In the Still Hours of the Morning

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Photo Source

Thomas Kempis  1379 – 1471

If we live in peace ourselves, we in turn may bring peace to others.  A peaceable man does more good than a learned one.

In the still hours of the morning,  I had decided to hope. As I quietly got out of bed, I assured myself that peace can be found. I crept down the stairs with hope in my heart.  Stepping over my dog who laid sprawled on the mat, I opened my livingroom door.  By simply hoping, I was already beginning to perceive peace.

However, that was not the way my day ended last night.  Last night I was worrying.  Christmas will soon be here and I still had a lot to do.  I had been doing a lot of rushing around.  I upset a friend because I hadn’t rung her in two weeks.  My husband was sad that I hadn’t spent time with him in awhile.  I was conscious that I hadn’t phoned my mother in ages.  Even my teenage children commented that I was always disappearing after dinner.  I LOVE Christmas but I craved a ‘Silent night, Holy night’ leading up to Christmas.  I knew I had to stop and slow down.  God knew that too which is probably why he woke me up at 4:30 this morning. I needed time in silence.  When all around me is awake, the noise can be quite deafening to my spirit. Where did I go?  I lost myself because I lost my way.

In the still hours of the morning, I crept into my living room.  Turning on the Christmas tree and lighting a candle, I created the ambience to be a cosy haven. Propped against my cushions and covered in a fleecy throw, my heart was leading me back.  I discover that I am still here. My hand is being held in a loving grasp as I begin my day in prayer.  All is calm, all is bright.

As I contemplate the quote from Thomas Kempis, one thing comes to mind.  In order to ‘live in peace ourselves’, we must persue times of silence. Peace does not materialize out of chaos.  Peace is found from that wellspring within.

 

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Christmas MUST Be Wonderful…

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Picture Source

My husband and I sometimes have discussions about ‘Christmas-time’.  We both have our opinions as to when it is. Jim is English and more of a traditionalist. For him, Christmas time begins on the 25th of December and last twelve days.  For me, partly because of my American upbringing, Christmas begins the day after Thanksgiving and ends on Christmas day – two days longer than the advent season.  He celebrates Christmas when it happens, while I celebrate it as something to look forward to. He enjoys meeting up with family and having the big Christmas feast(s).  I enjoy the preparations and evoking the ambiance of Christmas.  I love having my tree up, lighting my Christmas-y candles, going shopping and seeing the Christmas decorations and watching Christmas movies.

Of course, there is no right way or wrong way to celebrate Christmas.  I know of many different ways people celebrate Christmas.  I also know that for some, Christmas is a very difficult time of year.  Some choose not to celebrate it at all.  Strange as it may seem, I totally get it.  The problem is, we put way too much importance on the ‘how’ of Christmas.  I mean Christmas has to be wonderful right? We have to make sure everyone is happy.  So we negotiate with our spouses as to who we visit and when and who visits us.  We try desperately hard to get the right gifts for people otherwise misunderstandings happen.  (You thought I was a size 12?!) We bake till our backs break only to find out that Bree won’t eat cookies with oats in it, Jaz won’t eat anything with red food colouring (on the fact that she is a veggie) and Sara’s daughter has a nut allergy.  Not to mention all the dieters out there who won’t eat anything at all!

Then there are those who have Christmas memories where things went wrong.  A death. A break-up.  A vicious argument.  Which isn’t fair because like I said, we believe in the importance that Christmas must be wonderful.

We also believe that Christmas is about getting together with family.  However, many will be spending Christmas alone.  Some will not be doing this by choice.  There is a sad growing crisis in the UK of elderly people being abandoned by their family.  These people have grown-up children and grand-children who have cut them off.  Every Christmas, they sit alone at home; no visit, no phone call, not even a card.  As hard as it is to be abandoned, the feeling is compounded at Christmas.  They have many memories of Christmases past when they use to spend it with their family.  Christmas use to be wonderful.  Now they are alone.

Also, that first Christmas after a divorce…dismal!  There is a large family get together and everyone is either fussing over you because they feel sorry for you or they are avoiding talking about your ex altogether.  Then there is Auntie Jo, who perhaps is going a bit senile in her old age.  She keeps asking you where the no-good bum is.  Only she says, ‘Where is that lovely husband of yours?’

Christmas after divorce can be harder still if there are children involved. The anger and resentment may still be there.  Even if you and your ex have been able to work out Christmas arrangements with the kids amicably, the kids have voices of their own.  They may not want to spend it with you and visit Auntie Jo.  On the other hand, they may not be putting up a fuss at all, but you have placed all this pressure on yourself to buy them the best gifts and make it the best Christmas ever for them.  Why?  Because Christmas must be wonderful.

Many people take on a second job over Christmas to afford the gifts they must buy.  Many are in jobs which become more stressful around Christmas.  If you work for a delivery company or are in a retail related job then that usually means lots of late nights, over-time hours and angry customers.  After all, they are paying your wages by buying those special gifts which need to arrive in time otherwise Christmas won’t be wonderful.

Why do we do it?  Why do we put all this hard work and pressure on ourselves to make Christmas perfect?  Why are the gifts, the food and the festivities so important to get right?  Why does it have to be so wonderful?

Every year I find myself speculating on what I will and won’t do during the leading up to Christmas.  The truth is, I do want it to be wonderful for everyone.  I also want as little stress as possible.

How each of us celebrates Christmas is up to us.  However, if you have some concerns as to how Christmas will be this year.  If you are too busy and worried about stress or sinking into depression, then it is time to start planning.  What will bring you peace this Christmas? I’m not suggesting that you think only of yourself.  I am however, giving us all permission to give a bit of love to ourselves as well.

Christmas isn’t about an image.  It isn’t about outward perfection.  Christmas is the celebration of a mysterious, mystical and wonderful event.  As I ponder on that event, the imagery that it evokes isn’t garland, platefuls of food or presents wrapped in metallic paper.  There is no imagery but a starlit night which is sensed more than seen.

Picture Source

Picture Source

It is a feeling of profound silence.  A silence which grows deep within and warms the heart. A silence which is reflective of that mysterious, mystical moment in history….the birth of Christ. That very first Christmas was wonderful.  I suppose every Christmas must be wonderful if we but allow it to reflect that first.

Some Tips on How to Quickly Save Your Christmas

Christmasrescue

So you wake up this morning and realized it is the 24th of December.  Maybe you have another day at work or maybe you happily remember that you are off today and snuggle down further under your covers.  Perhaps you lay there wondering, where did the month go?  Was the month of December full of days of frantic rushing around in preparation for the busy day of Christmas or did you manage to carve some time out for peace, solitude and spiritual reflection?

In past Christmases, I have creatively prepared for Christmas, spiritually prepared for Christmas, frantically prepared for Christmas, drove myself to exhaustion in preparation for Christmas and even tried on one or two occasions to just ‘wing it’.

There are and have been many articles written over the years with lots of opinions on how we should celebrate and prepare for Christmas.  There are also lots of family expectations which can drive a person up a wall.  Suddenly you are in demand.  Come here, go there, cook the meal, buy the gifts and don’t forget Auntie Sue who needs a lift to ___.  You begin to feel exhausted, depleted and may even get ill.  Perhaps you go to church one Sunday morning only to find yourself sobbing inside because the Minister has just informed you that you forgot someone else.  In all your busyness, you forgot to put “Christ first”.

First of all, I want to let you off the hook by stating there is no right way to celebrate Christmas. However, if you are making yourself ill with exhaustion and psychological pressure then you have definitely found a wrong way.  Hopefully, it’s not too late to save this Christmas for you or at least take some of the pressure off. Here are a few tips you may consider:

  • Carve out a small space of time for you. Not a big chunk of time which leaves you worried about how much time is wasting but a small bit.  How much time is down to you but if you are extremely busy you can try five minutes in the morning, five minutes in the afternoon and five minutes in the evening.  Even you can afford five minutes!  Go to a quiet room and put on your earphones and listen to something that works as a real mood-changer or maybe read a passage in a book or a poem or look at your pictures from your last vacation or light a scented candle and just breathe. I like to take a bit of time and actually gaze at my Christmas tree. After all, I should get to enjoy my efforts too!
  • Delegate! Are you looking at today’s ‘To Do’ list and feeling overwhelmed?  If anything on the list is important to someone else, get them to do it! If it’s not important to anyone, cross it off the list.  Do you really need to go to the supermarket one last time?  It will be mad today!  Skip the carrots, stuffing or vodka and do yourself a favor and stay in and if someone complains then you know what to do..
  • Got a lot of cooking or cleaning to do? Put on some lively music and dance while you work.  Smile at everyone who walks in the room and grab them in your arms and make them dance with you.  Teens love this!  😉
  • Remember to laugh!  Mash potatoes fall on the floor?  Laugh, take a picture to put on Facebook or Instagram later for some sympathy and shared LOL’s with friends.
  • Throughout the day, take some time out to reflect on what’s going right and what’s going wrong.  Do you need to be doing something differently? Decide to make a change and go out there and do it!
  • Make time for hugs.  They don’t last long and it can make you feel supported and loved.
  • Take some deep breaths and smile!  This can actually help in an extra small way to restore some energy.

When it is all over and you have more time, write down some tips for next year’s Christmas preparations.  Start a Christmas journal to make things easier in Christmases to come.  For instance, I have kept notes of gifts I have given every year to avoid duplication or forgetting someone the following year.

Wishing you all a peaceful and joyous Christmas!

 

Let’s Celebrate Christmas Like This Girl…

Photo by Marilylle Soveran

Photo by Marilylle Soveran

There seems to be quite a bit of diversity when it comes to people’s outlook on Christmas.  Some like to reflect on the “true meaning of Christmas” and some just want to get through Christmas.  One of the biggest lessons I have been learning over the years is that there are less certainties in life than I use to believe. I have learned that I can’t know many things for sure but instead of this being a source of frustration for me, I find it exciting because it means there are many possible answers. This alone shatters many illusions of diversity. It means we are all right because none of us knows all the answers.  What I believe is changeable and hopefully new and refining.  What I learn are inklings of a bigger picture. They are small steps on a spiral staircase leading me to greater understandings of how deep and grand love really is.

Not everyone celebrates Christmas but here in the UK, the majority of people do in one way or other.  I was surprised to notice that many Muslims write out Christmas cards and wish people a ‘Merry Christmas’ simply because we celebrate it.  In the UK, we have a Christmas jumper day.  Every year, many people donate to various charities and wear a (often cheese-y) Christmas sweater.

christmasjumper

Sometimes, people choose to wear Christmas accessories instead such as earrings or a Santa hat or some tinsel.  At work, there was a young Muslim girl wearing her head covering AND a reindeer headband on top.  Some may say this is bordering on sacrilegious. I say it is religious perfection because whether this girl realized it or not, by wearing those reindeer antlers, she was practicing love and that my friends is true religion.  Shouldn’t religion be about breaking walls and shattering the illusion that we are all just separate bodies?

Those of us who are practicing Christians believe that the birth, life and death of Christ was a huge act of love.  God humbled Himself by taking on human form, lived as a human, died as a human and brought humanity to the Godhead.  He became one with us all. He in each of us and each of us in Him. Therefore, the true meaning of Christmas has to be about love.

All of our answers about Christmas are correct as long as it’s foundation is love.

“It’s about giving and receiving presents.”  Yes, because it is about giving and receiving love.

“It’s about spending time with family.” Yes, because it is about remembering our unity and connecting with one another in love.

“It’s for the children.” Yes because we want to bring joy to the children we love and we are happy simply making them happy.  It is for all of us in that way too.

“It’s about Santa.” A figurative character based on a real person who practiced love by giving gifts to strangers.

“It is about Christ.” The one who shows and brings us perfect love.

What is the true meaning of Christmas for me?  I think the true meaning of Christmas was captured in this Muslim girl wearing her reindeer antlers over her head scarf.  She may not actually celebrate Christmas but she showed the true spirit of love by reflecting unity.  She is my role model this week.

Christmas Gift Ideas for Staff and Work Colleagues

Christmas offers us a great opportunity to step up and step forward.  The leading up to Christmas can often divert our thoughts away from ourselves and to those we care about and appreciate.  When we take the time to really consider what gifts to give others, we may find that inspiration often comes to us.

Of course we are moved to give gifts to those we love. Considering what to give those closest to us often comes easy because we know them best (or they may have given us a few hints).  But what about those we appreciate who we may not know so well?  What can we give the people we work with?

Well for starters, how about a desk novelty gift they could use all year round?

 

Does your team have a good sense of humour?  What if you gave them each a mug that fits their unique personality?

 

 

If you have a small budget and were only thinking of handing out Christmas cards, why not add these peppermint candy canes but with a little bit of creativity, it shows you care a bit more.

 

One year, I gave each of my colleagues a minature stocking with a few candy canes in them.  I love these monogrammed ones.

 

 

Another year I made each of my co-workers a home-made Christmas ornament.  This one isn’t one of mine, but you get idea.  It’s a great idea to personalize them.

Isn’t this hysterical?

You don’t have to spend a lot of money but a bit of creative thought really helps.

My idea this year for my staff and co-workers started with making these giant snowflake sugar cookies.

 

 

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I then added these very large monogrammed china cups which I found for a bargain at Matalan. And voila!

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Anyone else got some gift ideas for the people you work with?

Orthodox Christmas

Orthodox Christians in and from Serbia as well as Jerusalem, Ukraine and  Greece are celebrating Christmas today as they do every year on the 7th of January.  This is because they still recognize the Julian calendar (which depicts today as the 25th of December) even though the Gregorian calendar has been more widely used in the western world since Pope Gregory XIII introduced it in 1582. Growing up in a multi-cultural household (my father being Serbian while my mother is Hispanic) offered many rewards for me and my family but for me celebrating Christmas twice a year was probably the most rewarding.  For one thing, although we were back in school we were allowed to miss school on the 7th of January and if I am being honest, got to brag to our friends on the 6th that we won’t be in school tomorrow as we were going to be celebrating our second Christmas.  I remembered the camaraderie I shared with a certain Art teacher one year who was Greek Orthodox and also would not be in school the following day.

Serbian Christmas celebrations always began in our family on Christmas Eve where we would go to the Serbian Orthodox Church in Manhattan for Christmas Eve service.

 

Serbian_Orthodox_Cathedral_of_St._Sava

 

This beautiful  cathedral was designed in 1851 by Richard M. Upjohn and was originally an Episcopalian church for 92 years.  The church was attended by renown author Edith Wharton who  paid homage to the building in her book The Age Of Innocence.

On Christmas day, we would visit my Aunt and Uncle’s where we would greet each other with, “Hristos se Rodi ” (Christ is born) and celebrate it with a day of traditional Serbian dishes, presents and at times listening and/or dancing to traditional folk music..

Now living in England, I have no Serbian relatives to visit on Christmas but I do still celebrate it with my family here and make one or two traditional Serbian dishes.  Our favourites are Gibanica which is made with cottage cheese and filo pastry and Sarma which is either stuffed cabbage or stuffed grape leaves.

gibanica

sarma

 

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To all my Orthodox viewers, “Merry Christmas!”

 

 

My Frugal (But Hopefully Tasteful) Christmas Decorations

My endeavour to have a frugal but tasteful, beautiful and meaningful Christmas has not been without its ups and downs.  Creativity costs time and I have learned some lessons about planning well in advance.  My living-room is finally decorated for Christmas and thanks to Michelle from Home For Now I have made some delicious Mini Pecan Pie Tarts to give as gifts. This costs me less time than the various assorted Christmas cookies I usually make!  So thanks Michelle!

Do you remember my Autumn inspired coffee table décor? Well, here is my now Christmas inspired décor:

Christma coffee table

The frugal thing I did was to buy some cheap plain white wallpaper and a holly stencil and then stencil and draw using coloured pencils and Pantone markers which I already had. I also re-used my pot-pourri from last year but bought some orange and cinnamon oil to refresh the scent.

I wanted my décor to reflect simplicity and the real meaning of Christmas so instead of my usual nutcracker and Victorian doll and woodland fairy and glitzy ornaments on the tree, I opted for less ornaments than usual and chose to pick ornaments that either were hand-made or looked hand-made or reflected nature or stuffed toys but then allowed my two teens who wanted to help choose some family favourites to put on the tree.  I also added some burlap ribbon and some felt stars which I picked up for only 70p each in a sale.

Christmas tree

Christmas ornaments

 

Many years ago, my mother made me a ceramic nativity set.  Somehow or another I left it behind in New York before I moved to England.  I managed to retrieve it last spring when I went to NY and brought it home in my luggage.

ceramic nativity

In keeping with the nature theme, I bought a wicker basket and added some Christmas tree branches which I got for free from our local garden center.  Then I added some scented pine cones which I had saved from last year but also refreshed with cinnamon oil and finally, I added some battery powered Christmas lights.  This sits now to the side of our fireplace.

pinecone basket

If you know anything about me, you  know I love books.  I have a small collection of Christmas-y books which I piled up by the fireplace (Don’t worry,  I know to move it if I put on the fire!) and placed my hare statue on top.  Some of my favourites are missing.  Jostein Gaarder’s The Christmas Miracle (because it’s a paperback) and Madeline L’Engle’s Miracle On 10th Street And Other Christmas Writings (because I am reading it now).

christmas books

 

Every year, I put up this swag of Christmas garland over the door frames in my house.

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So there you have it!  My frugal Christmas decorations this year!

Joyous Noel!

An Honest Look At Christmas

HonestlookatChristmas

What does it mean to have a ‘merry Christmas’? Why are we expected to be so merry?  I ponder this as I sit here in my living-room having finally brought in our Christmas tree from the garage along with all the other boxes and plastic storage containers containing our various assortments of Christmas ornaments and decorations.  It is morning as I write this and my back is aching not from having brought the decorations in but by the accumulated and growing stress over the past few weeks of my multitude of tasks in preparation for a ‘merry Christmas’. I wanted to have a frugal Christmas and I must say I have done it but in order to give meaningful gifts that don’t cost much money it needed quite a bit of creativity.  Creativity costs time. First of all, it needed time to plan what to give. I had no plan.  I thought the month of December would be enough to plan and execute but it wasn’t.  The month of December may have been enough time to shop and create some DIY gifts but it isn’t enough to plan off the cuff what I am doing while creating, shopping, decorating and baking.  Planning should have been done WELL in advance …say September.  I probably should have had the gifts all done by end of November and the tree put up before advent began.  To try to do it all in a rush in December was not my wisest decision. So although I have saved hundreds of pounds, I have paid the cost in other ways. What I wanted and hoped for this Christmas was to give my family and friends a ‘merry Christmas’ but with minimal stress to myself.

So what does it really mean to have a ‘merry’ Christmas? The Cambridge dictionary defines merry as: happy or showing enjoyment; slightly drunk (UK). The Oxford dictionary defines it as: cheerful and lively characterized by festivity and enjoyment (and also slightly drunk). The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines merry as: giving pleasure; full of gaiety or high spirits; marked by festivity or gaiety. So I guess basically whoever coined the phrase, “Merry Christmas” wanted to party, get a bit tipsy and have a good time.

Source

Picture source: imcargade

Two things spring to my mind as I reflect on this.

1. Christmas is only one day a year but if there is a party to be had then that takes weeks of preparation and how merry will the stressed-out organizer be?

2.Have we all forgotten that Christmas is for reminding ourselves of the birth of Christ?

While I began the start of December reflecting on the sacrifice of God becoming human for us, this reflection gave way to the preparation of giving a ‘merry Christmas’. If I am being honest, most of us only think about the incarnation on rare occasions.  Yet, here before us we have a great opportunity. We have the opportunity in the holiday of Christmas to remember and reflect upon the birth of Christ.  God put on human matter because He loves us so much and deemed us important enough to make this sacrifice. Usually, it is the crucifixion that people tend to view as God’s greatest sacrifice and of course I agree it was an incredibly huge sacrifice but I honestly think that becoming human in the first place was the biggest sacrifice and expression of love ever. The bible says all things were created through Christ (Colossians 1:16; John 1:3). He who created the entire universe and all within and without and all living creatures and human beings did so in love and in power; but when He Himself became human, He did something which may seem to us as grossly humble.  He did it by being born through one of His creation and took upon Himself all the flaws and faults that being human entails. Yet also in doing so, he honoured humanity enough to show solidarity with us even to the extreme measure of taking on mortality at the same time revealing to us that all humans can now partake of divine life. He who is wholly God became wholly human as well. How that is we may never fully understand. God in us and we in God.  The idea of it boggles the mind.  I cannot explain it but I experience it and embrace it with joy for this is how much God loves us.

Do I now wish for a merry Christmas? No, I have changed my mind and only wish for a Joyous Christmas–a Christmas where bliss resides in the spirit  is what I wish for myself and all of you.

Joyous Christmas!

 

 

The Art Of Gifting Meaningfully (And Frugally)

If you have read my previous posts you will know that I have given myself the challenge of doing Christmas frugally but with a celebratory perspective.  We celebrate Christmas in recognition of the birth of Christ so we should celebrate it without giving ourselves any cause to grumble. In my last post I listed my Top Ten Ways To Save Money On Christmas Presents.  In this post I want to focus on DIY gifts that are meaningful.  Because although we are trying to save money on gifts, I want to make up for that by gifting in a way that shows we really love the person.  There are many websites as well as pins on Pinterest that show DIY gifts that are more for the acquaintance.  However, if you are wanting to give a DIY gift to a close relative or friend, a jar of home-made cocoa may not be the kind of gift you want to give.  Okay, I will say that meaningfully DIY gifts will cost you some time.  So some of the ideas I list may have to be postponed till next year.

My husband is THE KING of DIY gifting.  One year, he spent ages making my son Brandon this board game.  Brandon has always loved everything to do with cars.

frugal christmas gifts

There are a lot of creative and humorous aspects to this game.

DIY board game

 

Frugal Christmas

 

DIY gifts

Frugal christmas gifts

Another year, he made a Magic Genie poster for my son where you ask the genie a question and turn a dial and receive your amazing answer.  He has also written my daughters personal and meaningful short stories and more wonderfully, he has written me books where the main character’s name is an anagram of mine.

frugal christmas gifts 2

 

frugal gifts 3

 

My children have also taken part in DIY gifts to each other making home-made bath bombs, jewellery and drawings.  I tend to do things with photos.  I made a scrapbook for my husband of a trip to Scotland we took and another one of his children’s photos.  I have also made photo-books using on-line companies where I created the book on my computer and had them put it together in a binded book.

photo book

 

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You can get more creative by making the photo-book into story books for young children using your own photos or pictures of your artwork.  You can even have photo books with hilarious or meaningful themes such as 10 Things I Love About You (perhaps ending it with a marriage proposal) or a movie theme using images from movies where you edit it and merge it with your own photos using a photo editing tool.  Just use your imagination!

Speaking of which I found this amazing company called Image 3D that will put your photos onto a viewmaster type disk.  I LOVE this idea.  It is perfect for anyone who is into retro stuff.

 

Another idea you can do (which my daughter did for my husband) is to write them a song.  You can choose to record this on video or sing it for them in person.

Once I put real personal meaning into a home-made Christmas tree ornament.  I used an oval plaque of wood and layered images using my printer, a rubber stamp and a cut out picture from a sheet of Christmas tissue paper.  I edged it with a braid and added a bow and some fabric rosettes.

Many years ago, I made Floral wreaths similar to the one below using a mixture of dried and silk flowers for both my grandmothers.

 

If you can knit or crochet or sew, you can make beautiful blankets, quilts, scarves, throws, cushions or anything you can think of.  If you’re a creative baker, you can make home-made breads or cookies to give as a gift.  I sometimes like to put together a Christmas hamper or basket full of a mixture of home baked gifts or themed items such as a movie night box or a bottle of wine with some wine glasses and cheeses.  Shops charge a lot for these so why not create your own with quality items and personal touches? I may just use the below idea for a gift for someone. Shhh!

 

So DIY does not mean corny, chintzy or cheap-looking.  Make it meaningful, make it with a spirit of love and joy.

🙂

Top Ten Ways To Save Money on Christmas Gifts

Christmas Shopping

 

There are times when the whole idea of buying Christmas gifts can seem like a requirement. We give gifts to our family, gifts to our friends, gifts to our neighbours and sometimes even gifts to work colleagues. We may not always have a lot of money to spend and if we have a lot to buy for, all this shopping for gifts can put a strain on our finances.  It is completely forgiveable for anyone to feel stressed or grumpy about it.  However, there are many ways we can save money on gifts.

  1. You can agree with your family that this year, everyone will only buy for the children.
  2. You can have what is commonly known as ‘Kris Kringle’ or ‘Secret Santa’.  Put all the family members or work colleagues name in a hat and everyone picks one name to buy a gift for.
  3. Use your loyalty cards!  Throughout the year, use your loyalty cards to rack up points so you can save money on gifts.  Here in the UK, Boots or Sainsbury’s are good ones to have.  They sell great gift sets come Christmas at 3 for 2.  Last year, I was able to get a few gifts for free with the points I earned.
  4. Sign up for e-vouchers and check your email every day for bargains.  You can even sign up to receive emails from your local Theatre.  I got tickets one year for only £10 a piece.
  5. You can make gifts.  Now, I know this may be a bit stressful but if you like crafting, a few DIY gifts will save you some money.  If you think you are not creative enough or have enough time, think again and stay tuned for a future post on great DIY gifts!
  6. Offer to give a gift of service.  Who wouldn’t want the promise of having snow shovelled in front of their house for a week or  free babysitting?
  7. Change the tradition.  Invite people over after Christmas and take advantage of after Christmas sales for their gifts.  Or give the kids stocking stuffers on Christmas day and bigger presents on Epiphany or Three Kings day or Orthodox Christmas.
  8. Shop at pound or dollar shops…it’s not as crazy as you think!  I bought a beautiful glass jar and a child’s apron each for 99p at the 99p shop.   I plan to decorate and fill the jar with cookie mix and give to a little girl of a friend of mine along with the apron so she can have fun baking cookies with her mum or dad.
  9. Make your own Christmas hamper (or basket).  Find an inexpensive basket or decorate a box and fill it with either home-made goodies or inexpensive (but tasty) items from your local supermarket.  You can even make it a theme, such as body potions and lotions, movie night, chocoholic, comfort box for ‘rainy’ days…whatever you can think of.
  10. Buy couple gifts whenever possible.  If you have a couple to buy for buy them a joint gift such as something for the house or cinema tickets or a shopping voucher.

To keep yourself stress-free, plan ahead of time and keep a journal with all the names of people you are buying for.  I like to keep the journal for a few years so that every Christmas I can look up what I bought so they don’t get the same sort of gift two years running.  It is also so important to try and have a positive perspective on things.  The giving of Christmas gifts can be seen as representative of God’s greatest gift to mankind-His son Jesus.  We in turn give gifts to those we love.  It is a beautiful way of showing others how much we care.