We've all been there at one point or another. An unexpected bill or emergency, a job loss or just struggling to pay the bills and feeling like the holidays are going to be ruined. No way! Just because you are broke, doesn't mean that your holiday has to be. There are so many ways to have a fantastic, simple Christmas that don't involve maxed out credit cards, stressing yourself into a frenzy or buying things just for the sake of buying things. Or the worst of them all, just going full on Bah Humbug. Get that Scrooge out of here and find your inner Tiny Tim! At the risk of sounding cheesy-- the holidays are about spending time with loved ones, feeling joy in our hearts and making memories with family and friends. How simple is that? So instead of dwelling on what we can't have, let's think about all of the great things that we can.
1. Play Christmas music. This is a surefire way to get even the Grinchiest of them all to find a little holiday cheer. Free services like Pandora and iHeartRadio are great places to make free holiday playlists.
2. Make your house smell like Christmas. Throw a few cinnamon sticks and a splash of vanilla extract into a pot of water and let simmer on the stove. For the love of God, set a timer so you don't forget about it! I will never forget about that again, goodbye beautiful favorite cheap sauce pan.
3. Bake! I can almost always scrape something up out of the pantry to bake something yummy, even if it's just peanut butter cookies. My kids love to help. And as an added bonus, it makes the house smell fabulous and the heat from the stove keeps the house toasty.
4. Search Google for the name of your town (or surrounding towns) + events. I was amazed at how many completely free Christmas activities I have found within 10 miles of my home. The other day we took the kids to Bass Pro Shop where they have this awesome Christmas Wonderland. Photos with Santa, cookies and crafts. All free! A little city near my home has live holiday window displays one night every week. We get bundled up and take travel mugs of hot chocolate with us. We spend the evening strolling around the city talking and taking pictures.
The holidays are about spending time with loved ones, feeling joy in our hearts and making memories with family and friends.
5. Pop some popcorn, curl up on the couch and have a family Christmas movie night. Check out ABC Family's lineup for the 25 Days of Christmas or grab a movie from the Redbox (don't forget to Google Redbox + free code first!). Bonus points if you make extra popcorn for stringing to use a decoration for your tree!
6. Make some homemade Christmas decorations. String popcorn for your tree, cut out paper snowflakes, make stuff out of paper towel rolls (toilet paper roll crafts freak me out, not gonna lie). You can go totally Buddy the Elf on this one, we won't judge. You can also make some fantastic handmade gifts while you're feelin' crafty.
7. Drive or walk around your town and check out the Christmas lights.
8. Read a Christmas themed book aloud to the family. Project Gutenburg has a pretty extensive list of Christmas books including 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and A Christmas Carol. Some are even in audio format.
9. Have a family game night. Like family movie night, but with more fighting and tears. I kid, I kid...kind of.
10. Talk often with your family about what your favorite part of the holiday is, besides the gifts. I bet their answers will surprise you!
I know that there is almost no way to have a completely free Christmas. To make some extra cash around the holidays I have been doing my usual side hustles: writing, surveys and usability testing. I have also just found out about a company called Fancy Hands. It's basically getting paid a few bucks to do a few simple tasks that are commissioned by clients. Some of the tasks are super easy and rewarding, others not so much. I will be doing a full review of my experience with the company soon, but I thought it was worth mentioning as I know now is the time of needing extra money. Also, don't forget to check out my list of ways to make some extra money from home. I am usually pleasantly surprised at what I am able to make when I take a few minutes each day to dedicate to a few simple tasks, surveys etc.
Now is also a great time to start culling some of your unused, unwanted or unnecessary items. Out with the old and in with the money. eBay and Craigslist are great ways to get cash for things you no longer need.
I hope some of these tips help to make your holiday a little bit brighter. You deserve it!