Guest post from Steph of Cheapskate Cook:
We didn’t plan on being broke. It just kind of happened. At the height of the recession, we could barely make ends meet, and Christmas was coming.
The holidays had always been full of planning and traveling, gift exchanges and shopping… until we had no money.
The internet is loaded with ideas about finding contentment in the season, or how to nurture joy in a more simple holiday. But what do you do when you have no money during the biggest gift exchange in the world?
Here is what we did:
1. We Edited Our List
For several years, my husband and I didn’t exchange presents. Our gift to each other was traveling to see family. We also cut out nearly everyone we weren’t going to see on Christmas Day – this included cousins, distant aunts, and basically anyone we had to pay shipping for. Instead, we sent a few cards, printed some photos for grandparents, and baked cookies for co-workers.
If you’re like us, you love to give gifts. Honoring special people in your life at this time of year is fun and meaningful. You want to share the joy of the season with your nephews, nieces, church friends, and the librarian.
But this year, who is the most important? Who can you save for another year? Right now, in order to take care of your family, what needs to be released?
Eventually, you can add them back to the list. But you will never regret providing for your family first.
2. We Suggested a Name Drawing
When I first suggested a name drawing, I had several siblings still living with my parents. They were reluctant to agree, because they had the excess cash that comes with not paying bills. However, once they moved out, they thought drawing names was a great idea!
Rather than feeling obligated to give gifts to everyone in your family, suggest a family name drawing or Secret Santa. That way you only have to purchase one gift, but everyone can enjoy a gift exchange together.
3. We Made Gifts
Homemade seasonings are my favorite. They cost pennies, they’re something most people don’t have time to make themselves, and a cute ribbon and label adds a finishing touch.
Even if you aren’t crafty, you can make a few easy homemade gifts that communicate love and attention to people you can about.
If you like to bake, try a loaf of 1-Bowl Sweet Potato Spice Bread or Banana Bread. Even if you don’t like to bake, these foolproof recipes only take 10 minutes to get into the oven, and they turn out great.
4. We Released Our Guilt
Gift giving is fun. It can be really meaningful. It can also feel stressful and distract you from the true meaning of the season.
Rather than kicking yourself for having a rough year, congratulate yourself for being intentional with your priorities, for choosing NOT to go into debt, and for working hard to take care of your family.
This season is about joy, peace, family, and unconditional love. None of those ever came wrapped in a box, and you can share those gifts with everyone, no matter what your budget looks like.
Get Steph’s Dirt Cheap Holiday Gift Guide at Cheapskate Cook, where she teaches you how to save money and eat healthy. Her Free 4-Week Menu Plan shows you how to spend less than HALF the average grocery budget on real, whole foods.