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I have a really big family, and they all spend a lot on Christmas. DH and I are just barely making it because of our decision to have me stay home, and are even more behind this year because my car is falling apart and his isn't much better. I am dreading the holidays, because I am expected to give to a whole bunch of family members and friends who all spend a lot of money and I just can't afford to reciprocate. I tried last year suggesting no gifts, and it totally didn't fly. People agreed, and then bought us stuff anyway, making me feel really cheap and chintzy. I am also regarded as a pariah in the family because I don't have those cute photo-cards made for everyone under the sun.<br><br>
We simply can't afford Christmas this year. It would be taking food out of DD's mouth to buy all that crap, this year. But I don't want to stay home from all the holiday festivities-- I love my family, and I love spending the holidays with them, and I really want DD to experience that.<br><br>
It's not an issue in our own house. DD isn't old enough to understand that other kids get a pile of stuff, while she gets only one gift. DH and I will give each other small handmade gifts. It's the extended family and friends and DH's coworkers and the d---ed cards that have to be sent, etc.<br><br>
How do you cope with the holidays?
 

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It IS such a hassle isn't it? I would tell EVERYONE in no uncertain terms,nicely of course,that there simply isnt any money for gifts this year!<br>
Be strong,you can do it!<br>
You are a mama who loves her child so much you are willing to forgo extra $$ to be home with her!<br>
I had to tell everyone in our families too and we really didn't buy ANYTHING for anyone.<br>
Try not to let it ruin the holidays for you and your sweet family,just know in your heart YOU are doing the right thing.<br>
Blessings <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/love.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="love"><br><br>
P.S.If they choose to spend alot of $$$ on you and your family that is their choice,allow them to "love" you in that way. My family still bought for us and I really didnt feel bad,because I knew we just couldn't buy. It was that simple.
 

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I know how you feel. There's a book called "Unplug the Christmas Machine", request it from your library and read it. It'll totally put things in perspective, and mentally let you off the hook.<br><br>
I read it about two months ago, after seeing it recommended somewhere on this site. Honestly, it will help you decide how you want to approach the holidays without telling you what you should do or how you should feel about it. I STRONGLY recommend this book, even to people who can financially afford to do a lot.
 

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I hear you! We've gone from being DINKs to being one income + student, to being one income + pregnant. We'll be pretty tight this year due to midwife bill and very tight next year with baby.<br><br>
My solution is to bake things. It can be very cheap, although one must remain mindful of the money-saving motivation, as it's way easy to find oneself buying expensive ingredents or things like tins to package them in.<br><br>
From a philosophical standpoint, it is sharing and festive and yet clutters no one's life with needless possessions.<br><br>
Sugar cookies are cheap (if you use sugar...) and fun for older kids.<br>
Bundt cakes can both look spectacular and keep well while being *very* simple to make.<br><br>
This year my gifts to family and friends alike will be bottles of home-brewed mead, with cookies for the under-aged and the non-drinkers. The brewing is a bit more expensive than the baking (this batch yielded 25 bottles--70 bucks for ingredients, plus 150 for equipment that will see a lot of use in future), but it has the added benefit of being a traditional craft that has far more spiritual value than a couple harried trips to the mall. Of course, the brewing thing takes about a year at least...<br><br>
for baked things I collect baskets year round, usually they show up for free in various ways. If I don't have enough baskets I hit up my friends who work in retail to keep an eye out for small, clean, plain boxes.<br><br>
S.H.
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>oldermamato5</strong></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">P.S.If they choose to spend alot of $$$ on you and your family that is their choice,allow them to "love" you in that way. My family still bought for us and I really didnt feel bad,because I knew we just couldn't buy. It was that simple.</div>
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<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/img/vbsmilies/smilies/yeahthat.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="yeah that">:<br><br>
We've been doing the same, we buy for just our kids (not even each other) and tell the rest of the family to forget about presents. There's always those who do anyways, but we've told them not to expect anything in return and not to, so oh well.
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>Mallori</strong></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">I know how you feel. There's a book called "Unplug the Christmas Machine", request it from your library and read it. It'll totally put things in perspective, and mentally let you off the hook.<br><br>
I read it about two months ago, after seeing it recommended somewhere on this site. Honestly, it will help you decide how you want to approach the holidays without telling you what you should do or how you should feel about it. I STRONGLY recommend this book, even to people who can financially afford to do a lot.</div>
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I am SO going to get this book and read it, it sounds like something I really need to read right now. Thanks so much for suggesting it!!!!! I really appreciate it.
 

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MAKING THINGS IS THE KEY IF YOU SIMPLY MUST GIVE SOMETHING. FOR MY MOTHER IN LAWS BIRTHDAY (GIFT REQUIRED) i HAD MY DD'S PAINT PICTURES AND i SENT THEM TO HER,WRAPPED LOVINGLY. SHE LOVED IT AND DID'T MENTION THE FACT THAT WE (MY DH AND i ) DIDN'T GET HER A THING :LOL -<br>
FOR THE HOLIDAYS WE BARGAIN SHOP FOR CLEARANCE ITEMS<br>
(EVEN GARAGE SALES-BOOKS?!ETC-SOMETIME THERE ARE NEW UNOPENED ITEMS AVAILABLE!)<br>
YEAR ROUND SO IT ISN'T SUCH A BLOW COME GIFT GIVING TIME.<br>
BUT FOR NOW i'D DO THE BAKED GOODS/COOKIES THING. BUY SOME OF THAT COLORED REYNOLDS WRAP TO WRAP THEM IN AND PUT A RIBBON AROUND THEM...HOPE THAT HELPS
 

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fiercelove, I can't recommend that book enough, i'm glad you're going to read it.<br><br>
Usually, you find books like that with recipes or projects to do to save you money. This is not that type of book, although if I remember right, it may have one or two ideas as examples. It does give you exercises to get you thinking about how you really feel about the holidays, and which parts of it are important to you, how to go about celebrating those and letting the parts that you feel are nonsense fall by the wayside. It has such a way of putting things into perspective, that is actually a lot of common sense, but truly liberating for me to read.<br><br>
I'm usually in a frenzy this time of year to create projects that will save me money without looking like a cheapie to the rest of the clan. That overwhelms me so much that Dec. 26 i'm left with an emptiness that is really hard to take. FINALLY this year, even though i'm still looking for projects to do, i'm going into it enjoying the process of sharing <b>GIFTS</b>. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile">
 

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Holiday cards are easy! If you have a digital (or borrow) camera you can take some pics., go to walmart, CVS, etc. and develop copies for like .19 a piece. Get some fun constuction paper and write a little message on your home made frame. You can even make the frame teh size of a post card for cheaper postage or just have your dd give them out when you see family, friends.<br><br>
I love the holidays and try to think of the gift fitting the person. So many times you just "give" someone "something" instead of thinking about what might be useful or something they didn't know they even wanted (my favorite). This year, I'm giving my MIL a waffle maker $14. She really hates to cook and with teh family growing so much meals are a real chore and I thought this would be a great treat to her (and the family-ugh-runny eggs). I found gift for my nephews back in April, $40 boutique sherpa pullovers for $10. We are buying dd her nbig girl bed which is expensive, but will last til college! My mom is buying the bedding which is a great complement. DH and I usually don't get anything for each other. We are hug book givers so that is less expensive.<br><br>
Just think personal if you have to give a gift, and lots of time it can be less expensive.
 

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Another book suggestion: Hundred Dollar Holiday : The Case For A More Joyful Christmas by Bill McKibben.<br><br>
Under the influence of this book I did exactly what MCKibben suggests-- I considered which parts of the holiday are joyful and which are a pain and then stopped doing everything I thought was a pain and tried to do more of the parts I like.<br><br>
I agree that it can seem rude not to reciprocate gifts so I made myself a rule that any X-mas presents I buy must support a not-for-profit cause. If I don't find anything appropriate, I donate money and send a gift card. My church really helped out last year by selling gift card inserts for any ammount large or small to support land mine removal, refugee resetlement or the food bank. You could easily dontae money and print the gift card inserts yourself.<br><br>
--AmyB
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>tie-dyed</strong></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">This year my gifts to family and friends alike will be bottles of home-brewed mead, with cookies for the under-aged and the non-drinkers. The brewing is a bit more expensive than the baking (this batch yielded 25 bottles--70 bucks for ingredients, plus 150 for equipment that will see a lot of use in future), but it has the added benefit of being a traditional craft that has far more spiritual value than a couple harried trips to the mall. Of course, the brewing thing takes about a year at least...</div>
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DH and I have been doing this for a couple of years now and the response has been tremendous. We change the recipe we make for giving away every year, so about now our family and friends start clamoring to find out what it is the might get in their stockings... Last year we did a ginger-peach mead, this year we did a vanilla-clove sparkling mead, and next year will be a Cabernet-Sauvignon pyment. Plus, we get to have the fun of finding the recipe and making it together. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/love.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="love"><br><br>
We've been really into the frugal side of homebrewing as well -- we use all recycled bottles that we clean off and re-label and DH trades farm help or mead to a local farmer for the honey, so the expenses are minimal -- just yeast, spices, and corks.
 

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I stepped away from the Xmas present madness about 10 years ago and started baking and making. Mostly baking. Loaves of bread are very popular, very inexpensive, can be frozen (e.g. made well in advance as your time allows) and very happily received. I find bread (oatmeal whole wheat) much cheaper to make than cookies - as butter gets super expensive near the holidays, not to mention nuts, decorations, etc. Colored SaranWrap makes the bread look really festive.<br><br>
We've also made donations to charity and told everyone that is their gift, with a nice card. Generally, my approach flies much better with my side of the family then with my husband's family. (They just don't get it and think we are weirdo vegetarian hippies....) I"m mystiifed when they complain about "having" to xmas shop, feeling worn out with shopping, etc. and yet they still do it.<br><br>
I have to say it has been harder with kids in the picture. With my husband's family we give only to the children (one gift each, less than $10). The kids really don't care and a bog box of crayons or stickers or whatever are as exciting as some stupid Spiderman/plastic/blech junk. For my son I pick up small things though the year when I find them on clearance, TJMAxx, sale, etc. . My husband and his sisters go in together on one gift to his parents, who tend to give to all of us escessively (in my opinion). This year however I am giving them some frequent flyer miles so it won't cost us anything and they get a trip out of it.<br><br>
I really encourage you to let go of any guilt you feel about not giving gifts, or getting expensive things when you give a loaf of bread. It is just a terrible trap that we've fallen into with the holidays that people get so focused on what to buy and how much they spend. If someone else chooses to do it that's fine - but it doesn't obligate you to celebrate in the same way and it certainly does't diminish what you do (nice card, painted picture by the kids, baked goods, etc.)
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>Belleweather</strong></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">DH and I have been doing this for a couple of years now and the response has been tremendous. We change the recipe we make for giving away every year, so about now our family and friends start clamoring to find out what it is the might get in their stockings... Last year we did a ginger-peach mead, this year we did a vanilla-clove sparkling mead, and next year will be a Cabernet-Sauvignon pyment. Plus, we get to have the fun of finding the recipe and making it together. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/love.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="love"><br><br>
We've been really into the frugal side of homebrewing as well -- we use all recycled bottles that we clean off and re-label and DH trades farm help or mead to a local farmer for the honey, so the expenses are minimal -- just yeast, spices, and corks.</div>
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Kewl! We should have a brewsters tribe, if there isn't one already!<br>
The one we're giving this year is our first one, although I've been making fruit liqueurs for years. The mead required a bit of equipment and so we saved for it. The bottled batch is strawberry/clove semi-dry. Turned out slightly bubbly as I don't believe in sulfites so much. The next batch is aging in the carboy until we get back the empty bottles. That one is tart cherry and blueberry, quite sweet. I'm nervous about that one though cuz for it's needed racking for a couple weeks and at 10 weeks preg I don't want to heft the 6 gallon carboy around and never seem to feeling up to it when DH is around. Sigh.<br><br>
Next batch will be peachy; I've already frozen a bunch of good peaches to brew sometime this winter/spring. A friend of mine is donating 20 lbs of honey in exchange for a couple bottles. Got a recipe to share?<br><br>
To the not-yet-brewsters: if ya do it right it can be almost as cheap as baking and is *very* impressive. Plus with making labels and things everyone's artistic side can get involved. I brew, DH does the labels. We take turns bottling and corking.<br><br>
SH
 

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We are gonna be so broke this year for christmas. I am not working and dh doesn't make enough to cover all the bills. So, I have already arranged to bake cookies and make hand crafts for the female members of the family, but i have no clue as to what to do for the kids. they don't get much at my parents house either, or at the inlaws, because they are dirt poor too. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad">
 

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Hrm, I always seem to come back to foodstuffs....<br><br>
When I was a kid my family was awfully poor, so for Chanukah my parents would usually give up money and home-made candy. The money was two or three highly polished brand new dollar coins (any bank usually has these, and will exchange them at face value) or when we got into the collecting things phase they'd give us foreign coins--Japanese, Israeli, Italian, English are a few that come to mind. These are also widely available and two or three bucks worth are fascinating.<br><br>
We also always got homemade candy. Pulled taffy, molded things made from butter and confectioners sugar, chocholate dipped fruits (hm this must have been passover. Too expensive in the winter. Or my memory is off).<br><br>
What about making fancy caramel or candied apples? Dip in nuts and or sprinkles, wrap in cool celophane...<br><br>
Or what about home-made crafting kits? If you're a crafty family, you probably have all sorts of supplies floating around.<br><br>
Once during my nannying years I really wanted to give one of the kids a meaningful b-day gift. My dilemma was that showered with things as she was, it was hard for her to see the value in anything that wasn't expensive and store-bought. I got out my scraps box and made her a renaissance-style dress-up dress. I had all kinds on satin pieces left over from sewing for my sisters wedding and I think I spentless than ten bucks on the whole thing--a spool of thread, two frog closures, and peice of brocade ribbon. She loved it! She still won't let her mom put in in storage despite having outgrown it about five years ago.<br><br>
Of course that was in the carefree college days (I even did the sewing 'on the clock' I was doing overnight eldercare. It was great!). Something that extensive is not within the realm of possiblity with young kids. But sewign from scraps or discoutn remnants is great, and dress-up clothes have, in my experience, been *very* popular! You can whip up a princess or a fairy or an ethnic costume of some sorts pretty easily (Japanese--kimonos are easy and you can use calico instead of silk!)<br><br>
SH
 

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when i was actually still renting an office and being a therapist, i couldn't help but notice how much ALL my women clients dreaded the holiday season.<br><br>
i remember reading a study that was done that said that all the women interviewed saw thanksgiving and x-mas a stress filled times of the year that they personally would prefer to skip. they felt that they were expected to cook like their grandmothers did, decorate like martha stewart, shop like a technical wizard and still maintian a 40 hour a week job, parent and clean the house. almost all said they got ZERO help from their male partners or they were single parents still expected to function like part of a couple.<br><br>
i remember thinking how terribly sad that was. i think we should start a revolution and keep in only the parts of the holidays we feel are joyful and get rid of the rest. and that includes all the crazy gift giving.<br><br>
gift giving arund the time of the winter solstice used to serve the purpose of representing blessings you wished upon someone you loved. if you wished them prosperity you would give them a coin wrapped in a scrap of beautiful cloth. or if you wished them good crops, you would give them a handful of seeds. if you wished them a boy in a pregnancy you would give a piece of a bulls horn. it as a token the represented your intentions for them. now the gifts themselves seem to be the intentions and our feelings are "here take this before i fall over from exhaustion." <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/irked.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="irked">:<br><br>
i propose we all think twice about spending a dime on anything and ask what our true intentions are for giving to this person and then find something small that will hold that intention for them. and that way the true meaning of giving a blessing can stay intact. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/upsidedown.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="upsidedown"> i have found the simplest things can hold the most profound meanings.
 

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Christmas is going to be tight for us this year, too, because of some not-so-wise spending choices on our part (using credit cards too much).<br><br>
Just be up front and tell your family that you won't be buying gifts for them for Christmas, or do something like baking, if you can. I'm considering doing some baking or making my gifts some type of "consumable" gift - food, candles, etc. They're not too expensive and don't sit around collecting dust.<br><br>
I'm going to try to make better gift choices this year, but it's so hard not to get caught up in the "Christmas machine"!
 

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Last year my family and I decided that we would draw names for Christmas. This greatly reduced the stress and actually made the gift buying much more pleasurable.<br><br>
The goal is to use a set amount and see who can buy the items on thier list for the least amount. So if you are a good shopper, the person you picked get's more than what they normally would. However, we don't skimp on the kids. But, this group is getting rather large too.<br><br>
Personally, I think the gift giving is blown way out of proportion. Christmas gifts should be a small token of love that are personal and not how it's become for most.
 

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<div style="font-style:italic;">We are gonna be so broke this year for christmas. I am not working and dh doesn't make enough to cover all the bills. So, I have already arranged to bake cookies and make hand crafts for the female members of the family, but i have no clue as to what to do for the kids. they don't get much at my parents house either, or at the inlaws, because they are dirt poor too. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad"></div>
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We generally make most of DS's birthday and Christmas gifts. I don't know how broke you are going to be, but here are some of the things we've made:<br><br>
playsilks with easter egg tablets (b/c they were inexpensive and easy)<br><br>
bean bags filled with lentils using fabric from old bedsheets<br><br>
indoor tepee/tent tent (this cost about $30 because I had to buy half the fabric and lots of bias tape to make the sewing easier)<br><br>
bark blocks using tree limbs that a neighbor cut down when thinning his tree<br><br>
someone is going to make him a balance beam this year<br><br><br>
I also get him things from garage and rummage sales -- like random pots, pans, etc for his kitchen and blocks. Luckily, young ones aren't too picky.
 

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TieDyed: We really need to make a brewing tribe, because I'd hate to take over the OP's post, and yet I so rarely get anyone to talk brew with that I'm now all excited! I'll have to check with DH and see if he wrote down the ginger-peach mead recipie, because it was DAMN good. Of course, it was very early in our career, so we tried to add the peaches during primary fermentation and had problems with the fermentation lock that resulted in a very STRONG ferment and peaches exploding into the air out of the neck of the carboy and getting stuck to the kitchen ceiling... so maybe we'll re-tool the recipe a bit before handing it out to anyone!<br><br>
Oh, and your home-made candy story reminded me of my grandmother, who before she became insane and evil used to give us homemade caramels and two dollar bills for christmas. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile">
 
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