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Cutting costs at Christmas

December 18th, 2005 at 11:32 am

Trying to catch up with the doggie costs all around, and having our usual holiday cheer without spending more money.

I'm reminded of growing up in poverty, when my mother's business was first starting up. She has got to be the most frugal person I know, and we always had a storybook Christmas, even though we had no money. I mean, we didn't save money at Christmas, because we had none to save or spend. And yet, we had it all. Here are a few things she did:

Christmas tree: Free from neighborhood school after they have let out for the holidays. Usually came with decorations, as schools don't store them. In pre-teens, she picked up a used artificial tree from our music teacher, who was buying a "better one", so ours was free.

Christmas tree skirt: old sheet.

Wrapping paper: Purchased after the previous Christmas, if at all. Reused every year. If you bring the two edges together over the package and fold tightly, it forms a tight seam, tape not required except a tiny bit on each end. Unwrap carefully, fold, reuse. Smaller pieces save for smaller gifts. White Butcher paper or kraft paper, used for lining baking tins, etc., was also a fairly cheap cover; newspaper a stand-by.

Gift tags: Fronts of old Christmas cards; scraps of the wrapping paper, folded over and cut into "matching gift cards", write the name all over the blank craft paper to make a design of the name.

Breakfast: She baked stolen, tea rings, etc., for everyone sale, and kept the "imperfect" one or two for us and her relatives.

Cookies and candy: baked hundreds of dozens of cookies, made divinity, fudge, you name it, for sale and put aside a few each time for the family. Kept them frozen until Christmas Eve, so they were fresh.

Decor: Well, the house was loaded with gingerbread houses, cookies, christmas shaped lollipops, and it looked like something out of a magazine. It wasn't for us to eat, but it was still festive to be around.

Other tree decor: Popcorn balls wrapped in plastic and tied on with scrap ribbon; sugar cookies covered with royal icing then hand-painted, wrapped and tied onto the tree. Unfortunately they often were sold to people dropping by to pick up their other purchases, but there were always a few left.

Ham, Sweet Potatoes: Always bartered cinnamon rolls or tea ring or stolen or hand dipped chocolates, a pound of candy for 5 pounds of sweet potatoes, etc.

Gifts: Always the cereal box top, UPC, Kool-Aid, other offers for whatever toys we had. All of our clothing was hand-made, and scraps became doll clothes and quilts, a plastic tomato container became a dolls bed; she traded stitched doll clothes for crocheted doll clothes to round things out; even Halloween candy (received, not given out!) got wrapped with Christmas foil to become stocking stuffers.

Yule log: Since uncles were almond growers, there were always dead trees to cut down after storms, and Dad and I would set aside the best yule log to dry two years ahead.

Potpourri: who needed it? The house always smelled of fresh baked good and vanilla.

I received an email yesterday from a friend who was missing the smell of my home at Christmas, and thinking how very lucky we were to be so rich and have such a magical place during the holidays. She has no idea her family was the family my mother envied for THEIR incomes.

Cost of Christmas: Zero $
Cost of Memories: Priceless!

1 Responses to “Cutting costs at Christmas”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    It sure is funny how the best Christmas memories don't involve spending scads of money. I grew up poor and the best Christmas memories are from that time. Family and love are the best things in life! Some people never find that out.

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