Bonus:As I was pondering this article a friend shared her budget-friendly gift idea. She takes glass jars with lids, dumps in a handful of cranberries, fills the jar about three-quarters full of water, adds a floating candle (available at craft stores), screws on the lid, ties on a raffia bow and voila! A holiday candle. (Remove lid before lighting.) This would make a fantastic hostess gift at a fraction of the cost of fresh flowers.

Fun and Frugal Festivities

Gifts aren’t the only budget-busters; holiday events can come with a hefty ticket fee. That doesn’t mean you have to be a Grinch and stay home alone. There are plenty of activities to do by yourself or with friends. For example . . .

Go look at Christmas lights. One freezing night some years ago a bunch of us helped my friend Sharon remove the top from her Jeep. We piled in, pulled up blankets, picked up hot drinks at a drive-through, and shivered around town laughing, singing Christmas carols, and waving at bemused drivers in their nice, warm cars. It was so cold, but so much fun.

Go to a Christmas program or service at a church you don’t regularly attend. Shake it up a little! Contemporary worshipers may enjoy visiting a liturgical service and vice versa. Sometimes it’s good to think out of our worship box and see how other people celebrate Christ’s birthday.

Go read a holiday book—like A Christmas Carol, Socks for Christmas, or any of the many fine holiday tales. Extra points if you read it out loud, even if it’s just to yourself. (Although I’d advise that you not read out loud to yourself in public.) Then read the Christmas story from Luke 2. Slowly. Imagine yourself in the stable, in the fields with the shepherds, in Herod’s palace. It’ll give those familiar words a new resonance.

Go volunteer. Collect toys, coats, or canned goods, deliver Christmas baskets to needy families, serve food to the homeless, whatever you can find to do that will help fill a need. Sometimes giving to others is the best gift you can give yourself.

Go watch a movie. I know theaters are expensive, but ‘tis the season when holiday movies are on television practically 24/7. Have friends over for cookies and Christmas movies or just park yourself on the sofa and sing along with Bing Crosby. You’ll be dreaming of a White Christmas in no time.

Go find a bell-ringer and take them a hot (or depending on the weather, cold) drink. They have a boring, often uncomfortable job and are often ignored by passers-by. A kind word and a beverage can go a long way toward brightening their day and yours.

That’s not really all, but I’m out of space so I’ll turn it over to you. What’s your best tip for celebrating on a budget?


Susan Ellingburg is a natural-born Texan who sings at every opportunity, reads as much as possible, and cherishes every day she gets to spend with friends. She's a serious foodie and not-so-serious gardener who is determined not to let being single stand in the way of living an amazing life. Read Susan's blog at

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