followed by the crash. Not to mention, if any of the cookies look decent enough to take outside the house, you can always fix them up in a holiday tin, box, or bag and gift them.

Or you can always drive around (or bundle up and walk!) to look at all the festive lights.

DIY Gifting

Consider DIY gifting this holiday season in place of some, if not all, of your normal overpriced merchandise. Whether you’re struggling financially or not, DIY gifts are unique and not like anything else they already own. Whether it’s a hand painted ornament, a small photo scrapbook highlighting your favorite moments throughout the year, or even a coupon for a “service” gift like a free night of babysitting, the thought behind the gift and the love that comes with it is what really matters most.

Do Something for Others

To shift the focus from “getting” to “giving” this Christmas, and get a warm glow in your heart in the process, take an opportunity to do nice things for people. Check out VolunteerMatch for the needs in your area, and then volunteer with your family. Donate warm socks, scarves, hats, and/or gloves to a homeless shelter. Serve a holiday meal at a soup kitchen or food pantry. Buy a big bag of individually wrapped Christmas candy and hand a piece to cashiers, police officers, or other service workers with a “thank you.” Shovel somebody’s walk if it snows. These low- or no-cost gestures can go a long way.

Happy Holidays Are Had When You Spend Them Together

In the end, we’ve all had moments when the budget is tighter than others. Or sometimes, living paycheck to paycheck keeps us up all night fretting.

This holiday season, don’t dig yourself into debt over gifting things that people don’t really need. Instead, give yourself the gift of peace of mind, knowing that there are alternatives to the out-of-control consumerism we’re accustomed to. And as long as we have each other, it’s the greatest gift anyone could want.

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