How to Create a Low-Cost to No-Cost Christmas
Here’s one reader’s story….
Dear Jolene,I am writing to ask for your help or a direction you could lead me in. My husband is very sick undergoing treatment for his liver similar to chemotherapy. We have three wonderful children Sophia, age 4 she is a little mommy, Alexis age 3 who is a free spirit and her smile lights up the room and a son Anthony who is 3 months and he is such a happy baby. We live off of $500 a month so needless to say we have no money for Christmas. Any ideas you have or any help you could give would be greatly appreciated.~Renee
First, you and your family are in my prayers! Second, I’m glad you reached out. Now if I were in your shoes, I’d do a couple of things…
For beginners, tweak your perspective just slightly. Recognize that God has given you the ability to give your children a teaching moment, one that will make an impact on their souls. Since your children are so young, you have the perfect opportunity to teach them to minister to others, especially their father since he is so sick right now.
If you teach your children while they’re still little to bless others, they won’t have such a selfish and greedy heart during Christmas and they’ll truly want to bless others. I know it’s hard, but try to realize that this character building moment is truly a blessing in the midst of your heartache.
When God is in the process of transforming our lives, it generally hurts our flesh, which causes us the inability to see the good it’s creating in our spirit!
I’d probably sit with your kids and have them make a ‘Daddy Book’ of some type that includes photos of him with the children or cards they have given him over the years. Perhaps getting old photos from when he was growing up, along with a few wedding photos could be added to the book as well. Of course this project could be pricey, but it doesn’t have to be. Plain paper, a glue stick and maybe some old ribbon lying around could make the book look precious. You can make it as simple as possible knowing that it is the thought behind it that counts. And you’re children will delight in the giving.
Your kiddos could also make his favorite meal (that you can afford) and they can even create a restaurant-type of atmosphere in the home. All of you could dress up in nice clothes, light some candles, and serve your simple meal on china plates if you have them. I’m sure your kids would love this activity! And again, you’re teaching them to focus on others, rather than themselves.
Have them give, serve, and bless others first, then flip the tables so you can give and bless them. When they do receive gifts from others, most likely they’ll have more of an attitude of gratitude because they now have first-hand experience of serving someone else.
And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” Acts 20:35
10 Low-Cost to No-Cost Christmas Ideas
Many of the activities listed below you can put in coupon form (with pictures since your kids are so young). Wrap the coupon up in a big box or a little box or even a box within a box. Kids just love to open presents! If you don’t have Christmas wrapping paper, then use a brown bag and decorate it ahead of time with the kiddos. Or you can use old wrapping paper and turn it over to use the plain white side. Have them draw Baby Jesus, crosses, wise men, angels, manger scenes, etc.
- A camp-out in the living room. You can use a tent if you have one, or blankets to build a fort because every child loves that!
- Movie night with popcorn. (If you have no TV and can’t afford a video, you can use your computer. This is something we do. Check out hulu.com.)
- Hot chocolate and story time.
- If it’s raining in your area you can go puddle-stomping. When my boys were little they always wanted to stomp in puddles especially when we were at church! I decided to teach them to stomp in puddles when they were dressed for it and when I was as well! So when the rainy season came along I’d dress them up, grab our umbrellas and then go puddle-stomping! They loved every minute of it. Then we came home and headed for a nice hot bath. Afterwords I dress them in something cozy and warm and then I gave them a delicious cup of cocoa.
- If you receive gifts or gift cards from others during this difficult time of your life, wrap them up and place them under the tree (if you have one) and wait until Christmas morning for your kids to open it. Let them know that such and such gift was given to them by so-and-so. Make sure you let them know that Jesus used these people to minister to your children. They probably won’t understand this concept but just sharing that Truth will minister to you and your husband, which is something you both need at this time!
- If you have any sweets in your house (we didn’t always have this) then let them eat dessert before dinner! Yes, be an irresponsible Mommy just for a day! Another spin off of this would be to go out to a fast-food restaurant and order dessert off their dollar menu and eat it there. Then come home and fix them dinner. Make a big deal out of this outing and I guarantee you they’ll look forward to it all day!
- On Christmas Eve morning, go get donuts in your pj’s. The men in my family LOVE donuts! So I created a tradition one year where I decided to get donuts on Christmas Eve morning in our pj’s. We started doing this when my boys were about 3-5 yrs. old and they still want to do it to this day.
- Have a family game night. My youngest son loves board games, but my husband loathes them. It’s a real treat to my son if we play a game as a family because he knows that his father is doing so out of love for him.
- Give them some of their favorite foods or treats. Last year I gave my husband his favorite lemon pudding and sweetened tea. My boys got a box of donuts, gum, and if I remember correctly, some Nutella! I’m sure I spent less than $15 because that was still a stretch for us.
- Pray and ask the Lord to bring gifts for your children. Also, humble yourself (which is extremely difficult to do!) and ask the Body of Christ for help. Many times people are willing to help, but they don’t realize there’s a need. Something you can do is ask for old hand-me-down clothes or toys that their children are no longer using and you can wrap those items up as gifts. Children that live in third-world countries would love to receive the Americans’ hand-me-downs. It’s all in one’s perspective!
Two Christmas’ ago, my children didn’t receive anything from us because we had no money even for the smallest gifts. But God knew our situation because He was, and is, our CFO; Chief Financial Officer! I just waited for Him to show Himself to our children.
My kids were old enough to know what was taking place in their lives. They were 9 and 11 at the time. At one point, my eldest had no other choice but to walk around with holes in the bottom of his shoes while it was raining outside. He’d come in from the rain with socks that were sopping wet. My heart would break and I was concerned for his faith in Christ. But God had a plan in all of that. Christ was transforming my son’s heart, as well as mine, my husband’s and my youngest son’s.
My boys heard their whole lives how Jesus is the One who takes care of us, provides for us, and gives us good things. But during that time of our lives, Jesus needed to manifest in their lives. This was where the rubber was meeting the road, so to speak, in their lives. Yes, this was extremely difficult for my flesh to experience because inside I was a doubting, fearful and hurting Mommy. However, my spirit kept running back to the Word, and like a rabid dog, I clung to His promises! My only other choice was to become bitter towards the Cross or walk away from Christ while I was living through these difficult circumstances. I wasn’t willing to settle for either option seeing how I already took that path once before in my life and it didn’t work. But of course I had my own little pity-parties from time to time! 🙂
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. “Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” John 6:66-69
My children and your children belong to God before they belong to us, and because of this, the Lord will minister to your children in spite of your circumstances. He’ll just do it in a different way than how you imagined and He’ll do a much better job than what we could ever do!
That Christmas when we had nothing to give to our children, God showed Himself in a big way! I like to call that post The 5 Days of Christmas (although, that’s not it’s title). If you have the time you should read all the miracles that Christ performed because it was truly amazing and it’ll strengthen your faith!
As a result of all those miracles, my children’s faith in Christ grew. The faith that we had been teaching them over all those years was now starting to become their own.
Now friend, today I’m asking for your help; your creativity, your ideas, as well as your prayers for this dear sister. Please chime in at the comment section with more low-cost/no-cost ideas that would minister to any child.
Also, I have a challenge for you: If you’re not in need then can you please give to those who are? Is there someone in your family, circle of friends, church, or neighborhood that might need to see the hands of Jesus in their life right now? If so, bless them with something tangible, even if all you can give is your gently used toys and clothes! If you’re on Facebook, one thing you can do is post a status asking if there is a family/child in need and I’m sure you’ll find someone. Also, will you share this post there, too? It may minister to others and it may stir up the Body of Christ to pour out their lives for the King of Kings.
Live a poured out life for Christ,
I love your ideas! We’re having a tight Christmas as well this year, but reading your post makes me so grateful for what we have been blessed with! My daughter is only 9 months old right now, but I can’t wait to use some of these ideas with her later (especially the puddle jumping).
My baby girl is going to be 9 months on Saturday! Congratulations Mikah. She’s such sweet and amazing part of life, isn’t she? 🙂
Yes, Mikah, just a slight change in our perspective could make a huge difference in our lives. I loved the puddle jumping when my boys were little! Have fun with that baby girl of yours!
We’ve definitely been on the “tight” side more often than I care to remember. But remember I must. Even in the lean times, we have to be mindful of what we DO have and remember what/Whom we’re celebrating.
Thank you for these tips and pointers!
Amen Kela! It’s not about the presents under the tree but rather His Presence in our lives.
If you have a spare deck of cards lying around, you can make a little flipbook with some scrap paper. When I did this for my husband once, I made it “52 I Love Yous” and on each card, I put a small piece of scrapbook paper over the numbered side of the card and wrote something like “I love your forehead kisses!” or “I love your generous heart”. You can do that for your husband OR your kids! 🙂 I even picked a deck of cards with New York written on them b/c it was a special piece of our story. 🙂
If you can buy some candy to give them, take small pieces of paper to wrap around it (with suckers – use the stem) and on the paper, write down the things you appreciate about the person – or even do the coupon thing that Jolene talked about. What a fun delivery system! 🙂
If you end up with a little more money sometime for Christmas but not a whole lot, you could make pillows. 🙂 I hand-stitched them for my extended family one year when I was in college. I found that 1/4 yard of fabric is awesome for creating a neck/low-back pillow – and it’s ideal for holding onto at bedtime too. 🙂 The most expensive part was the stuffing – which can go a long way if you pull it apart to “fluff” it a bit extra as you fill the pillow. 🙂
For next year, start a prayer box this year. Have everyone in the family write down prayer requests and put them in the box. Add to it & go through it regularly & when one is answered, write the date on it (and possibly the answer) and keep it in a separate box. Then, at Christmas, use the answered prayers to create something as a gift. There’s no greater way to remember how much God loves us in the NOW like looking back over a year of answered prayers and what a bonding moment for the family! 🙂
These are all such wonderful ideas, Becky. Thanks so much for sharing them!
I’ve been trying to do “smelly” crafts with my kids this year…getting them to make scent memories of Christmas. We have pushed cloves into oranges to make lovely smelly ornaments, and mixed cinnamon and applesauce to make a dough to make small ornaments for the tree….just little activities, but they smell so wonderful and just making them together made a memory. (the cinnamon dough was kinda weird and brought up lots of “potty humor” which made the kids laugh themselves silly!!). I had thought of trying to get them to string popcorn garlands for the tree. Or even make cookies and hang them up as ornaments. We’re going to make some plain white paper trees (only need a sheet of paper and scissors!) to decorate with. I’ll be posting some ideas on my blog, dennas ideas.com in the coming days…
Excellent ideas, Denna. Anytime you awaken the 5 senses and create traditions around them, you’re creating priceless memories for your children. We did the applesauce/cinnamon ornaments when my boys were young too. And I had lots of bells throughout my house so they equate that sound to Christmas as well.
We like to make ornaments, they are the salt dough ornaments. You can use your hands to make a print or whatever you have lay around to make a share and then have the kids decorate them. This is a fun family time activity and also a great gift. Baking cookies, making personal Xmas cards from Construction paper. We are on a “tight” budget as well so I have gone on pinterest and googled for some ideas that either I can use recycled things we already have or very inexpensive (like dollar store items). Oh another one is making chain links to decorate the house or tree with. You can go caroling as a family. Neighbors love hearing the little ones sing. I have shared with my son the verses of Jesus being born from the bible. He likes to draw so we were drawing Jesus being born, Mary his mother, Joseph his dad and all the animals he thought were in the stable with Jesus. You can cut them out or just have them draw the picture. We have kept the pictures from last year to show him how well he has improved on his coloring and drawing. (one day these will be great keep sakes for him to have when he is married to share with his children). Anyway those are just a few things we do as a family. I think whatever you do just spending time together, taking pictures and sharing the moment as a family makes any thing a wonderful memory… Thank you for the suggests above…I hope everyone has a Very Blessed Christmas..
These are all beautiful ideas, Nicki! Even if one is not on a tight budget, it’s better to do things with a child than to just give them gifts. They soon forget the gift they got last Christmas, but they’ll remember the memories they made with their family.
I am so grateful to report that my children will have a Christmas. I prayed and prayed and today got a telephone call from my childrens doctors office. I was told my family was chosen to recieve gifts for our three kids to make a list of what the kids want and need and bring it to the office tomorrow. My husband and I cried during and after the telephone call. I do not know what my children will recieve but it doesn’t matter. the warmth that filled my heart when I got the call was incredible. Then when I was going through me email I saw you posted my letter. Not only did you take the time to read my email and give me guidance you made a post about it and I pray that it helps other families as well. I am so blessed and it is because of people like you who take the time to think of others. Merry Christmas to you and your sons and husband. I cannot thank you enough for your post. Also my husband loved the idea of camping in the living room. We are going to try the ideas and also something we do every single year we make waffles with strawberries and whip cream, it is something I started with my mom,when she was alive, she passed away in 2010, and it brings part of my mom with us. Every night my girls and I say our prayers and tonight I am so thankful for the kindness of others. This has also made me realize that I can do more to help out, not financially right now, but with my time and can also teach my daughters and son that we can donate our time to help others. Merry Christmas!
What a wonderful praise report, Renee! And yes, even though you may not have the money, you can still minister to others in Jesus’ name!
Love all your ideas. They would be good for all of us even if we have the money to do other things. Our family is seriously considering revamping the way we do Christmas for next year. We celebrate with an extended family that gains a new member at least each year! This year 3!
Visiting through Inspire Me Monday.
Thanks Sharon. Yep, sometimes with growth comes change!
Looking at Christmas lights in our neighborhood is a fun and free thing we do. Also, lots of churches (malls, towns, and other organizations) have free programs and activities during Christmas. One of our favorites is a “living” Christmas tree, where people stand on risers in the shape of a Christmas tree, and wear lights, while doing a concert. Chocolate gravy http://allrecipes.com/recipe/southern-style-chocolate-gravy/ or chocolate chip pancakes can make special breakfast memories. We always make a birthday cake for Jesus. Here is the link to a post I wrote about ten of our family’s favorite traditions. Most are free. http://www.peachstatemomsblog.com/general/sharing-10-of-our-familys-favorite-christmas-traditions/ I hope everyone has a Joy-filled and Blessed Christmas!
Love your ideas, Jamie! Thanks so much for sharing them here!
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