Saving money is something we all want to do, but it’s hard sometimes to live up to the expectations of society and still keep true to our bottom line. As the mama to a big brood, I need to make that bottom line be extremely frugal and cheap. In my life, I’ve made some radical changes. I want to celebrate joyfully and peacefully and that means having to say no to some things.

One radical change we made was giving up the beautifully adorned Christmas tree. We used to go buy a real tree every year and I would decorate it within an inch of my life. Once the children got bigger, we opted to use that money in other ways. We bought a Christmas tree from Craigslist. I also gave up control of the decorations and let the children do the trimming. I’ve never thought I should submit it to Better Homes and Gardens, but the children love it!

Another thing we do differently than a lot of people is we often give our kids second-hand gifts. I find like new toys and games on Buy-Sell-Trade sites, garage sales, and thrift shops. The kids love it getting something new. I love not spending much dough. The environment loves the lack of packaging!


We also trend toward only giving one homemade or personalized gift to extended family. My dad loves his Opa tee-shirt with a photo of all his grandchildren. Other ideas we’ve done are hand painted coffee cups, personalized wine bottles, photograph calendars of the grandchildren, hand made blankets, knitted scarves, quilted coasters, and hand sewn pajama pants. I get nearly all my ideas from Pinterest and the internet.


We’ve done a lot of different ways of counting down the days to Christmas. Our favorites are simple experiences written on our Advent calendar. We don’t spend money on most of these ideas. I liberally include the gift of time, and put down things like “Read a Christmas book”; “Look at Christmas lights”; “Watch a Christmas movie”‘; “Go sledding”; “Eat by candlelight”; “Attend Christmas Eve service”. I try to make myself slow down and really be present with my kids all the time, but especially during December when it’s so easy to be consumed by all the everything. Having specific ideas and plans for each day gives me touch points of connection with the people who matter most, and for free!


Another count-down I want to mention is our book unwrap. I have compiled a basket of kids Christmas books for our different age groups for each day of the month. We unwrap a “new” book every day. I’ve gotten them at library sales, inexpensively from Scholastic, and thrift stores. It’s so much fun for me to see the bambini delight in unwrapping a present every day and knowing I barely spent anything.

Speaking of wrapping, getting rid of paper wrapping is one of my favorite radical changes. I scored a bunch of holiday fabric at Reusable Usables in LeClaire a few years ago and made simple sacks out of it. It’s incredible how beautiful the gifts look under the tree wrapped in real fabric and bows. It’s amazing how quickly gift wrapping goes with no scissors or tape. And it’s completely radical how easy and quiet cleaning up after opening gifts is.

The Christmas season is what you make it. I choose to make it quiet and simple. I choose to make it be different than the American standard, and have a radically frugal little Christmas.

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  1. Georgann Haeffner November 26, 2016 at 2:14 pm #

    Yes, the grandfather shirt and the grandchildren calendar are Ines we look forward to every year!!

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