Pull out the maletas. draft a packing list… we’ll be home for Christmas!
The Figueroa’s will enjoy Christmas at home! A bold prayer I’ve been trying to claim for the past 12 months is finally being realized. I’ve missed two Christmases with my sisters and family and I wanted to be home this time and enjoy Christmas with them. In October when we were deciding, we didn’t have very much money in the bank and it seemed foolish to consider flights from Benin to the U.S.A. I didn’t care! I held on to that prayer and convinced Ruben to go along with it. Several amazing friends and family members donated funds and we were able to buy the tickets!
After the initial thrill died down, I started to consider logistics. Our budget is not very flexible. There is virtually no wiggle room and I wondered how we’d be able to “keep up” with the normal way Christmas is celebrated in the States.
In my mind, it wasn’t necessarily about keeping up appearances, but rather meeting expectations that others have of me during the Christmas season. In addition, it’s fun to choose out the perfect gift that the recipient will adore and make them feel really special and spoiled.
I wasn’t sure how to do that with limited funds.
Enjoy Christmas while flat broke
Since I know I’m not the only one who has limited resources set aside for Christmas, I thought I’d scour the web and share a perfectly curated, fail-proof list of ways to enjoy Christmas when you’re flat broke. I love a good research project. I’d look for cheap DIY gifts that are guaranteed to please the recipient. I’d look for the perfect devotional to read to prepare my heart for a simple, Christ-focused Christmas.
I love sharing my finds with you and since this isn’t just a problem for those living and serving abroad, but also many at home, I thought this would be helpful.
The bad news is, I should’ve known better. There’s no article, website or blog post out there that will provide the secret. Here’s what I found:
- Ideas for homemade gifts… that take skilled hands, a stocked craft closet and days of free time to complete
- Ideas for simple gift exchanges… that require agreement and coordination between family members
- Ideas for non-material gifts… that might be awkward to give if your family isn’t that “type”
The thing about most Christmas-hacks for spending less money is there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to please everyone. You have to let something go: either your budget, your expectations, or your need to please others. You can’t force people to change their practices, perceptions, or expectations of what Christmas is supposed to be. There’s one more option, but you’ll have to make a conscious choice to embrace this:
Do what you can, and ignore the rest.
Pour love, thoughtfulness, and humility into your gifts and into your time with family.
The more I scoured the web looking for a quick-fix to enjoy Christmas without my finances getting in the way, the more I’ve noticed this: As soon as we give in to the idea that we need to do enough to have a good Christmas, we’ve missed the point and lost the game. The point is being grateful for what we have and making sure that the family members we spend time with know without a doubt that they are loved.
The ultimate goal is to ignore what everyone else thinks is important and to stay true to your values. Melissa from Frugal and Thriving reminded me that if I think back a Christmas or two, I can’t even remember what gifts I got. I remember the time I spent with friends and family.
I’m sharing links to help solve a few potential barriers I’ve run across this year. I’ve found resources that will help you imagine simplicity in your own home. I’ve found printables galore and some DIY tutorials that don’t look impossible or expensive. While some of these may indeed help you enjoy Christmas and show your loved ones how much you care, these are all pointless without YOU. You are a gift to those around you.
pROBLEM: When all you have is candy bars and a printer
Small, inexpensive gifts can say a lot when you put thought and effort in. I’m going to point you straight towards The Dating Divas. I stumbled across this treasure trove two years ago. That Christmas was my first abroad with Ruben, and the idea of buying presents while working off donor support, sharing a bank account, and living in a foreign country left me a little lost. I had no idea what to buy him. This site has dozens upon dozens of printables, gift ideas, date ideas, and Christmas ideas. Honestly, I kept finding more and MORE! Don’t let their intended audience fool you; they say they exist to strengthen marriages, but have plenty of ideas applicable for friends or family members. For example, they have printables to host a chocolate tasting party in your own home. I actually thought of doing this with friends at the time for Valentine’s Day, but it never made it from brain to real-life. This could be done with minimal funds (everyone invited brings a chocolate bar) as a way to spend time together and indulge. Why not do this or something similar for Christmas with friends or family?
In my post about surviving a potentially depressing Christmas I mention something I was planning for Ruben and promised to tell you about it. Well, I’m a little late, but this is what I did! Twelve Days of Christmas and Twelve Days of Kiss-mas combined! Both of these come with printables and ideas for what to do each day and how to set it up. There is room to be original, or you can follow their advice exactly.
pROBLEM: When the gift can’t be put in a box
This lucky find is brought to you by procrastination. If I hadn’t been writing this post at a snail’s rate, then I wouldn’t have found this amazing gift registry for the things we really want. SoKind Registry is a place where you can organize your creative, non-conventional gift ideas and share this wish-list with family and friends. It’s designed for WAY more than just tangible items you’d probably buy for yourself anyway. SoKind is a project by the Center for a New American Dream and has a mission statement that goes like this:
“We seek to cultivate a new American dream—one that emphasizes community, ecological sustainability, and a celebration of non-material values.”
Their website is full of resources and encouragement for a simpler Christmas. They have a daily calendar you can click on with small, actionable steps you can take. They also have a “More Fun, Less Stuff” catalog you can download at the bottom for free. It will help you brainstorm for the different people in your life.
SoKind is not just for Christmas. It’s also for weddings, baby showers, graduation parties or any big event that typically merits gifts. They encourage “the giving of homemade gifts, charitable donations, secondhand goods, experiences, time, day-of-event help, and more.” That’s exactly what I need! I’ve already created a registry; if it sounds like something you’d like, it only takes a few minutes to set up.
pROBLEM: When diy sounds great but you know it’s a trap
Anyone that has tried a DIY project a few times already has experience with DIY-failure. I did a few things DIY for my wedding and only stuck it out because I became so attached to the idea. It didn’t save me much money, and it certainly didn’t save me any time. It can be tempting to think that you’ll make 15 homemade sugar scrubs for your loved ones. Sounds easy, and doesn’t seem like it requires a lot of supplies. Until you have to figure out what to put the finished scrub into. Where am I gonna get 15 appropriate containers?
Let me introduce you to the queen of DIY gift ideas that DON’T have to cost more than $10. Lauren Lanker from The Thinking Closet wrote a book that I bought months ago. I finally got around to reading it and this is the book you need to get your hands on if you want creative, personalized gifts that aren’t lame and WON’T break the bank. It’s called Thinking Outside the Gift Box. Remember how earlier I said I scoured the web looking for good ideas to celebrate and enjoy Christmas and gift-giving while flat broke? There were more than several ideas in Lauren’s book that I haven’t stumbled across yet. I guess some of her ideas might not be what you have in mind, but I’d be surprised if you didn’t find a single idea you could use with confidence.
One that really stuck out to me was her instructions for making a completely customized T-shirt for someone. Her tutorial only calls for a few items, and they are all cheap and easy to access. You can find it over at her blog The Thinking Closet. She also has some great printables on her side-bar that could work as a Christmas gift. I’m looking at “12 Pre-Planned Dates For All Occasions” and her post with 101 Creative Date Night ideas, which can be used for anyone!
Your Christmas toolkit is ready
I am not affiliated with any of these blogs or products; I’m just finding them to be useful resources for this time in my life. I want to have a holiday full of memories, and I don’t want to give in to the cultural pressure to consume when I don’t have the means.
I would love to hear which of these ideas sounds most appealing to you. What is your holiday struggle these days? How did you handle it the last time you were in a similar situation during Christmas?