What a fantastic time of year coming up; the weather has chilled from crisp to cold, the night comes upon us earlier so we feel more snuggly and more like hibernating at home, and generally we all have extra time off from work which means we can spend more time with the people whom we love.
Due to the economic recession, something tells me that people are going to be cutting back from their holiday spending this year. In fact, Retail Forward , which conducts substantial consumer research, found that 45% of consumers plan to spend less on holiday shopping this year than in 2008 (and we all know how abysmal the 2008 holiday shopping statistics were; several companies like Circuit City even had to declare bankruptcy).
Are you planning to scale back your spending over the next few months? Well, I am here to tell you that you can be just as festive and still spend less money than in years past.
Potluck Holiday Dinners
Perhaps you are used to hosting holiday dinners, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Day, and have taken it upon yourself to pay for everything: from the appetizers, food, and alcohol/beverages, down to decorations and small gifts. You can still be that great host/hostess this year, but when you invite family members and friends, ask them to bring a dish and tell them that this year will be a potluck holiday supper. This can be an exciting opportunity to display other people’s star dishes, and to keep you out of the kitchen and mingling with your guests!
Decorate Using Nature
When decorating on a budget, think about stimulating different senses, such as sight, sound, and smell. Collect pinecones as a family from walks outside, neighbor’s homes, or your own backyard. You can use these in many ways to add festivity to your home. Assemble them in a beautiful bowl for an authentic centerpiece. Spray them with glue (or dip them in glue if you have Elmer’s), and add glitter to them, or spray them with fake snow.
Add a sense of coziness by keeping a fire in your fireplace going during the holidays, which will save you in heating costs as well as add a beautiful ambience. You can typically find free wood on Craigslist’s  under the ‘free’ section (people clearing land usually will give wood away for free, but you may need to bring your ax).
Use the branches of evergreen that you trim from your Christmas tree to hand make a wreath for your door, and to add in between candles for a wonderful centerpiece or decoration for windowsills that smells amazing. If you are not planning on purchasing a Christmas tree this year, you can ask local tree sellers if they have clippings they could give you for free or cheaply. Use your imagination!
Keep wonderful smells simmering throughout your home by heating up apple cider on your stovetop.
Frugal Family Outings
I would argue that the most festive and enjoyable holiday activities are either free, or very cheap.
Check out lights. One of the most fun and festive activities you can do during the holidays is to take a car ride around surrounding neighborhoods and look at other people’s Christmas lights and decorations.
Go caroling. Join a caroling group through your church, place of worship, or with friends and family and have fun singing holiday songs and spreading cheer.
Have fun sledding. Depending upon the area of the country you live in, take advantage of upcoming snow storms to sled down familiar hills and build snowmen or make snow angels.
See holiday plays. Attend free church productions of A Christmas Carol, pageants/nativity scenes and other traditional plays. You may wish to make a donation to the church.
Volunteer. Volunteer with your family at a soup kitchen, food pantry, homeless shelter, etc. This will provide your family with precious time together, as well as help others in need. You would be surprised at how grateful and bountiful your life feels when you help out others with much less financial means than yourself.
I hope you take these suggestions, and truly enjoy the upcoming holiday season for all of the reasons that make it the happiest time of year. Above all else, remember that it is much more important to spend time with your loved ones—rather than spend money—to create sustaining relationships and memories for years to come.