Christmas Challenge: Making It Special For Less

It’s November and we’ve officially hammered the final nail into the coffin of Halloween 2015.  It’s time to start thinking about buying gifts for all of our beloved family and friends!  Should I go for the Norelco beard trimmer for Mr. Money Monster?  Or, should I opt for a new nine iron so he can perfect his golf game?  So many choices!  I probably won’t go with either since Mr. Money Monster doesn’t have a beard and doesn’t play golf…but you get the idea 😛

Despite it being a few weeks before Thanksgiving, (Trust me, we’re not blazing past the turkey bird!  It’s one of my favorite holidays so expect more on this in future posts 🙂 it’s time to start plotting and planning our Christmas attack.  So, how do we do it without taking out a second mortgage?  Read on…

xmas tree

One of our $35 trees from a few years ago. Please excuse the alien eyes from Mad Money Cat.

The Tree

Admittedly, I need some help in this department.  PLEASE feel free to give me suggestions!  We love Christmas and the tree!  There are a few “cut-your-own” farms nearby but they charge the equivalent of a visit to the ER for a standard Christmas tree.  I did find one such farm, not too far away, that charges $35 for any tree, but their trees have become far and few in between in recent years.  Last year we spent about $60 for our 6′ tree.  Help!  I know that getting an artificial tree is probably the most frugal option, but it’s just not for me.  I LOVE smelling the real pine and our family loves the entire process of finding a tree, bringing it home, sawing off a few branches, and making it our own.

xmas greens

Fresh greens courtesy of our very own pine trees


We reuse the same decorations each year.  I love decorating our house for Christmas.  We use floodlights and it takes me about 15 minutes to transform our dull, generic home into a winter wonderland.  Another Christmasy (not a typo) thing we have going for us is the pine trees in our yard.  I trim them each year for fresh greens.  I then proceed to put them on top of our kitchen cabinets with some twinkle lights and, viola, beautiful decorations and not a dollar spent.

The Gift List

With pen and paper in hand we sit down and put names on a list.  Next up, we assign a dollar amount to each name.  This is usually the same list each year, but now that Mr. Money Monster and I are hitched, our lists are having a little marriage of their own.

Black Friday is a wonderful opportunity (if you dare to leave the house) to shop for the people on your list and stay within your assigned budget.  I used to be a bigger fan of venturing out on this day.  In the past, I would feverishly flip through store circulars and make a list of the stores I needed to hit, and in the exact order I needed to hit them in order to save time and gas.  I usually finished it off with lunch with a friend.  That was before my ultra-frugal nutty days 😛  But, this can still work, minus the lunch.

Let’s not forget about Cyber Monday!  In recent years, Cyber Monday has become…A Thing.  If you’re not mentally inclined to fight through crowds until you’re sweaty and questioning your very existence, then I suggest you wait for the Cyber Monday Internet deals!  Just as good, and probably better since you don’t need to leave the house and waste time and gas.  Although, I still condone Black Friday shopping (if done responsibly, of course) because it really is an awesome time to get yourself in the holiday spirit.

KIDS:  No need to go overboard with spending on the kids.  Mini Monster also gets a dollar amount assigned next to her name.  We do NOT go over it.  Fortunately, since we cut the cable cord she isn’t being bombarded with advertisements that tell her what she should be putting on her Christmas list.  We are firm believers in quality over quantity and time over money.  She LOVES just spending time with us.  We’re thinking of making her an authentic ant farm this year.  She also LOVES animals and would love seeing how they interact in their world.  Aside from the cost to build it, it’ll be a fairly inexpensive gift.  Then, we’ll supplement with Five Below.  We go in armed with 40 bucks and come out with a boatload of supplemental gifts for her to open on Christmas morning.  She is NOT feeling deprived in any way, trust me.  Plus, she gets a ton of gifts from the rest of the family.

Parties, Parties, And More Parties…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Everyone gets invited to parties.  Parties don’t have to be expensive, and I’m willing to bet you DON’T need a new outfit!  Go shopping in your closet or borrow something from a friend.  Also, there is no need to buy expensive gifts for the host or hostess.  Bring a bottle of wine (I’m sure you have one that hasn’t been opened, or one you received as a gift) or make a delicious dish for everyone to enjoy.  I’m a firm believer in never showing up empty-handed.  I’m also a firm believer in being creative and not spending unnecessarily.  You can do it!

Ugly Sweaters

Our hideous chair cover sweaters

True Story:  When Mr. Money Monster and I were invited to an ugly sweater party last year we were aghast!  Being the fashion plates that we are, (just in case you didn’t know, this sentence is dripping with sarcasm) we had no ugly sweaters.  Well, let’s just say we didn’t have any ugly Christmas sweaters that could be worn to a party like this.  We opted to spend a few dollars (again, this was before our ultra-frugal nuttiness kicked in) and hit the Goodwill.  We found these most hideous, MATCHING chair covers that I cut holes in for our head and arms.  Cost:  $2/each.  Yup.  Don’t we both look dapper in our “ugly sweaters”?  And, can you guess who won the ugly sweater contest?  You guessed it, yours truly.  Can I get a Woot Woot?

xmas hike

A pic I took on a winter hike

What To Do All Week Without School?

We pretty much look at this week as an extended weekend or summer break.  We try to spend it with family and friends and make play dates (for us and Mini Monster).  We love making up some hot chocolate and popcorn and riding around in our sleigh (we don’t really have a sleigh but one can dream, right?) and looking at Christmas decorations.  Why pay for those commercial Christmas light drives where they charge you your first born to have a look?  This is free and much more fun.  Mini Monster loves wearing her pajamas and slippers!  Another thing we love to do, regardless of the season, is hiking!  The landscape is beautiful.  Call me crazy but I LOVE naked trees against a winter sky.  See picture.

I truly do love this time of year.  It’s still magical for me even if I do know that mall Santas aren’t really helpers.  *sigh*  One good thing is that Mini Monster still believes!  It’s such a great time for our family.  I always save up some vacation time to use over Christmas.  My time off parallels Mini Monster’s school break.  Double benefit equals no daycare expense and quality family time over the holidays.  Score!

What Does Your Family Enjoy Doing Over The Holiday Break?

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