‘Tis the Season to Be Cheap and Creative

If you’re guilty of committing any of the following holiday fouls…

  1. Crying yourself to sleep every night leading to December, in December, and after December.
  2. Pawning your old VHS tapes to pay the minimum payment on your credit card bill just so you can have a little extra room to put more on it.
  3. Plotting the deaths of your neighbor’s reindeer lawn ornaments because one of them looked at you funny, and you need to defend your honor.

…step away from the solid fudge Nutcracker and put down the whiskey masquerading as eggnog.

Feeling inadequate for not being able to afford a crapload of crap for your family and friends is – you guessed it – crap.

So, why do so many of us continue flailing through the holidays in this unseemly manner?

Consumerism is contagious, a pesky bug which thrives on infecting our bank accounts and our psyches.

But, it’s all around us and there is no flu shot or magical elixir we can use to cop out. It is solely up to us to keep ourselves healthy, to become immune to this airborne excessiveness.

Does that mean you can’t participate in the gift of giving? No, it doesn’t.

Does it mean you can change your ways and give on a modest budget? Indeed, it does.

Just step outside of that shiny snowflake box – be cheap and creative!

Scenario #1: The family that’s impossible to shop for.

Gift cards get a bad rap (or wrap, if you will…ho, ho, ho) but they’re also easy, flexible, and crowd-pleasing.

Back when I was still living in Texas, my mom and I came up with the idea to do a gift card exchange in which each person bought one gift card rather than buying for everyone and breaking the bank. A reasonable denomination was decided and communicated to the family.

To make things interesting, my mom read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and we had to switch gift cards around the table each time a particular word was recited.

Obviously, this can be utilized with any holiday poem or story depending on your persuasion. Choose common words like “and” or “the” to ensure lots of trading comes into play.

For creativity bonus points, have each person write one or two sentences then combine them into one nonsensical holiday story.

For calorie burning bonus points, have everyone run around and switch seats instead of passing by hand.

Scenario #2: The family that’s possible to shop for.

Used bookstores are a gifting treasure chest if you feel confident about the merry interests of your fam.

Fueled by coffee and shoestring budget determination, my hubby and I hit up a multi-level used bookstore here in Milwaukee and selected one dusty book for each family member for the holidays last year.

I gotta say…we made out like a couple of elfin bandits in that bookstore.

My mother-in-law was our greatest challenge because she has read just about every book in creation. So, we put our heads together and came up with one of our best gift ideas ever. And although this is top secret stuff, I’m gonna share it with you.

My hubby is one of seven kids…that’s right – seven!

To represent each of them, we gave my mother-in-law vintage National Graphic’s for the birth month and year of each of her wonderful children.

Needless to say, she loved it!

This gift idea is thoughtful, heart-warming, and original – feel free to explore different magazine collections (Time, Vogue, etc). Although in my opinion, you can’t go wrong with National Geographic…ever.

Bottom line…that over-indulgent holiday mentality is unnecessary and absurd. It invites stress into your family time, and who in the hell wants him to crash the festivities anyway?

When in doubt, just give some love.

Do you guys have any inexpensive gift ideas out there? I’d love to hear them. I might steal one this year.

25 thoughts on “‘Tis the Season to Be Cheap and Creative

  1. globalexplorer1 says:

    One year, when I was unemployed and the Christmas budget was all but nonexistent, we as a family went out to buy gifts for needy families. It wasn’t much, but we gave to those who had even less than we did.

  2. letizia says:

    your neighbor’s reindeer lawn ornament looking at you funny – that really had me laughing!

    I often buy gifts at the local used bookstore too.

    Another option (a bit old school perhaps) is to make a CD mix. It’s personal and inexpensive.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      LOL! Yeah, and that randomness inspired my silly cartoon. I said I would only draw it once and post it…the crappier, the better. : )

      Yay for used bookstore gifts! So much fun.

      And, I love the CD mix idea. That’s classically great stuff!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Personally, I don’t think gift cards are bad at all. Hey, I worked in retail. We’d much rather see someone come in and get what they want instead of dumping those returns all over the place!

  3. Browsing the Atlas says:

    These ideas are fantastic! I love the giftcard swapping idea, but love the National Geographic idea even more.

    So here’s something we do that can be on the cheaper side: we draw names and make each other gifts. That’s right. A little’ Little House on the Prairie-ish’, but it’s fun to see what we come up with.

    I drew my brand-new daughter-in-law’s name this year. I’m making her a Christmas stocking.

  4. Chris Edgar says:

    If people around me just let me know that I was loved, that would definitely be a lot more valuable to me than any material object. But the opposite seems to happen during the holiday season because, as you say, it seems to be the peak of everyone’s anxiety and people become so occupied with trying to manage their anxiety that they can’t focus on how grateful they are for each other’s presence. Letting go of the need to buy things for Christmas would be a good start, I think.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Agreed. Love is the only gift that matters to any of us when you get down to it. And, it’s something important that we are all capable of giving.

      I’m always baffled by the nutty holiday behavior practiced by so many. I agree that not buying things is a good start. Wipe the slate clean, de-stress, and discover what’s truly important.

      Thanks for sharing your stellar perspective.

  5. ariannapoland says:

    As our extended families have grown, we have realized that it just isn’t feasible to be able to buy gifts for everyone. We shop for the nieces and nephews and give the gift of kindness, love, laughter, and fellowship to the adults. One tradition that B’s family has done for years is every year one couple is in charge of making ornaments for each couple in the family. The ornaments are used for the Advent tree that his Grandfather made for everyone. It’s one of my most favorite traditions ever.

  6. ariannapoland says:

    Oh, and I forgot to add, for the nieces and nephews we employ the four gift rule: one thing they want, one thing they need, one thing they wear, one thing they read.
    We don’t always buy all four, but the gift must fall into one of those categories.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Wonderful idea as well. I’m going to do this with my nieces next year. Every year they create an amazon wishlist, which is useful, but this would be a great way to change it up. Thanks for sharing, love!

  7. ramblingandjack says:

    Idea #1 sounds so fun!! My family is doing a white elephant exchange, but the gift has to be “something under $10 that you can’t live without.” I think I might bring a Christmas poem and add a little fun to our swap!

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