This year, it’s Christmas in October here at The Frugal Girl.

Making Christmas Merry

As most of you know, I’ve been thinking about writing a Christmas ebook for a while now. And I totally was going to do that this summer.

But it became obvious to me that this just wasn’t the time of life to try writing another ebook, and I had a realization, which was that I could just write a series about Christmas instead of an ebook.

That sounded much more appealing to me. Yes, please.

So! That’s what we’re starting today…a series about Christmas.

What exactly about Christmas?

Well, I want to write about how to celebrate Christmas in a simple, inexpensive, but meaningful way.

Christmas tends to be a very stressful time for people (especially for women, in my experience), and this makes me sad. A holiday that should be a lot of fun has somehow turned into a time of year that we dread.

We seem to spend a lot of money and time buying lots of stuff, and what we have to show for it in the end are lots of not-good feelings.

And that seems like a terrible bargain to me.

Even if we don’t spend a lot of money, we do still seem to get pretty darn stressed out about this holiday.

So, during the series, I want to share about how to pare down, simplify, and reduce our stress during the holidays. I’ll share some practical ideas as well as some thoughts about changing your perspective and your expectations.

I haven’t arrived, so to speak, when it comes to keeping Christmas simple and stress-free. But the ideas I’m going to share with you are the things that help me when I struggle with this season, and I hope they help you as well.

P.S. Although this series will be about Christmas specifically (since that’s what I have experience in celebrating), I think that the ideas that I share will be quite applicable if you celebrate a holiday other than Christmas. There should be something for everyone.


  1. kris says

    I have 4 children (18,16,14 and 6) and what I struggled most was trying to keep it ‘even’, that no one got more than the others, etc…Then my husband and I decided to make it more about the true spirit of Christmas and one of the decisions were to go to 3 gifts each (like the Wise Men brought to baby Jesus). We set a dollar amount and get them each 3 gifts within that dollar amount and that’s what they get. They still get gifts from each other (with a set dollar amount) plus gifts from extended family, so there are still lots of goodies under the tree but a lot less stressed out mama! There is less thinking involved b/c the older kids pretty much tell us exactly what they want, less trips to the stores, less wrapping which equals to $$ savings and more time for spending with the family, baking and doing church activities all which help us understand the true meaning of Christmas.

  2. says

    I love this! One thing that we’re going to try this year is getting together for a night with our closest 7 friends (9 including my husband and I) and doing a Pollyanna type of exchange. I realized that between our 7 friends, we were spending over $200. Hopefully we can have a fun relaxed night and save about $150 :)

  3. says

    I’ve been married for almost 26 years and I’m still working on simplifying our Christmas, so that we can truly celebrate the birth of Christ without the blur of wrapping paper and fake snow. I welcome your ideas.

    A couple of things that have helped our family is to purchase/make the gifts early, so the month of December is more about our family celebrating the holiday season, together. I have all the mail away packages sent the Monday after Thanksgiving.

    The other thing that helps is to get everyone in the family involved. We all bake cookies, package tins, wrap gifts and pack to mail together. And we all participate in any decorations for the house. We divide up according to skills, additional jobs related to our gift giving. Some craft, some shop online, some go to the stores, some do the driving around for the non-drivers in the family.

    We use a Saturday afternoon, in early November, to have a Christmas planning meeting with the whole family present. I’m the secretary and I record all that we decide upon, and post that page of notes near my desk, for us all to refer to.

    This is not a holiday that mom produces for the benefit of the family. It’s a family coming together to celebrate something special and sacred.

  4. Libby says

    I am also eagerly awaiting this series. Thanks Kristen!

    Last year I used your idea and made cloth “wrapping” gift bags from PJ pants found at Goodwill. Everyone LOVED them and they made my gifts look much more special. I also loved that they are reusable and therefore good for the planet.

    Looking forward to some more good ideas for this year! no pressure : )

  5. Heidi says

    Your post couldn’t have come at a better time. I am recently unemployed and not happy about that, but until I find another job, I am putting the time to good use. Reducing expenses by shopping smarter (more time for coupons, and watching sale circulars), more time to clean house and de-clutter, etc. Just this morning I was thinking that now would be a good time to start thinking about the holidays. Looking forward to hearing everyone’s ideas!

  6. Jen says

    Looking forward to this series very much. I own a bookstore which adds another layer of craziness to the holiday season! We have pared down over the years but I still always feel like I spend too much money, and get too stressed out. And I get frustrated at the lack of help from my spouse.

    I did make two large batches of jam from currants and berries I was able to pick from a friend’s yard to give my knitting and book group friends. Didn’t have to buy new jars either, so the cost was only for lids and sugar. Since most of these friends are my age or older, I don’t think any of them are into receiving more little tchotkes to clutter up the the place. I love food gifts that you can use up! I have more time to make jam in September than I do to bake in December so this has worked well for me. And I have a few extra jars to use as hostess gifts or for those unexpected little gifts that always seem to pop up.

  7. says

    I love this idea!
    Last year we decided to take all of the emphasis off the gifts, but we still found that we got stressed out trying to make it special. Of course, in hindsight I’m realizing that family traditions and *time* are really what makes any occasion special, not the amount of money spent on gifts, or the lavishness of the meals, or the extravagance of the treats. Can’t wait to read, Kristen :-)

  8. says

    Something we do is purchase a Family Gift. Something everyone can enjoy that is usually a higher ticket item. My boys are teenagers, and this has worked well the past several years. One year we bought a new bigger screen TV, one year we bought a gaming system, etc. We discuss it and all agree on the item and go get it together and then enjoy it together.

    • Heidi says

      I love the idea of a family gift. We do this, too. I still get smaller individual gifts for my kids. Our “group” gift these past few years has been board games like Carcasonne (and a few expansion packs!), Puerto Rico, Ticket to Ride. Such fun. I use credit card points to pay for it! Not sure what this years game will be.

      • Megan says

        We love those games – especially puerto rico! I assume you’ve played Settlers of Catan? If not that is a must try. Another one we loved is Qwirkle – which has the same strategy feel but is a very simple game, even younger kids can play.

        • Heidi says

          Actually I’ve been debating about whether or not to try Settlers of Catan. It is very highly rated. But I thought it seemed pretty similar to Puerto Rico? Do you think my family would be bored with it after having played Puerto Rico?

          Have never heard of Qwirkle, will look it up, thanks!

          • Megan says

            I like Catan better than Puerto Rico (but that could be that we haven’t played PR as much). But I always felt that PR wrapped up and ended very quickly, as in ah! it’s the last round already?!
            In Catan there is some luck of the dice, but a lot of strategy in working with your opponents (you rely on other players to trade for the goods you need to build settlements, etc)
            There are add-on games (cities & knights, seafarers), kind of like carcassone has, that add complexity to the original board – but we like the original the best :)

  9. Jennifer says

    I’m really looking forward to this! My son turned three this year and this is the first year I think he’ll really be able to get into the Christmas spirit. Since he’s my only child, I don’t have a whole lot of experience hosting Christmas festivities for kids, so your ideas will be really helpful.

  10. Inga says

    I’ve already started my frugal-ish Halloween plans (not thinking about Christmas yet). I’m very happy to be able to reuse my son’s costume from 2 years ago (=free). He was delighted with the costume, so that’s even better. We also like to keep all the pumpkin seeds for eating (packaged pumpkin seeds aren’t allergy safe for my kid so this is an extra bonus).

    I’m not into e-books, so I’m very excited that you decided to do a Christmas blog series instead. Looking forward to it! :)

  11. Tina Ray says

    I am so on it this year. I have been putting $50 a pay period (bi-weekly) in a Christmas Club account. My husband and “got this” this year! I am not stressed out about the holidays and money this year. I am so proud of my self! :)

  12. KS says

    I have some excellent tips to share…

    1) Switch out everything in your house for items with a Christmas theme–including towels, blankets, rugs, pillows, dishes, toilet seat covers, and more. Everything in your house must have a Christmas theme.

    2) Buy the biggest, most expensive Christmas tree you can find–and buy brand new ornaments with a unique theme each year. Then, buy smaller trees for other rooms in your house–like each child’s bedroom, the playroom, etc. and decorate them in specific themes, too.

    3) Decorate your entire house and yard with lights, moving snowmen, moving reindeer, and more.

    4) Make a very elaborate mantle display.

    5) Hand make stockings for each member of the family–the more elaborate the better. If you have to stay up until late at night to complete them, that’s great. It will show your family just how much you care. Then, fill them to the brim with as many gifts as you can stuff in.

    6) Send Christmas cards to every single person you know–including giving special cards and gifts to every single teacher everyone of your children has had since preschool.

    7) Make your gift-giving list as big as possible and be sure to pick out an expensive gift for each of them–so they’ll know how much you love them! You don’t want to appear cheap, you know.

    8) Host a lot of gatherings at your house, one for the neighbors, for the office gang, for your bridge club, for the girl scout troop, for the boy scout troop, and for all of your family. If necessary, host 2-3 events each weekend.

    9) Get an Elf on a Shelf, and move that elf every single day–having him do lots of mischief like taking down all of the ornaments off the tree, removing all the decorations from the mantle, and things like that. Also have him bring lots of very creative, expensive, gifts for the family–like candy cane gardens. This will create lots of work for you, but you’re creating wonderful memories for your children.

    10) Plop your children in front of the TV to watch as many Christmas specials as possible–after all, you’re very busy creating holiday cheer!

    Finally, don’t go to church or participate in charitable events for the holiday–after all once again you’re waaaaay too busy spreading the spirit of the season!

  13. Janelle says

    So looking forward to this. We have 3 birthdays between Thanksgiving and Christmas to deal with, too. It seems like someone is always asking what my kids want or need, when they already have too much stuff.

  14. says

    What I’m trying to keep in mind this year is while it’s OK to pare down stuff I don’t want to pare down experiences. It’s always easier not to do things, but I’ve been struck by the realization this year that there won’t be that many Christmas seasons when my kids are over-the-top excited about the holidays. There will be plenty of years to not make a fuss in the future. This year, since they’re 5, 3 and 1, I’ll probably make a fuss. Of course, given that I don’t bake, do anything crafty, etc., a “fuss” for me means I’ll try baking cookies. Crazy :)

    • Kristen says

      Yep, that’s a good thing to keep in mind. When you’re in the midst of those years, it can seem like they’ll never end, but the truth is that they’ll be teenagers in not so very long.

      Mine are 13, 11, 8, and 6, so fortunately they are still pretty into Christmas. But you’re right…their excitement over things like Christmas lights isn’t quite what it was when they were preschoolers.

    • Kristen says

      Isn’t it great? Joshua made that last Christmas, and I laughed so hard when I saw it. I would never have thought to do that with sprinkles.

  15. jen says

    I’m really looking forward to this series!

    P.S. What is the sparkly green thing in the last photo??? I love it whatever it is :)

  16. Kris says

    Sounds good! I’m a big fan of getting the majority of my shopping done early (before Thanksgiving if possible). And I actually put up fewer decorations than I did before I had kids! Tired, grouchy moms make for bad Christmas memories.

    Ya know how sometimes you try something as a whim and it turns out to be a big hit? A couple of years ago we got one of those wooden Advent calendars with numbered boxes. Instead of candy (although sometimes I put that in, too) I printed off the story of the birth of Jesus, making it into 24 sections. I put a snippet into each box and in the evening, the kids get to open a box and read it. It’s short, sweet, fun, and puts the focus back on the real meaning of Christmas.

  17. Emily says

    Have you heard about the Advent Conspiracy…we did it in our small group a couple of years ago, and we’ve changed our Christmas ever since. We stopped making Christmas about ourselves but now focus on others. The wonderful is, that I hear my 4 kids talking to other people about it. They will say – we only get one present for Christmas, we buy gifts for others instead. They don’t miss it one bit – I think we make Christmas harder than it needs to be. I look forward to your series!

  18. says

    So looking forward to this series. I actually prefer that it’s going to feature on the blog, as it means I can can look forward to the next post coming along, rather than having a ‘book’ to get through (hope that came across right?).
    I’ve been simplifying for over 3 years now, and last Christmas I began to feel that I’m doing it the way I want to rather than doing what is expected. I’ve started my Christmas 2012 planning, as a simple, frugal, homemade Christmas does not happen overnight! For example chutney and Christmas pudding made from scratch needs to be done now – as you say in October! My Christmas boxes have been started (recycled shoeboxes decoupaged and painted, decorated with handmade clay tags that can be hung on the tree after) and I’ve started filling them for each recipient (consumables and experiences not clutter!).
    Oh I’m feeling all Christmassy (please remind Joshua that if not in the dictionary currently it should be!)

  19. says

    I am looking forward to this series a lot. I have my heart set on making most of our Christmas presents this year and have already started one (homemade vanilla essence), so would love some simple frugal ideas :)

  20. Julie says

    Looking forward to reading this. We have decided to do a simpler holiday this year. Mostly because… I’d rather spend the money traveling to be with family and being together than on huge and expensive gifts that are going to clutter my house more… Not to mention empty my bank account! So, I’m interested in seeing what ideas you have!

  21. colleen says

    Thank you for starting this series! Every year I say that I will keep it simple and keep ahead and every year I am freaking out at my kids and husband and wishing that I was a bit more full of joy…
    I know that you have probably already written a great deal of this series already, but I really hope that you have some sweet and loving ideas for gifts for a husband. What do I get a man that has everything!?
    Thank you so much for you blog-your cheerfulness comes out right through my computer screen and lifts me up when I need it. I have to admit, when I make a purchase I sometimes ask myself if Kristen would approve! :) Thank you for being a friend, even though you didn’t know it ;)

  22. says

    Not even kidding you – I just spent 30 mins or so on Katy’s (Non-consumer Advocate) site looking under the search term “Christmas” for ideas like these, then this was my next stop and bam, here was this post!! It could not have been timed better. Every year the Christmas season just gets more and more stressful, and last year, I hated every second of it, including the parts that should’ve been fun, like watching my children open presents and spending time with family – hated all of it! The rampant consumerism and the stress and the money and and and – all of it! :( I vowed that last year would be the last year EVER that I felt like that, and to make changes this year. Since it will be rapidly upon us, I am already looking for ideas, and I can’t wait to read this series! Thank you!

  23. says

    I have been thinking about simplifying Christmas as well, mostly for frugal reasons. We are expecting baby #3 in about a month and I know financially it’s going to be a stretch. Plus, I really can’t imagine more stuff in our house right now.

    My plan is buy each child one decent sized gift plus stocking stuffers (gum, chapstick, nail polish, etc) and call it done. If anyone has any great stocking stuffer ideas, I’d love to have them. They get so much from their grandparents, aunts and uncles, I can’t imagine we will notice much difference and hopefully we’ll be able to curb the craziness of it all.

    We are also trying to move toward more experiences with our kids instead of “stuff.” For example, last year for my son’s 3rd birthday we took him on a horse drawn carriage ride downtown. He had a great time and nothing new came into the house. Win-win.

  24. says

    I started thinking of Christmas on May 19th when I went to visit my sister-in-law. We don’t see one another often, and of course it brought up the holidays. I said to her, ” Every year around this time I get almost sick to my stomach thinking about what to get people for Christmas.” She was surprised because as she said” Really, you give the greatest gifts .” She admitted having great anxiety about that time of year as well. I haven’t excuse, I’m a retired teacher and at home now. She is a ER physician with a family and mother living with her. That I can understand. However, my feelings are real and I honestly get sick over it all.
    This series you will be doing couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m grateful. You must be an angel sent from God.
    I’m sure it will be one of the most popular series ever ! I’m sure I’m not alone with this Christmas anxiety.
    Bless You !

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