Having a Meaningful, Frugal Holiday Season: But NOT a Cheap One (Christmas Doesnt Have to Kill Your Finances)
A couple of years ago, I was told by someone that they didnt like handmade gifts because they felt they were cheap (as I was handing them a handmade giftUGH). So, I put the question out there on my Facebook page, asking how people felt about handmade gifts? Well, the response was, for the most part, refreshingly positive. Hallelujah!
In this day and age of convenience, quick fixes, and giving gifts for gifting sake, and not necessarily thoughtfulness, the holiday gifting season can be downright discouraging. Especially if you tend to end up with debt because of it.
Earlier and earlier every year, Black Friday ads and sales for the holidays appear in our email inboxes, our mailboxes, and are smeared all over any kind of communication we choose. Its inescapable-all the pressure to buy, buy, buy!
There is such pressure to conform to the materialistic buying craze during this time of year. And that pressure is NOT healthy, in my opinion.
The excess and consumerism in our modern society is a real struggle for me. It always has been, and it seems things just keep getting worse.
The holiday season is supposed to be for enjoying people in our lives, not getting depressed and stressed over forced giving, isnt it?
Here are some thoughts based on discussions Mr. V. and I have had recently around gift giving this time of year and some different choices we are making, especially as we delve deeply into the Biblical meaning of Christmas (or lack thereof).
Keep in mind we are not rich in money.far from it. We live on very small fixed retirement incomes, and we dont have any disposable income at this time in our lives. Heck. We dont even have health insurance.
In fact, some months are hard. At our late ages, we are still working off debt, which is another topic all together.
However, we are SO wealthy in so many other ways, ways that are often not recognized in our modern culture. Ill get to those in a second.
I am sure we are not the only ones in this predicament. And so we have to choose: a frugal holiday that is rich with feeling? Celebrating what is REALLY important? Or a holiday season that adds more debt and lack of appreciation along with the often accompanying depression, guilt, and even anger.
Finally, what would Jesus say about all this stress people tend to choose this time of year? WWJD?
What is Frugality? What is Being Cheap?
Mr. V. and I are in a situation, like many families, Im surewhere the expectations of children, grandchildren, and others in our lives FAR surpass what we are able to do both time wise and especially financially.
We tend to live quite frugally. We dont buy many physical items, except for needs around the homesteadlike a tractor, which is a big ticket item that we are now in debt for. But its a need, not a want, for our current lifestyle. Thats a debt that is necessary, and we feel blessed to be able to have this tool.
But high interest credit card debt for stuff that nobody really wants or needs? That kind of debt is just not worth it for us at this time in our lives.
Does this make us cheap?
Some would say that yes, we are.
We do certainly re-use a lot of items. We try not to use plastics, and we make an awful lot of our own things, including medicines from plants we grow and forage. (You can learn to do this too.)
And since we dont spend much of the green stuff on ourselves, we dont spend much on others, either.
This is partially because we cant. But mostly we dont spend frivolously because we are tired of buying into the crazy consumerism in our world these days.
This may make us sound cheap. In reality, we are trying to adjust our thinking to be smart. It seems to me that smart people stay out of debt, and admittedly, we are not there (yet). But thats a goal.
Or, you could reframe the word cheap to be caring. Caring for the environment. Caring about not supporting child labor practices. Caring for sustainable living.
So our gifts, if we give any this year, are going to be frugal (smart and caring). And that means that although they wont cost a great deal of money, they will be made and given with love. Its up to the recipient to decide how they are taken, because we have no control over that.
By the way.when we have given exorbitantly in the past, there seems to be a sense of entitlement and sometimes even disappointment that there isnt more. Mr. V. and I have decided to just get over this and not let it bother us any more.
If we were in a different place financially, perhaps we would be thinking differently. Im not sure. But these days, we choose to be frugal, both because we have to be as well as wanting to be.
We are not cheap, but we dont have control over what others think. And thats none of our business anyway.
My parents are great role models for this. They give thoughtful gifts that are well within their respective budgets. And we appreciate them.
Being a Good Giver. Being a Good Receiver. And Thoughts on Time.
Both Mr. V. and I have trouble accepting gifts from others. We actually find it rather embarrassing. Im not sure where this comes from, but both of us have work to do in becoming better receivers.
And all through both our lives, we have been great givers. But as I stated above, this giving spirit has made our lives financially rough over the years at times due to giving too much. Giving to the point of disastrous credit card debt.
Is this healthy?
I dont think so.
These days, we dont receive many gifts, mainly because those in our lives dont have lots of money to give them. And this is ok, because what we REALLY want more than stuff is TIME with those we love. Thats all.
Unfortunately, asking for that time as a gift is hard for us, too, because it seems that time is very limited among our family members. Our kids are all in the busy career phases of their lives, and they simply dont have a lot of time or money to take families on expensive plane trips.
We do try to see them when we can, but this is also difficult for us because between us, we have eight children who live literally all over the United States. And traveling is definitely expensive. Mr. V. have never once taken a vacation, even just for ourselves, for this very reason.
With both time AND money being so limited, what is a person to do?
How about be grateful for whatever others are ABLE to give, whether its time-related or money-relatedkeeping in mind that TIME spent together is so much more valuable than stuff.
So this season, Mr. V. and I continue working on our gratitude. Gratitude for the time we have with friends, new and old. And if we get to spend time with family, we will be doubly and triply and a thousand times more blessed and grateful.
Just to see our loved ones.. That would be the gift of the season. Time.
If you are able to spend time with your family, perhaps because you live close by, or maybe because you are able to travel (or they are able to travel to you), know this is the MOST special gift of all.
Accept any gifts with extreme gratitude. These gifts mean you were in someones thoughts, whether its something you wanted/needed or not. And if there are no gifts given for financial or other reasons, be grateful for any time you get to spend with others.
And if family cant take the time or afford a visit? Be grateful for the simple phone call.
Receive well. Give what you can well. And be grateful for any time (even a phone visit) you get to spend with family and friends.
Less is Often More Meaningful. And Its Really About Thoughtfulness Anyway.
This one is very related to everything I said above, but there are some other considerations that need to be mentioned for a happier holiday time.
Simple gifts, thoughtfully made and given, are often so much more meaningful and appreciated than something very expensive that has been hastily purchased at the last minute to simply fulfill an expectation.
The thought and time that is spent on a gift often determines its meaningfulness.
Its not about the money. At least it shouldnt be.
This is where thoughtfully purchased gifts, no matter how little the cost or handmade gifts that are created with the receiver in mind can be absolutely amazing. They can also be a big flop, if the recipients tastes or needs are not taken into consideration.
Regardless, when something is handmade, TIME as well as thought has been taken for that special person on the receiving end.
Dont take this lightly.
OR.inexpensive gifts that are given with thoughtfulness count as well!
My dad tells of growing up at the tail end of the Great Depression, in a farm family of eight children. The kids had one pair of shoes each, and they didnt wear them except to go to church and school. That was it. The family had no extra money at all.
One of the most treasured gifts my dad ever received as a young man leaving for military duty was a simple, inexpensive yet very thoughtfully purchased grooming set from his parents. He still has it, and he is in his later 80s now.
If youre interested in some Money Saving Tips, here are a few from survivors of the Great Depression that are as valid and useful today as they were back then.
Consider the thought behind the gift as well as the heart put into the giving.
Handmade is NOT Always Frugal
And I need to mention this fact as well: Just because something is handmade, doesnt mean it is frugal OR cheap.
Im thinking of my mothers quilts, among other things.
My mom puts an extraordinary amount of time, thought, and effort into the beautiful handmade quilts she makes for others. These are not cheap in terms of either time or money. The fabric costs a LOT, the tools she uses cost a lot, and her time is priceless.
Its so sad to me to see some of her quilts shes given over the years be mistreated or not appreciated.
But this is because our current societal collective value system is SO messed up! And some folks just truly dont realize or understand the time and effort spent on something like an heirloom quilt any more.
If you are fortunate to receive a handmade gift this year, whether it took a great deal of money or not to make, just remember: It took TIME.
And time, above all, is a non-renewable resource for all of us.
If someone took time out of their life to make you something, PLEASE love and appreciate that item.
On this note: My most precious belongings are ALL handmade or thoughtfully given. They are: pictures that have been painted by my mom and stepmom, my mothers quilts, things like this dutch oven lid lifter my dad made for us, and my childrens creations through their school years. I am blessed beyond measure to have these things in my home where I can remember them when I see these items.
And Mr. V. has had paintings commissioned by a local artist of my precious fur-babies, Ranger and Bud. These hang in places of honor in my home. He took the time to find a pet artist who was willing to trade work for these. And I just love them. So, even though he didnt spend any money, he spent hours of his precious time to barter for these.
Handmade with love.its not just a trite saying. Its for real.
Handmade DIY Ideas for You
Not all of us are good at making things. In fact, even though I make most of the products we use in our home, I am not good at the gifting aspect of them because they arent necessarily pretty. Its kind of hard to make an herbal medicinal tincture look attractive.
Regardless, some people have a great talent for making the most mundane items look beautiful.
If this is you (or even if its not), here are some handmade gift ideas you can consider making for others this year. Ive written about this before in 50+ DIY Gift Ideas, but here are a few links right here to consider now.
Handmade Soap: A Tutorial (There are tons of recipes on my blog too, so if this tutorial isnt exactly what you want, be sure to look around or email me.)
Tools, like this handmade Dutch Oven Lid Lifter
Healing salves and body care, like this Black Drawing Salve or Foraged Cedar Deodorant
Herbal spices and finishing salts like this homegrown Basil Finishing Salt
For those into sustainability (which should be all of us), how about homemade bees wraps, or cling wraps made from beautiful, colorful cloth?
Or how about a lovely herbal tea blend in a flavor your recipient loves, like a unique chai?
Perhaps a warming hot drink blend, like this Spiced Hot Cocoa Mix that is just delicious and healthy too?
There are SO many other ideas that are easy and inexpensive to give.they just take a bit of time.
And What About the Gift Wrapping?
I know. I know.
Everyone loves a pretty present. I do too, I admit.
Are you like me? I just cant stand spending a TON of money on expensive wrapping paper that is going to just get thrown away! How do you feel about this?
I meanif there is anything about the holiday gifting season that sets me on edge, its the waste.
Consider some gift wrapping alternatives this year! These can be beautiful, useful, and even save the worldto an extent, anyway.
In addition to saving some money, saving a few trees, alternative gift wrappings can actually save you a little time, too.
I wrote a whole article about alternatives for gift wrap a couple of years ago, and here it is. Honestly, there are some REALLY great ideas in this post, and I hope youll take a look.
My favorite one is using a pretty scarf to wrap a gift.and the scarf can be used too!
My Own Frugal Story
I wasnt always a frugal person. I was as wasteful as they come. I certainly wasnt always into the make it yourself self-sufficient lifestyle. I have grown into this way of living over a long period of time.
Some of this growth to a home-grown way of life has come based on necessity. When you dont have a lot of money, well, you figure out how to make due.
This state of being (necessity) was a precursor for my own advent into making our own things, cooking from scratch, learning to preserve foods, and being self-reliant from stores as much as possible.
Also, its been health related.
There are SO many chemical toxins in the products, medicinals, body care, and even our homes and environments.
Mr. V. and I watched a documentary recently called The Devil We Know, based on DuPonts criminal poisoning of the worldand its just horrifying. And its real.
So, really, although we may be frugal based initially on need, our frugality now stems in GREATER part on the fact that we are trying to avoid toxins in our food, medications, skincare and body care (like toothpaste), and to reduce the chemical toxins in our home environment.
This also includes where we live. Now that we no longer live in or near Las Vegas, a behemoth of a city complete with the requisite extreme pollution, its such a blessing to breathe in our clean air here in the Idaho panhandle. I hope it continues to be this way. And I hope and pray one day, our children will join us here.
My frugal journey continues. I do spend money on some high end items.
One of these is my skincare. Although I have been making almost all my own for the past decade, my time with the homestead and business duties we have going on around here these days make it so I just dont have it to spend anymore.
Ive discovered a CLEANer, SAFER skincare alternative. This company has voluntarily banned over 1,500 toxins from their products, even though here in the U.S., only 80 are banned by law. Our laws for safe cosmetics and skincare havent been changed since.get this.the 1930s!!!!
Does that just scare you?
You can find out more here, if you are interested in safe skincare and you are not interested in making your own products or are tired of natural products not working.
By the way, I love makeup, and I have NOT ever even wanted to make my own. I love making lotions and creams.but foundation and lipstick? No thanks. And now I dont have to! What a blessing!
Anyhow, frugality is relative for each of us, and it is definitely a journey. The motivations are different for all of us.
While my frugal journey began out of necessity, now it is more motivated by health reasons. And its all good.
Our Values and Buying Gifts
One last thing I want to touch on is our general value system.
This entire article is, in reality, a treatise on our value system of sortsbut lets go a little deeper.
By the way.we are all in different places on this journey. Sadly, I am not zero-waste, as is the growing trend these days. BUT it is a goal at some point. And wherever you are on this path, feel great wherever that is. Its about learning and changing and with that comes our actions.
We have some additional beliefs that guide our general purchasing, and especially during this time of year. Here are some things we try to ask ourselves before we buy:
1) Is the product sustainably made?
I am so, SO tired of the waste in our modern world. We are killing the planet. You can read more in my Cling Wrap article about plastics, if you like. And Im no greenie, (well, maybe I am a little bit). Although I believe capitalism at its core is a good system, it has become corrupted in our modern times.
Mr. V. and I take a look at the final product, then look back on its manufacturing process from start to finish. Working with herbs for health, from foraging and growing to the final medicinal product, has taught me about sustainability and how important it is to support practices that help instead of harm.
2) Labor Practices
Closely related to sustainability is the labor practices involved in the creation of the product. This also involves WHERE it was made. Are there child labor laws in place that are reasonable? Or is the product from a country where tiny tykes are working 16 hour days just to survive?
We try to purchase U.S.A. made products, as long as they are not from companies that kill the environment. Tricky, yes. Impossibleno.
And mostly, we try to support small local businesses, where we can get to know the owners and makers.
3) Is it Wasteful?
This question is also closely related to both of the above.
Can you just believe all the trash we create as a society? Does it scare you even a little bit?
I love purchasing from companies that have little packaging or have packaging that can be re-used in some way. I really just love our wood stove because an awful lot of paper trash can go into it, helping us and the environment.
But we look at this, too. Wastefulness.
If its something thats plastic and likely to go right into the trash (like a disposable razor for example), is it worth buying? Not for us.
Another thing: I try to purchase any products I must buy in glass containers if that is available as an option. Glass is decomposable or biodegradable, or whatever you want to call it. Plastic is not. I really hate plastic.
I seriously really dislike water bottles.
You know what would be a great gift for a water bottle lover? How about a stainless steel container that can be used every day? And maybe a little education for the recipient? In fact, that link will take you to one that is worth FOUR average sized (16 ounce) water bottles!
4) Can It Be Purchased Used?
I used to be better at this than I am now.mostly because I dont buy that much these days, I suppose. But I used to love thrift stores. You can get some real useful treasures in there.
Anyway, if you can buy it lightly used and save some cash at the same time.why not do this?
5) Can I Make it Myself?
Even though I dont make my own makeup, there are an awful LOT of things we make ourselves around here. I wrote a popular article a few years ago called 20 Necessities I Never Buy at the Store and What We Do Instead. and then last year, I wrote another one, and this one has more than 50 items we make and never buy.
Honestly, the list keeps growing still, and I imagine it wont ever stop. There are things Im thinking of right this second that should be on one or both of those lists that are brand new! Like knitted beanies and socks!
Thats because we keep increasing and enhancing our education. Our self-reliance skillsets. The more you learn how to do, the more you know how to make, the less dependent on modern stores (and the healthier) you will be.
I honestly would feel terrible buying an OTC remedy for a relative when I can hand them something Ive made out of natural plants that is safer.and works BETTER.
You can learn more at The Healing Harvest Homestead School of Traditional Skills, including a complete Home Herbalism Course so you can make your own remedies safely and effectively as well as make good decisions about needs.
This goes for gifts too.
Can you make it?
Then consider this option, if you can.
Final Thoughts on Having a Frugal Holiday, but NOT Necessarily a Cheap One
Well, my intention with this article was to discuss more about having a meaningful holiday, and I apologize that it did turn into somewhat of a rant. lol
Here is a verse on giving: For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. 2 Cor. 8:12
We shouldnt burden ourselves to give to others, especially if they are just fine. So maybe this year, take stock of where you are, and your needs. And give to others accordingly. And consider values in your decisions too. Giving meaningfully doesnt make you a cheapskate.
When I was raising our kids, they always wanted more than we could or would give to them. Some of this was actual financial realitybut an awful lot of our decisions were based on how we wanted our kids to live and what we wanted them to learn. Materialism was NOT one of these values, especially at the cost of our financial and physical health.
But its still a growing trend, and something Mr. V. and I still do struggle with.
I hope youll have a wonderful holiday season, and I do hope youll consider adding in some frugal (but not cheap) practices for the health of your family and the good of the world!
Id love to hear what you think, so please leave comments in the comments section.
Hugs, Health, and Self-Reliance,