A friend posted on social media that her family cannot afford a Christmas tree, and feeling depressed, said she cannot afford Christmas this year. Another friend wrote about how their family is still paying off credit card debt from last year’s holiday shopping. Yet another friend said their family’s washing machine and refrigerator broke at the same time and they just spent their Christmas money on buying replacement appliances. This leaves many people feeling that no matter how much they work, no matter how much they give or how hard they try, it’s impossible to get ahead in life.
I remember working 70 to 80 hours a week last year during the holiday season to be able to afford everything extra that we wanted to have. In return for the money, I ended up spending little time with my family, was never able to enjoy a day of baking cookies, had no time for gift wrapping, and was never available for watching movies or sitting down for a home-cooked dinner. This year I’m still working a lot, but I’m also committed to my family and to the small things that make the holidays cherishable. For me it’s not about what money can buy, but about what money cannot buy.
There are simple ways to enjoy the holiday season without feeling overburdened with expenses. If you think you cannot afford Christmas, here are five ways that you can celebrate the holidays that does not involve spending a lot of money or taking out a new credit line at the bank.
1. Baking. Follow grandma’s simplest no-bake cookie recipe or go the distance with making iced sugar cookies, chocolate fondant, cheesecake, buckeyes, or cake pops. Homemade lollipops are relatively easy to make and kids love to decorate them with sprinkles and candies. The kids will love to join in on the fun of making candy, and you can shape lollipops and gingerbread cookies into ornaments for the tree.
2. Sending cards. Feeling thankful doesn’t have to stop after Thanksgiving. Think about who and what you are thankful for this year and make your own holiday cards from paper, glue, stamps, glitter, and recycled magazines and newspapers.
3. Singing. Local groups have carolling events during the holiday season in your local town. The holidays are a perfect time to join a church, school, or community organization to help organize and plan for special events.
4. Decorating. If you cannot afford a tree this year, have you thought about digging one up? The ground isn’t frozen yet. Be sure to ask the property owner if it’s OK to take the tree before you decide to cut it down or dig it up. The branches of pine and fir trees make excellent wreaths on a dime budget and will look so fancy that when people visit, they’ll think your home looks like something out of the Ladies Home Journal.
5. Presence. This year it’s not about “presents” but about “presence.” Your presence is the gift of life. To someone, your presence during the holidays may be the most important thing you have to offer. Take some time to think about who you can choose to share this special time of the year with and make a list of people you would like to see. Maybe it’s time to make room for someone new in your life.
In the United States there is an unhealthy emphasis on buying a lot of gifts and unfortunately, commercial advertisements are designed to make people feel worthless when they cannot afford to purchase the latest technology and toy. This creates lasting negative mental health affects.
Americans will spend over $4 billion on buying things for Christmas this year alone. Have you ever considered that as people increasingly spend more money, the number of people experiencing depression and sadness also increases? But in other cultures across the world, celebrations and food are the centerpieces of the holidays, and families feel content with exchanging only one or two gifts. According to data, they’re also much happier.
We’d love to hear from you and share what you are doing this year with your favorite holiday traditions to make the season memorable. Please feel free to send me a note and we might use it for a featured column.
Ashley Bunton is a staff writer with The Record-Herald in Washington Court House.
Send Ashley a letter by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect on Twitter by searching Twitter.com for @ashbunton