Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Frugal Christmas is not an oxymoron

I saw an article recently explaining why "low fat" and "holiday food" really shouldn't go together. While I get the point perfectly, it's also true both that some people are on special diets and don't want to be sick over the holidays, and that, for some current lifestyles, this "holiday season" may extend all the way through November and December, not just over a couple of meals. So yes, in that case, some prudence would seem not to be a bad thing.

In the same way, "frugal Christmas" is off-putting to some people. Why would you want to hold back financially during a time of celebration?

The answer to that can be anything from "we're broke" to "we're being more intentional." But the truth of our generally-pretty-wealthy culture is that we usually have enough right around us to have a pretty good holiday. Enough food. Enough things to decorate with. Enough to wear. Enough entertainment. More than enough. Like homeschoolers who discover the wealth of their own books, like new parents who figure out that they don't need swings and special bathtubs, there is no sacrilege at Christmas in not hanging holiday towels, or in eating cereal or eggs for breakfast instead of making a multi-layered slow-cooker casserole.
Here are ten ways to enjoy a frugal Christmas:

1.  Most obviously: use the holiday things you've stored. Tablecloths, wreaths, LPs or CDs, stockings. Our tree is several years old, and we have ornaments that are older than we are. I have been known to put out Christmas cards that were received in years past, especially those with a meaningful message or from someone we loved.
2. Use "non-Christmas" things you have. Focus on light and warmth.  Bring out things like white glass and china, baskets, candles, wooden bowls, Mason jars, a dark green tablecloth. Going in a less traditional, more spiritual direction, you could display a thoughtful piece of artwork.
3. Keep your eyes open at rummage sales and thrift stores, especially during the off-season. I found this woven tablecovering at the Salvation Army store, and the plaid throw we used for a tree skirt came from a fill-a-bag rummage sale we went to on Hallowe'en.
4. Paper napkins can be one of the best deals out there.
5. Use your freezer or whatever food system you generally use to save time, energy, money and sanity. We continued to use our freezer meals throughout the holidays, and I also made cookies and muffins ahead and froze them.

6. If your family doesn't like super-fancy food or baking, don't do it; make familiar foods that they do enjoy. What's wrong with chocolate-chip cookies and Rice Krispie Treats, if that's what you like, or Grandpa likes? It's like that story from Doris Janzen Longacre's More With Less book, about how her grandmother frosted cakes only for special occasions, her mother used frosting more often but only on the top, and she herself frosted her cakes all over and made extra icing for her bowl-lickers. To quote my other frugal mentor, Amy Dacyczyn, sometimes we need to create margin, back off from our culture's "perpetual feast," so that we can appreciate things that used to be treats.
7. Make donation gifts. Two of the Squirrelings used this year's holidays to support causes that are important to them.

8. Use what's around your house...literally. I think it was on the Prudent Homemaker blog recently where someone mentioned decorating a tree that was right outside their glass doors.

9. Wear clothes you already have, especially if you are not expecting or expected to do a lot of upscale partying. Honestly, the closest I got this year to a "holiday party" was going to church and a couple of family events. I bought a red sweater dress at the thrift store, long before Christmas, and there was a green scarf in my stocking, so there you go.
10. Celebrate with joy and love.


Lynn Bruce said...

The piece of art in #2 is a favorite of mine. A few years ago I gave myself a small copy of it printed on canvas. It hangs in my study. It has deep meaning for me.

The original is in Chicago and is quite large. Wouldn't we love to go see it together?

Mama Squirrel said...

Hi Lynn! Did you see my Christmas Eve post about larks and the painting? http://deweystreehouse.blogspot.ca/2015/12/a-christmas-eve-devotional.html

Bill Murray (THAT Bill Murray) says that when he saw the painting years ago in Chicago, it saved him from wanting to end his life. You can see the clip of him talking about it on Youtube.