Merry Frugal Christmas: How to Enjoy the Holidays Without Going Broke

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Author of The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted

Everyone knows the story of Cinderella and the ball. Everything about it was magical. She had a fancy dress, a fairy godmother gave her a makeover, and she was whisked away in a luxurious mode of transportation to attend the elegant event of her dreams.

But at midnight, she ran out and all of the magic disappeared. She was back to her normal clothing, the carriage was just a pumpkin, and the mice wanted to get fed. The event was nothing but a memory and she still had to walk home.

Christmas is sort of like that in our consumer-driven society. We spend an entire month spending, shopping, decorating, baking, and choosing the most expensive versions of everything because “Christmas only comes once a year.” But the day after, all many folks have left is a pile of wadded up wrapping paper, more leftovers than can be stuffed in the fridge, and, worst of all, a breathtaking amount of debt. Fast forward to January, and the bills start coming in. The ball is over, and the outlook is bleak for many.

If you are looking for creative suggestions, gift-giving ideas, decorating ideas, and festive food on a dime, check out our Special Occasions category on our sister site, The Frugalite. Be sure to check out the first two pages for the Christmas content.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

It seems like every year there is more and more cultural peer pressure to make it “the best Christmas ever.” The decorations show up in stores before the kids even go trick-or-treating, the commercials begin, prompting you to spend a percentage of your annual income on a ring to let someone know how important they are, and the kids begin compiling their lists in November.

Each year, we go completely overboard decking our halls, spending a small fortune on new bling for our homes.  For example, in 2011, Americans spent $6 billion on Christmas decorations. SIX BILLION DOLLARS. $6,000,000,000. In 2021, Americans spent 86 billion on gifts. EIGHTY-SIX BILLION DOLLARS. $86,000,000,000. Don’t they know there’s an economic disaster going on?

The thing is, magic is not created by ramping up an already over-consumerized, every-wish-granted kind of life. Christmas can’t be special when every single day is Christmas. How many shopping trips do most kids go on each year? How much time do they spend at the mall? When is the last time they really wanted something for a long time, dreaming and plotting and working to acquire it? If kids are spoiled rotten on a regular basis, you have to ramp things up to an entirely different level to make a holiday special. If every day is a holiday, then actual holidays have to be fairy tale galas to compete.

And when the ante is constantly upped, how can any kid be happy with simplicity?

Because they’re always looking for the next big thing, they miss the little things. It’s impossible to give a treat to a child who is spoiled because treats are everyday occurrences, canceling out the entire concept of treats. Children like this are never satisfied, and their lives are filled with yearning, because once they get the latest iGadget, there’s already a newer, faster, more exciting iGadget on the horizon.

However, if you don’t want to face crushed hopes on Christmas morning, it’s important to manage the expectations of your loved ones.

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When I was a little girl, I remember reading Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Laura’s description of the family’s Christmas celebration seemed to me the most magical day I could ever imagine. I could almost taste that exotic orange and the peppermint melting on my tongue.

In our consumerized world, most kids just don’t get to experience that same magic. Everything is shrink-wrapped, instantaneous, and plastic. I tried to create magic for my kids by living more simply, focusing on experiences, and giving from the heart instead of the wallet. I want to teach them that life is more than stuff.

Perhaps this year we should do more of the same. What do you think? How do you keep the magic in Christmas without breaking the bank? Let’s discuss it in the comments below.

About Daisy

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.

Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Picture of Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • I think we’re a bit unusual. We’ve set $200/child for Christmases and $100 for birthdays. We didn’t want them focusing so much on the amounts every year. Most of the time gifts were some clothes and gadgets (though when they were younger they were cheaper for sure).

    The reason for the season has always been about how Christ gave his life for us not what we should ‘get’ from this season. We made sure they remembered that.

  • My favorite Christmas when I was young happened while my father was in Vietnam. We were financially strapped. An individual who knew my mother invited us over. We strung popcorn, they made fudge and talked about the red cross (not nicely). Another individual brought us the bottom half of a Christmas tree (it was five feet tall), so we could have a tree. I don’t remember the gifts, except my older brother got a tape recorder so we could play tapes from our father. I was either 11 or 12 at this time. My father passed two years ago, but my mother and I still talk about that Christmas. I am almost 65, but I still remember that one Christmas. It is the little things that make Christmas memorable, not the gifts.

    • Dear Mette,
      You´re right. At this time of my life, I´m financially strapped.
      One of my best Christmas was staying at home with my child when he was 6. Santa brought him a Lego station (Star Wars) and we had a great time that 25 assembling the whole thing. Eating a delicious fruit cake, baked pork, hallacas, and our traditional foods for this season. We played, listen to music, watched a few movies, those were a few peaceful days at home like very few times we could share quality time. He remembers it very vividly also, and agrees with me, best Christmas ever so far.
      You´re right: it´s the small things.

  • Normally I’m super strict about snacking and junk food. Christmas, Easter, and Halloween are the three days of the year the kids just pig out on candy. One usually barfs, which makes them willing to NOT pig out most of the time because they know overloading on sugar will make them feel lousy. But we’ve set aside our time to indulge. And then we go to a church where you eat less meat during Advent so we usually scarf down lots of bacon and sausage too. And Christmas is usually when we get new clothes. I have a tiny house; we can’t continuously keep piling crap in. When the kids were younger we’d decide which toys to pass on and now that they’re older we pick out which clothes are good enough to pass on too. We don’t acquire tons of crap every Christmas because my house won’t permit it and I dislike the mentality anyway. For us it’s just a time of year for changing things over.

  • thanks for the reminder. I and the rest of my family have been sick plus due to our illnesses our kitchen countertop remodel is stalled. Not in the mood for much baking and not much energy for shopping, plus we don’t want to pass this bug along. It will be a nice low-key Christmas with a low-key birthday the night before.

  • We have gone back to the traditional days of the Christmas season. PPL think I am nuts until I explain. These are the days of advent. Prayer, penance, abstaining, preparing the home (cleaning) just like any mother would expecting a new child in the home. The imitation of Christs family. Christmas season starts Dec 25th at midnight and runs this year until Feb 2nd. We do presents on the remembrance of the 3 wise men on Jan. 6th. That means we can do our shopping during the best prices of the year- after the Kazar moguls gluttonous devouring of the Goyim. I only shop earlier for things I know will be stripped from the shelves if I don’t buy now. When I had even less $ I would use this time to buy for the next year’s season and B-days. But that requires a place to store things. I bought a fake tree because all the tree lots are coming down with dead trees and the next day everyone is throwing out their trees. PPL- this is the start of the season! Go back to the churches long held seasons and regain your sanity. With the bad weather I do put up lights as soon as weather permits but wait to light them until Christmas. Oh- and we do candy stockings on Dec. 6 the remembrance of St. Nickolas gift giving. Have you noticed the lack of advent calendars for the kids? There is an evil reason behind all this.

  • For years, decades really, I’ve said that America’s true religion was Consumerism. How does one help others to accept an entirely different value system? There’s a point to the story about Scrooge. Look what it took for him to have his eyes opened and learn a different, more important, more satisfying value system. Many Americans are now on the ropes financially and simply don’t have the money to spend on Christmas as in the past, but now enters the “magic” of the credit card and the sorry value of immediate gratification. As this article points out, the learning takes place when one is young, such as: frugality, responsible spending, the true meaning of Christ-mass, daily embedding of important values all year long, giving thoughtfully (not based on bling), and so on. The most important things you can give your children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, any young one is an rock-solid value system. If you are an adult and have yet to learn such a value system, begin NOW. Don’t wait for your Scrooge moment. You surely must know, he didn’t need to learn to “give”, he needed to learn something far more important, far more fundamental. Think about it.

  • For those of you who claim to be Christian and celebrate christmas as birth of christ please watch this, get mad and try to price wrong and find that christmas is yet another lie we cherish

    As far as frugal gifts, give as they are needed why wait till approved times? Approved by who and why do you follow that?

    • You are so right, Christmas is a Pagan Holiday adopted by Christians. We don’t celebrate because we learned the Truth. I know this will upset many people, but is the truth, and being a Christion is all about knowing the truth.

  • Spot on Daisy.
    Consumerism. Or should I say, hyper-consumerism. Funny how A Charlie Brown Christmas addressed exactly that. It is more relevant today then when it first aired in 1965.

    For us, usually Christmas is the time of year for wants and not needs. Looking around, thinking long and hard on it, we both had a hard time coming up with anything. I think my list came in under $50. The wife’s was similar.
    This year, we even scaled back on the decorations. We still did the library up in garland and lights. But those are we bought them over ten years ago.

    Just like Friendsgiving, I do enjoy when we can get together with friends and family over a good meal, good drink, good conversation.
    I do enjoy some of the baking stuff, cookies, and what not.

    While not religious, I do enjoy some of the songs, the sentiment of the holiday,
    “. . . and on earth peace, good will toward men.
    That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
    -Linus Van Pelt

    • Wood stove + live tree = fire hazard. For years we had what I called an artificial Charlie Brown Xmas tree. Bought it on clearance when oldest kiddo was a year old. Kiddos could put the tree together once they got old enough. They decorated it but the room where the wood stove resided only had stockings for decoration. Kiddos could have a few decorations in their rooms.
      Xmas, despite some other family members, is about getting together for a good meal and being together. With the exception of one relative, presents were not and still are not, the focus.

      • proof live tree once cut soak in a borax solution for 2 days in garage then bring in. The boron which is now in the pine needles makes them flame resistant.

        • Namelus,
          Thank you for that interesting idea.
          We never put the tree in the same room as the wood stove.
          But accidents can still happen, e.g. a unforeseen electrical fire.

  • Since we retired about 13 years back, we have hosted a get-together on Christmas every year (almost). We invite our neighbors and friends and the young Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, and Airmen from the nearby military bases who have no place to go for the Holidays. This party started out small but it has grown over the years. We make lots of food, and some people bring food, although they are not required to. We tell “Sea Stories”, and sing songs, and we have a beautiful big blue spruce in the yard that we light up. We also have a big bonfire and try to get the youngsters to sing Military songs and Christmas songs. Sometimes it can get pretty comical. Nobody leaves empty-handed, the leftovers go with them. We also get a chance to pass on some ideas about preparedness to the young folk and talk about the organizations that are available to them when they decide to leave the Military. So many of those organizations are falling to the wayside because of a lack of new blood, like the FRA, and VFW to name a few. The youngest member in the FRA here in my area is 55. So we try to at least let the young folks know about that. We know how hard it is to be away from family for the holidays, so we try to make it fun and welcoming for all. Many of these Folks we hear from year after year, updating us on how they are doing. That is all the Christmas we need.

    • Thank you so much for being a light to our fellow military families! What a fantastic idea, I love it! I’m sure you have made an impact on them.
      We are spending this week with one military child and will miss the other 2 this year. I am grateful to people like you!

  • We usually have a *very* frugal Christmas in our home. But this year, we unfortunately spent significantly more on significantly fewer gifts (yay, inflation!). So, here’s to hoping neither kid hits a growth spurt before we’re out of winter and hubby’s work picks up again.

  • Except for the year I got my first bicycle I don’t remember anything special about gifts for Christmas, but I know we got presents and also had “Santa” gifts. (My granddaughter isn’t even 6 yet and is on her second bicycle! – I was in the 4th grade. Things sure change)
    But I remember activities. Going to church late on Christmas Eve and the candles that were everywhere in the Sanctuary (one time a year only) and getting to open one gift when we got home before going to bed way past our bedtime.
    I want to make Christmas about memories instead of things. Making cookies, a special meal – those kinds of things. Plus they are easier to reproduce for later years or generations than the latest whatever toy advertisers want to convince children (or adults) they can’t live without. We can and we should learn to do without. I also did away with Santa a long time ago.
    And for birthdays, my children got to decide what I would cook for the main meal. No other “gifts” as they were not being trained to be “special” and ” pampered” and such as I think is happening today. They all seem to be doing okay in spite of not having mounds of presents.

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