In a worldwide economic crisis, the last thing anyone needs to have to deal with is a Christmas wish list from the kids in the family who have little understanding of how worrying it is to be unable to pay the mortgage or the utility bills.
Children have no concept of financial pressures and most parents would prefer their kids to concern themselves with the effort of growing up, rather than share in the anxiety of where the next dollar is coming from. However, there is no harm is trying to gently impress upon our children the importance of small economies where Christmas gifts are concerned, at this time.
Many people have few skills artistically and are unable to knit, sew, paint, draw etc. However, anyone can cut up a plastic bottle to make a garden nut feeder and then add a little Christmas ribbon to hang it from the tree. Home made fudge or truffles are a delightful gift, wrapped in cellophane and curling ribbon. Get the kids to make the gift tag, guaranteed to thrill the grandparents. Photo frames or clip frames are available in most discount stores at ridiculously low prices and a framed photograph is always welcome.
Instead of shelling out money for expensive gift wrapping, use brown paper and newspaper and try to be creative with the gift 'dressing' – fantastic bows can be made with staples and sticky tape out of the same paper as the wrapping. Take long strips and fashion tiny 'fans' out of them, then attach them to the box on lengths of string. Make tiny bouquets of flowers by rolling strips of paper like rosebuds, then glue them to a paper base before securing them on the parcel. Pick some ivy from the garden and spray it with glue and glitter, it makes a spectacular gift dressing.
The old fashioned tradition of giving lavender bags as gifts is time worn but still people are delighted to receive them and the fragrance lasts for months in drawers and closets. Tie them up with pretty ribbon and gift wrap them carefully. For men, make the bags out of sacking or rough linen and tie the ribbon around a cinnamon stick before tying the top. Wrap the whole thing in colored cellophane, you'd be surprised how festive it can look.
Make the effort to attend the local Carol Service and encourage the kids to go with you. Turn the occasion into something special by going home for hot chocolate and marshmallows by candlelight when the service is over. If it has snowed, take the children sledding and help them build a snowman and join in a snowball fight. These are the things they will remember when they are grown up – not whether you bought them a new Playstation.
Christmas dinner can be expensive but there is no need to pay a fortune for a gigantic turkey or goose which would feed a battalion. If money is short, just buy the usual chicken, or even two, and spend some time making interesting stuffings and sauces to accompany the feast. Dress the chicken in some holly and light plenty of candles. Instead of Christmas pudding, try making a pavlova for dessert. Although not a traditional Christmas dessert, it is lighter after a large meal and not as expensive to make, made mostly of eggs, sugar and cream with a little fruit topping.
Most people have a collection of Christmas decorations from previous years but if you are just starting out, use natural decorations such as holly, mistletoe and ivy. If the berries are a little sparse, add some plasticine ones painted red and secured with wire.
Make name cards for the table and let the children have a 'cracker making session' so you don't have to buy them. Some hilarious crackers will result but it won't matter in the least.
Set up a treasure hunt for the children. You can hide the 'treasure' somewhere in the house and it need not be an expensive item – the most fun is in the searching and it can keep the kids occupied for hours while you cook dinner. Put together a Christmas punch, it is cheaper than serving wine or champagne.
An economic Christmas need not resemble A 'Scrooge Nightmare!' and many budgeted Christmases turn out to be the most precious and memorable of all. The most important thing is that the family are all together. Love, after all, is a free commodity.