No Money, No Christmas? No Way!

what would you do this holiday season if you had absolutely no money to spend and no available credit either?

That’s the question I ask this time of year, and the responses have been all over the map from all-out panic to excitement at the thought of taking on such a challenge.

I’m not suggesting this should be the case for anyone. I’m simply posing the question in the same way I might ask what you would do if you noticed your kitchen on fire or your child choking on a chicken bone. Knowing to call 911 is good, but so is having a fully charged fire extinguisher handy and a working knowledge of the Heimlich maneuver.

So, let me ask you, could you do it? Could you find ways to celebrate Christmas that would fill your heart with joy and create warm and lasting memories, even if you had no money and no credit?

You know, when you come right down to it, isn’t that what we really want for Christmas? Isn’t that why we work so hard and often spend so much, to find joy and make memories that will last for a lifetime?

Based on the many positive responses to my question, I have no doubt that we can discover what our hearts long for most, without overspending and without going into debt. What’s required is a willingness to think creatively and courage to put a freeze on the credit cards.


Christmas rituals are like anchors in our lives. Doing the same things together, year after year, assures us that even in a changing world, some things never change.

I love the story of one of our Everyday Cheapskate families, a story that I tell often when I address audiences on how to debt-proof their holidays.

Every year since the kids were little, this family has made the same trek every night the week before Christmas. They drive around after dark, searching for beautiful light displays in their area.

On Christmas Eve, the family votes to determine their favorite light display and award the winner with their family’s “Annual Best in Lights Award.” In their final act, they deliver homemade cookies to the lucky winners, who I’m sure are as surprised as they are delighted to learn that such an award exists. It’s become a tradition, a family ritual that goes on year after year.


Whether it’s something from your kitchen, your craft room, woodworking shop or computer, there’s just nothing like a homemade gift. A tree ornament, plate of cookies, box of fudge, note cards; these are just some of the kinds of homemade gifts with universal appeal.


A “gift from the heart” is the gift of time and talent. What do you do well? Cook, clean, babysit, garden, sew, drive, shop? Whatever that is, create a unique gift certificate for a weekend of babysitting, a day of housecleaning, six hours of errand running; you get the idea. Hint: Follow up within just a few days to set the exact time your certificate will be redeemed. Your recipient may be too embarrassed to remind you to make good on the gift.


Do you want your gift to say how much you care? Then find a way to show you care about what matters most to that person. Is he passionate about medical research? Become a bone marrow donor. Is she an environmentalist? Donate to an organization that reforests and plant a tree in her name. Do something this person will find meaningful and do it in their honor. Then, wrap it up as your gift to them.


Worried that your gifts, homemade or otherwise, are too cheap or not just exactly right? All your doubts will vanish when you write a short note that you attach to each of your gifts. Tell your recipient what he or she means to you and the value they bring to your life.

The best gift is one that delivers a message of love and joy that will be with the recipient long after the gift has been consumed, used or put away. The best gifts are the ones that linger on in our memories, the things that neither money nor credit can buy.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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