A debt-free Christmas. When you read that short statement, you will have one of four reactions:

  1. That makes no sense. Debt-free and Christmas don’t belong in the same sentance.
  2. Does it count if I pay the credit card off within a few months?
  3. I emptied our savings, but at least I didn’t “go into debt.”
  4. No problem!

I answered #4. It hasn’t always been that way, but for the past few years we have managed to not spend beaucoup bucks during the holiday season. How on earth do we manage that? Well, it’s simple if you have some free time and a creative streak.

Back in college I took pottery classes, so a lot of my gifts to friends and family consisted of mugs, bowls, vases, and teapots. I stuffed these trinkets with cheap candy or homemade cookies and wrapped them with scrap bits of cloth and ribbon.

I’ve made elaborate origami boxes which I have then filled with cheap candy. I have canned jams, salsas, and preserves to give away. Every year I make a quilt or two to give to a family member. I make microwavable warmers for children and adults alike. I’ve sewn up cloth versions of checkers and tic-tac-toe. I always make a ton of cookies, and give most of them away. Popular ones include chocolate-mint cookies (my husband and his workmates call these Cocain cookies because they are so addictive!), chocolate covered peanut butter balls (aka buckeye balls), eggnog cookies, frosted sugar cookies, pecan sandies, candy cane cookies, no bake chocolate haystacks, and thumbprint cookies.

I have also bought cheap picture frames and put some nice family pictures in them for our parents. Some other ideas for cheap Christmas presents include homemade ornaments, homemade baking mixes (chocolate cake in a jar), framed poetry or inspirational sayings, knitted or crocheted items like dish cloths or scarves, homemade coupons for things like free babysitting or garden weeding, recycled candles (old candles melted down to make new ones), burned music cd’s, homemade recipe book or cards, homemade calendars with pictures of the family, a small book collection from summer garage sales, and anything else that you can put together yourself for very little cash.

Of course, if you have a lot of money, then it probably wouldn’t hurt you to buy gifts for everyone. But even if I was rich, I think I would still go with homemade. I think store-bought presents tend to be low-quality gadgets and thingamabobs that don’t really impart the true meaning of the season. For me, at least, the true meaning of the season is to be close to loved ones and give pieces of your heart away. While a new cappuccino machine might be nice, it doesn’t really say “Here’s something I spent a lot of time and effort on because I love you.”

I think Christmas has become way too commercialized in the past few decades, and that was what originally prompted me to be frugal during the holidays. But frugality lends itself well to creativity and making-due, so that’s why I now try to make all of the gifts we give away by hand. It’s just too bad that not everyone sees homemade as a good thing. Case in point: have you ever tried donating home-canned food to a shelter or soup kitchen? Oh well, maybe someday it will once again become popular to raise and preserve your own food.