Christmas Challenge Number One:
Spend Less, Don't Buy Stuff, Plan Ahead

Luke 12:15
And he said unto them, Take heed,
and beware of covetousness:
for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance
of the things which he possesseth.

If you have not read the first page of this challenge,
you might wish to do so.

by Mary E. Stephens

Get out of the great American spending game. Determine to buy fewer gifts, less expensive gifts, or to make homemade ones. In the future, plan ahead so that you aren't compelled to buy in a hurried environment.

One of the challenging aspects of this one is that you will need to put your brain to work and not just coast in the usual holiday spend-give-get mode. You will have to think and work to put this into effect. :-) Some folks will really enjoy this. I grew up reading quite a few books about people who had to make do with what they had. Many were fiction stories, but I grew to admire the ingenuity and resourcefulness of those characters who could take a little and make it into something. They were often portrayed as making their own gifts or saving and buying carefully and purposefully. Considering the present state of  global economics it seems like this would be a good time to dig up those old virtues (ingenuity and resourcefulness) and put them to use again. I admit that I need to work on this more in other areas. We have become too accustomed to buying things we "need" instead of making do or even doing without.

So, here are some options to choose from or to mix and match. This could be a quite interesting and even fun challenge if you have the right attitude! :-)

  1. Homemade gifts. There are literally millions of instructions for handmade items on the internet now.  (No internet at home? Check the local library for books or use their computers.) Try to use what you already have available to make the gifts too. Consider your stash of "extras," craft items, fabric, etc. and then go from there.  Giving something you made yourself can be very rewarding, even for kids. One word of advice - set a budget and try to work within what you have already and what is cheap. Homemade is not always cheaper! You can spend as much (or more) on homemade gifts as you would on store bought gifts if you let yourself.
    - Homemade food items are a nice option, especially if you don't have a lot of craft things to work with. Keep in mind if you do this that baked goods will probably be the most economical use of ingredients. If you do your own home canning, plan to do some extra batches of things like jelly, jam, spaghetti sauce, pickles, etc. to use as gifts. Be sure to make smaller size jars for the couples and singles. Jar mixes are also a nice option and require no canning, baking or cooking. And, on the plus side, even those folks who might not appreciate a homemade gift are going to have to be pretty hard hearted to turn up their noses at their favorite cookies or vinaigrette. (By the way - those with special dietary needs are always appreciative to have something special that they didn't have to buy or make themselves. Find recipes that will work well for them and give them something worthwhile.)
    - Also, let your children make the gifts, decorate the cookies, make the greeting cards, etc. (I made all our Christmas cards one year when my family was still celebrating with a Spirotot and some colored pens and pencils.) Find crafts that they can help with, especially adding their own unique kid flair. Cheap frames from Wal-mart, or even second hand stores, can be filled with paintings, photos, collages, pressed flowers or leaves, scriptures verses printed out and decorated by hand, etc.
    - Make your cards gifts. A beautiful, homemade greeting card can be a gift in itself if it is lovely enough to frame or to display on a shelf or desk. Think of ways you could do this - especially with recycled objects. 3D cards can even be wrapped or mailed in boxes instead of put in envelopes.

  2. Take the Mexican motto "Cheap, pretty and good" for your shopping this year. And, don't be afraid to give up-cycled or "new-used" gifts. (See my article: A Modest Proposal: Rethinking Gift-giving In the New Year)

  3. Buy intentionally. Don't get caught up with the piles of "cool things" in stores, or by some item that is just "too good" or "too cute" to pass up. Don't let the trendy stuff and fad items become necessities - to you or your kids. (Parents, kids learn from you. If you act like the trends and fads are ridiculous and foolish, the kids will be less drawn to them. If you get all mushy and covetous over the trends and fads, they will too. That's how it usually works.) Make a list of specific items or general types of gifts for each person on your list, and then STICK TO IT! It is so easy to walk through a store and see something and think, "Oh, Mom would love this," or "I just have to get this for _______" and totally forget that you already have something perfectly acceptable for them. Don't do it. Make your list, and stay with it. Make sure you carry it and carefully mark off the items that you get, or mark off the people for whom you have already gotten gifts. You can do it!
    [Note: The only time to deviate from this is if something comes up that they really and truly need or would contribute substantially to their life goals - something that you had not thought you could afford of hadn't thought of. For example, if your child has longed to learn to play the violin and someone offers you one as a gift or at an especially good price - AND you were already considering buying one eventually and have plans and money for lessons - then you would probably be wise in getting it. But, you can save whatever other gift you got them for another occasion rather than loading them up excessively, if you catch my line of thinking.]

  4. Shorten your list. :-)  Change your attitude toward giving gifts (and receiving them). You really don't have to spend all that money on peripherals. Please read this Living On A Dime post: Gift Giving - A Different Mindset.

  5. Purchase or make "one-size-fits-all" gifts. Teddy bears for $5? Every kid on your list gets one. A chocolate candy bar or small box of chocolates for every lady who eats chocolate. This might not work for sweatshirts, etc. or for certain individuals, but you get the idea. (And, remember, if you read the article linked in No. 4 - let them know all year that you appreciate them and they won't need an $80 gift to prove it! If someone does think they need an expensive gift from you to "prove" you love and appreciation them, you need to honestly tell yourself that that is a person who expects you to buy their love and you shouldn't be wasting too much of your time and hard earned cash on them if you can avoid it. If it's one of your own children you need to do some prayerful training and teaching. Just sayin'...)

  6. Ditch the holiday shopping. Next year buy ahead! Yes, you can. (As my Gramma would say, "'I can't' never could do anything.") I just read a comment recently by a lady who got all her daughter's gifts at sales and on clearance throughout the year and they didn't need to do any Christmas shopping. Imagine that! Yes! 
    [Of course, for those of us who don't celebrate at all, this is not an issue. I don't miss it. :-) But, even though we don't have Christmas shopping to do, I can still be affected by the "buying frenzy" feeling in the stores sometimes Consequently, I know full well that many of you are too.)

  7. Buy gift wrap, bags and ribbon on sale. Reuse as much as possible. It was a common question in my family when I was growing up - "Are we saving the paper?" Some people may laugh, but reusing it does make a difference, especially from large gifts or when you use the more expensive kinds. You could go a step farther and skip the wrapping paper altogether. My brother put a gift in a pillow case once. :-) Be creative! Find interesting things around your house to use for wrapping the gifts for your own family. Make it a game and it might even stick! Another clever idea is to hide the gifts around the house and make it a treasure hunt - another good alternative to wrapping. Just make sure things are clearly tagged as to who gets them. Gift bags are probably the most easily reused form of wrapping now.

Basically what I'm saying here is to get back to the old fashioned ways of preparing for the holiday. Stop taking out loans to buy Christmas gifts, if you enough to do that. ;-)  If you don't have money to spend, why borrow for that? It just doesn't make any sense - or cents. 

I remember a friend once telling me that one of her babysitting customers took out a $500 loan for each of her kids to buy Christmas gifts for them!No kid needs $500 worth of gifts for Christmas. Really and truly. (Oh, and one of these little girls didn't even own enough socks, while the mother drove a sports car. Hello?) You cannot expect to teach your kids self-denial and humility when you do things like that. And, all the happy screams in the world are not worth the spoiling which that kind of over-indulgence can cause. Just sayin'... [Personally, I'm inclined to think that a little disappointment now and then does kids good, because that is how life is. We don't always get everything we want, and the sooner we learn to accept that, the sooner we can learn to be content. Philippians 4:11]

To tell the truth, I'm inclined to think that there is much of this that goes on more as a selfish act of the parents than a true love for the kids. It feels good to think that your kids are extremely happy with you, at least for a few hours a year. And, for those who are foolish enough to lie to their kids and tell them Santa brought all those cool gifts, well, that's just beyond belief. The delightful happy faces and screams that are caused by a lie cannot be honoring to Jesus Christ.

Some might wonder if their kids won't feel bad and deprived with this method of giving.  If you make it a family project, and make it a family purpose to start changing your attitudes all of the time about the abundance of things, you might be surprised how they respond. Oh, kids can be greedy and covetous (just like adults) and some may whine about it and even grump. But, are you going to spend money you don't have or that you  need for something else on pampering them just because they make a stink about it? That isn't even right, and what's more it encourages selfishness, which is the opposite of what Christianity is all about. It seems that with the right kind of teaching and instruction the children will realize the meaning of the thing (Prv. 22:6). 

By the way, parents and other family members, you're going to have to be their example in this. :-) I'm sorry to say that family and friends too often will try to make you and your kids feel bad. My family has seen this happen! People don't like to be preached to about their excesses, even if it's only by our example. So, the grit of the challenge will probably come in there. 
1 Peter 4:3-5 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.

Links on this site or on my blog:

A Great Way to Save Money - Here is a blog post I put up awhile back that will lead you to a good reminder on another lady's page. :-)



Disclaimer on translations other than the KJV
and some content.

16 Fantastic Ways to Buy Thrift Store Christmas Gifts (These work for birthdays too.)

34 Homemade gifts

Homemade gifts made easy

How to Make A Pot Holder In Minutes  (Fabric stashers, take note! And, by the way, you can use a couple tired wash clothes or cheap dollar store new ones as the batting for hot pads - just make sure they're thick enough and are 100% cotton. You don't have to buy the expensive heat resistant stuff.)


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graphics and background by Mary E. Stephens
Created Dec. 2011
updated Nov. 2022
vintage graphics: source unknowns