I love Christmas; it has always been my favorite holiday since childhood. All the family, food, gifts, decorations, singing, and mild chaos define my fondest holiday memories. However, as we get older, the unadulterated joy of Christmas morning gets bogged down in the stresses of life. This year has been especially trying due to my personal finances. Since I have been living on an irregular income, my budget has shrunk significantly. With bills due and payments pending, the idea of Christmas shopping is not at the top of the list of things I look forward to doing. If you are also struggling to finance the holidays, consider having a ‘No Cost’ Christmas this year like my family.
The Reasoning behind a No Cost Christmas
It wasn’t until I moved abroad that I saw how diluted the meaning of Christmas had become. It is not a traditional holiday or a day that people widely celebrate in Southeast Asia. So, it is reasonable that their idea of Christmas comes from what they see in advertisements and TV. However, rather than focusing on the spirit of good will and the love of family, Christmas is all about Santa and the presents. As a teacher in a foreign country, it was my job to share my culture with my students. This includes important holidays. I tried to convey a more generous message by having them make thoughtful gifts or do things for their family and friends.
Returning to America made me realize the same loss is happening here. Over-commercialization has led to a focus on gift giving. The pressure of holiday shopping makes us forget what the holiday is supposed to be. It is easy to lose the Christmas spirit by becoming too focused on what we want instead of how we spend it.
Having a ‘No Cost’ Christmas allows you to express yourself without putting a price tag on it. You must find creative ways to show loved ones that you care. This year I am using it as a chance to find something really special and unique to each person. It took a bit of time and thought. But, once I expanded my definition of what a gift could be, it became extremely simple.
Christmas Ideas That Don’t Cost a Thing
Acts of Kindness
One of the easiest things you can do for someone is an act of kindness or service. Perhaps you can surprise someone by completing a long overdue project. Or, you can finally get around to an idea you have put off for far too long. Another idea would be to finally try something new that your spouse or loved one has always wanted to do together. As for me, I have agreed to play a game I despise simply because I know it will bring a smile to my older brother’s face. Sometimes actions really do speak louder than words.
Up-gifting and Re-gifting
Another fun gift idea is to repurpose something that you already have into a new gift. If you no longer have use for the item, it may be a present your friend or family member would really appreciate. For example, I passed on some of my favorite books which I thought my nieces would enjoy as much as I did. I also used an old atlas to map out all the potential road trips we could take together in the future. Although I have gotten my use from these books, now they belong in someone else’s library. In my family, books are one gift that keeps on giving.
Create Memories Together
Some would argue that time is the most valuable gift you can give. There are plenty of holiday activities you can do with your loved ones. Get busy in the kitchen whipping up your holiday favorites or decorating festive cookies. You can even teach others how to make them for future dinners.
If you have any amount of creativity, there are dozens of Christmas crafts you can make and display in your home. You can also save money on overpriced greeting cards by making your own. This year, my family will be making our own ugly Christmas sweaters using all my mom’s old art supplies. Not only is it a great activity for the whole family, but you are making memories and things you will use and enjoy for years to come.
Gifts from the Heart
Lastly, you could find a sentimental family gift such as photos or recipes to pass on to the next generation. I truly cherish these meaningful mementoes and the people who gave them to me. They really are some of the best presents I have ever received. These types of gifts can also be a token of welcome to spouses or significant others who are spending Christmas with your family. A small gesture can be more valuable that any electronic or designer label.
Coming Together as a Family
During the Christmas holiday, I want to emphasize the importance of us coming together as a family. This year has tested all our resolve and even caused loud disputes at times. However, at the end of the day we are still family and love each other. And that is what Christmas is all about. With the turmoil and distress in the world, we need each other now more than ever. Having a ‘No Cost’ Christmas is the perfect opportunity to show it.
Though times are difficult and we cannot always be with the ones we love, we can still show we care. Make sure to spend time together, even if you cannot be there in person. If you are separated by distance or social distancing measures, you can still make an effort to include them in the holiday. Give those long-distance loved ones a call or chat via Facetime. I have spent many holidays on Skype with my family during dinners and other get-togethers. The true meaning of Christmas is spending time with those who mean the most and finding way to express how much you appreciate and love one another.