Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

Christmas on a tight budget

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines – Perhaps Christmas without the commercialism is gone for good. Most young people today find it impossible to have a Christmas with none of the hings pushed by manufacturers as good to give as gifts, no "clearance ale" at the malls, no flashy Christmas "events" to go to or not having a new gadget. For the most part, Christmas is a global retail bash.

Back in the day, people were not even keen about making beautiful Christmas decorations. They simply made do with whatever things were available around. For a Christmas tree, a branch of a bush in the backyard was good enough.

Christmas decorations then were mostly handmade. And gifts were either a home-cooked dish or a useful plant in a pot.  And yet the Christmas atmosphere was as wonderful - if not more - even if only very little or no money was spent on anything.

Then commercialism sets in. There are suddenly an abundance of things ready for the taking - at a price, of course. Why go through the trouble of cutting a branch from the tree in the backyard when the plastic trees in the store are nicer?  Why bother to hand-knit a sweater for a gift when the one at the store is sure to be more appreciated by the intended recipient?

Christmas decorations have now become a community competition; these are now made a status symbol among neighbors. And the store has more "gift ideas" to choose from. The quality of Christmas today is mainly determined by money.

The idea of the Christmas of old may relieve some of the stress of those who have to celebrate Christmas today on a tight budget. Those with less money may only have to toil a bit more to make their Christmas just as merry and memorable. The following ideas from www.thesimpledollar.com are not entirely without cost. Some of them may cost something, but compared to the ridiculous expense that those with more money to spend would incur for Christmas, the cost is really minimal.

1. Give a gift of your time and effort. Instead of commercial items, try making homemade sweets or rendering personal service for dear ones. Taking little children to the zoo or the elderly to the park is a uniquely heartwarming gift. This is a great idea especially for members of the immediate family.

2. Decorate using homemade materials. With all family members involved, the Christmas decorations at home could look completely different each year with the use of homemade decorations. These decorations made fresh each year and arranged entirely differently are just as good - or even better - than their expensive counterparts at the stores.

3. Grow a living Christmas tree. Planting an actual living tree in a large pot as the family's Christmas tree is a good idea. The family members could take turns in tending it, keeping it outside most of the year except in the most inclement weather. When December comes, the tree would be brought inside and decorated. What could be a better Christmas tree than a real, growing tree?

4. Make Christmas cards by hand. This can be another whole-family activity, where everybody can pitch in. Instead of buying Christmas cards in boxes and sending out cold and impersonal cards, the family can save interesting photographs throughout the year and make Christmas cards in the form of image collages, capitalizing on any strongly Christmas-themed images. Colorful pages of old magazines that have useful text on them - like the words "happy," "merry," "holidays," and "Christmas" also help.

5. Buy lights out of season. Christmas lights come in cheaper packages after the Christmas season; it is a good time to stock on lights for the next season. Or, better yet, check the old series lights for busted bulbs and replace only those.

6. Bring cheer to the less fortunate. On Christmas Day, find the time to serve food to those who don't have any. It's easy to find them by the street sides or in depressed districts. Or, instead of hosting a big Christmas dinner for friends who can well afford to buy their own, head to the local juvenile shelter or home for the elderly. Or why not gather friends and offer to volunteer doing whatever you can for the less fortunate?

There are a lot more creative things to do when the budget is tight. For example: dried corn cobs and husks make very nice ornaments when colored; the stalk of a mature maguey flower could be made into a nice Christmas tree; popcorns tied together to make a string make a good Christmas tree ornament etc.  There's no reason to despair when resources are scarce at Christmas. Nothing stimulates creativity in quite the same way.

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