It's such a frustrating time because I feel like parts of myself are at war with each other. The part that wants to spoil my children rotten pouts at the part of me that has to do the budget. Then the part of me who wonders why we put so much stock into all the extravagance comes out and complains that we're feeding greed and selfishness. The part of me who gets dazzled by all the lights and tradition of it all tells that part of me to get over myself.
My head is a scary place sometimes.
This year our financial constraints are even more difficult. I feel like I say that every year, so maybe it's really just me having to come to terms with the fact that I have champagne dreams on an apple juice budget (I'd say beer, but I think that may even be too pricey right now).
Somehow I got to gather all my different parts together and focus on the things we can do, and I wanted to share those with you. Every year we have a countdown to Christmas starting Dec 1. Here are some of the things that make the list every year:
1. Make a "countdown to Christmas" chain. One year we had so little that I ended up making the chain using white paper and red and green crayons. The kids scribbled on the paper and I cut it into strips to make the chain. It wasn't really spectacular but it didn't have to be.
2. Movie nights. We pop popcorn, light up the tree, put on our pjs, and watch a movie together as a family. This may not seem out of the ordinary, but it has always been special and being Christmas just adds to that.
3. Salt dough ornaments. You can find a variety of different recipes online. Some add cinnamon to make them more festive, some are colored with Kool-aid, and others are mixed with glitter. As the bare bones it is usually a cup of flour, a cup of salt, and water added gradually. Let dry overnight or cook in a low oven. Even if they don't go with your tree decor or end up in pieces later (thank you toddler!), the memories you make by creating them will last far longer.
4. Make Christmas cards. We keep a bunch from previous years, and use those to make cards for others. This is the time when the thought is more important than the end result, but the kids love putting their hearts into something for others.
5. Check your library. Our library has has programs where children can make a Christmas craft, listen to a story, meet reindeer, and bring in an ornament for their tree. These are all little things but can make some great memories.
6. Make Reindeer food. My daughter brought some home from preschool one year, but I worried about putting glitter out on the ground. So when we make our own I use food coloring to color oats green, then add some red coloring to sugar. Mix it together and you have reindeer food ready to put out on Christmas Eve!
7. Go see the lights. We have bundled the kids up in their PJs with cups of hot (warm) cocoa and driven around the neighborhood to see the lights. I love watching through their eyes, because even the houses with one strand of lights get an "ohhh!!!" out of them :)
8. Sing Christmas Carols. Visit your friends and family and sing a carol for them. Skype with out of town relatives and sing for them. Record your kids singing and put it on facebook. Mine love to watch themselves, so giving them a chance to "perform" has always been a hit.
9. Make cookies. There are so many great cookie recipes (and thanks to pinterest my list of ones to try has tripled), and some only take a few ingredients. Find ones that match what you already have so that you're not buying pricey ingredients that you'll only use once. Food coloring and powdered sugar go a long way :)
10. Visit Santa. The mall Santa may be pricey, but if you watch you may be able to find a way to visit Santa locally for free. Our park has Santa on the weekends and even gives free cocoa and cookies. We take our own picture and the kids have a lot of fun without us spending anything extra.
What are your frugal Christmas Traditions? I'm make my list this year and I'd love some inspiration to add to it :)