You all asked me for some posts about holidays on limited budgets. I’m right there with you, and it’s actually quite a lovely spot. We’ve got options.
For example, we can shift the focus from gifts to ambiance. Consider decor, and the many ways to intensify the jolly without diluting net worth.
Wallet-Respecting Yet Christmas-Cheering Decor
- Christmas trees. Trees are priced by the foot. Under 6′ is affordable, under 5′ even more so. So go small and go crazy with your hoard of decorations and lights. Find impact in density vs.verticality. If you do have extra money in your pocket, seek out an organic tree farm. I found a list from a few years ago, here, but as any updated information seems to be available regionally, it’s probably best found via your favorite search engine.
- Along with our tree, I always get 9′ of garland. I hang it, with 3 hooks, over a double pocket door into our study, off the living room, and festoon the 3 hanging points with wired ribbon bows I tied myself. They’ve lasted for years. Just use wide ribbon, in a bold pattern, maybe with metallic details. Frankly, one could cover one’s house in bows and be done.
- There’s always room for kitschy, homey pieces from the modern equivalent of dollar stores. If we browse Target , for example, we find berry trees, cute knit ball garlands, plaid tree skirts, and the snowflake pillow shown above. (Only in stores.)
- Amazon is also good for budget whimsy. One morning, this Thanksgiving weekend, I put out all my boxes of tea on the counter and told the kids we were having a Business Travel Via The Marriott Courtyard experience. I might now just buy this tea display
and cover the Stash sign badly with green and red puffy paint holly leaves and set it out every year. Crafty I am not. I’ve also thought of getting a sidewalk chalkboard sign to stand by my door for holiday mottos and doodles.
And, if I COULD craft, I’d make one or more of the projects I’ve collected here, on Pinterest. Guys, it is HARD to find tasteful projects. I did my best.
Budget-ish Christmas Food & Drink
News to High WASPs of the world. You do not have to serve rack of lamb, tenderloins, or lobsters. I know, surprise!
Of course, the best way to celebrate thriftily is a potluck. But I think the host ought to provide a main course. And I’m going to suggest protein of one sort or another, because a) protein dishes are dense heavy for guests to carry and b) everyone needs to eat robustly to mitigate alcohol consumption. Enter cheap cuts of meat, poultry, and tofu for the vegetarians.
Here are a few recipes I have found festive but affordable, from two cookbooks worth owning.
- Pot roast via The Preppy Cookbook. This is seriously delicious, and the vegetables you cook alongside create a just-thick-enough gravy to feel like Christmas.
- Chinese beef stew via Nina Simons China Express. While not an authentic recipe per se, this stew gets its Northern Chinese vibe from a liberal use of star anise. Easy, filling, different.
- Chicken paprika, also via The Preppy Cookbook. How to make chicken fancy, and give the old rosemary roasted standby a break.
- Sweet and sour tofu, also via Nina Simons. Frying these tofu rectangles gives them good mouth feel, the sweet and sour sauce based on ketchup, yes, really, is nifty, and you can use green and red bell peppers for holiday color-coordinated bonus points.
BTW, make sure you’ve got lots of vegetables on the table. It’s a gift to feed people vegetables, because it can be so hard to get enough of them in our diets – what with all the washing and chopping required. Besides, if you ask guests to bring lots of veggie side dishes, you can go light on the main course. Everyone benefits.
Presents Without Pain
I know some people do full-on minimal at Christmas and give up presents altogether. That just doesn’t feel right to me. To each their own. My family has been right-sizing Christmas present-giving for several years now, and here’s how.
- Make stockings count. Everybody who comes to Christmas morning brings one stocking present for everyone else attending.
- Draw amongst the immediate family of adults. We each pick one sibling or spouse.
- Focus on children. Grownups don’t mind having only one or two presents to open when we can watch the next generation exclaim, “Ooo!”
- Agree on price guidelines. We aim for anywhere between $50 and $250 per present and it’s really OK to come in on the low end. Of course nobody has ever said that aloud in public ’til now, but hey, we peak High WASP in its unsaid codes.
- Don’t be afraid of the Christmas list, the Amazon registry, the declaration of needs. When we’re short on funds, using Christmas as a time to replenish necessities is just fine. No use for a tasteful vase when your toaster’s broken.
- And, ultimately, if you can, DIY. I once knew a woman who gave everyone a little paperwhite bulb in a planter to force bloom on their kitchen windowsill. I always loved the idea. Here’s a tutorial.
May all your Christmases be bright. Even when the family fortune fades, there’s light to be found.
(Editorial aside: I like to be holiday inclusive here whenever possible. In this case, my only experience with midwinter holiday hosting has been Christmas. Hanukah, although it often happens around the same time, isn’t just a Blue Christmas, and I didn’t want to shove it into a green-and-red box as a token gesture towards cultural diversity. I’ll let other people who know the issues around other winter holidays tell their stories more authentically than I can. Feel free to school me on the right approach.)
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