Aside from the frenzy of gift buying, and the over consumption of food, many things about the Christmas season can actually be done pretty frugally.
Many, many churches will be holding Christmas carol services throughout December, some aimed at children, others more at adults. It’s a great way to put yourself into the festive mood and it needn’t cost you a penny (donations are probably welcome though). If you prefer to listen rather than join in, many excellent amateur choirs and orchestras will be putting on performances that are just as good as the professionals, but less pricey.
re-run Christmas movies
Every year at Christmas there will be an excessive number of old films shown on television. Watching the classics is just as entertaining (if not more so) as watching the first run blockbusters. And the popcorn you make at home is more frugal too.
Try to see if there is a local Christmas fete or bazaar run by a local church or school. There tends to be plenty of things to occupy children, including very reasonably priced Father Christmas (Santa Claus), and it’ll be less stressful than trying to take them to the nearest department store.
If you go to the big smoke and see a major Australian soap star in your panto on a Saturday night, then it can cost you a lot of money. Since it’s mostly for the children (and the old folks) save money by taking in a matinee performance in a smaller town, and check the theatre website for the seating plan so that you can bag the good cheap seats. Consider the same tactics if you feel the need to see “The Nutcracker” ballet again this year.
[Check out this explanation of pantomimes if you are not familiar with them]
Many towns and cities put on a display of Christmas lights in their main shopping area which cost nothing to see. In fact, I spent 4 hours standing round in the cold *enjoying* the pre-switch on festivities in my city. However, if you want to avoid the madding crowds, consider taking a drive or a stroll through a residential area where people have really gone to town with their outside decorations.
In my experience, in the UK there will only be a small handful of ridiculously extravagant displays in any given area, but I have a strong suspicion that there are lots more to choose from in North America. In any case, if you take the car, you can wrap up warm, put Christmas music on and enjoy insulated mugs of hot chocolate.
There are two main frugal decorating styles. The first is the crafty, home-made look – things like paper chains, popcorn and cranberry strings, delightful objects that children bring home from school, snowflakes made out of white paper on the windows. You get the drift. It’s true that this isn’t a particularly sophisticated look, but I’ve seen it labelled as “Scandinavian style” in Christmas magazines.
The other frugal decorating style is the one that I use myself. I think it’s best described as minimalist. Basically, all of the decorations are in one or two colours (I like white and silver). I bought a small starter set of ornaments cheaply a few years ago and add a couple each year. As I use the same colours, it has a relatively elegant designer feel for the price. In either case, candles make a room look wonderfully inviting, and plain white tealights can be bought in very large bags for very reasonable prices.
Image by matt_shephard
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