Decorating

The best way to get in the mood when your finances aren't feeling very Christmassy is to decorate the house. For little to no cost you can make it feel cozy and warm. Trust me, these beat the cheesy “Made in China” alternatives you'll find at stores. An added bonus? The quality time you get to spend with your kids making the crafts! The crafts you need are few, check your local 99cent store, discount store or the dollar bin somewhere to find them. They crafts you'll use can double over as Christmas gifts too.

Wrap your Pictures

Take your Christmas paper and wrap the pictures hanging on the wall.  Get creative.  Add bows and ribbon to really make them pop. Then re-hang them in their spots and watch how your home transforms.  It's great practice for wrapping later, too.

Paper Snowflakes

If you're like me and have forgotten the lost art of making them, there's a great tutorial you can find here. Hang them on your tree, or better yet, tie decorative ribbon or fishing line and hang them from your ceiling to create a winter wonderland.

Paper Chains

These are so easy for your kids to make. Just cut strips of colored construction paper, plain white printer paper, or wrapping paper, and loop them together with staples, tape or glue. Garland your walls, doors, tree, ceiling, anywhere you feel the need to add extra holiday cheer.

Salt Dough Ornaments

These are super fun to make and decorate with your kids, and they last a while, so you'll have ornaments for awhile to come. There's an excellent tutorial here. You can either die small pieces of dough with food coloring, or make the ornaments plain and paint them after they bake. Use glue, glitter and acrylics. You only need flour, salt and water to make the dough!

CD Ornament

This can used as a decoration for the tree, or a homemade gift idea. All you need is an old CD, an adorable photo of your little ones, or an old Christmas Card image, and felt or construction paper. Here's a great step by step guide to get you going.

Glitter Glue Ornament

This one is great if you have a little girl or just happen to like shiny things, (like I do.) You just take a to-go lid, fill it with Elmer's glue and evenly layer glitter inside. Throw a few gems in to top it off and let it dry for a day. Pop out the glue, punch a hole in the top, put a ribbon through and you've got an ornament. There's a video instruction here. Also, you can add a photo of your dear ones and send it out to the grandparents for a homemade glitter extravaganza!

Gift Giving

Well, if you have little kids, you're in luck. Everyone loves getting homemade presents from their little nieces, nephews, grandkids, etc. So get out those crafts and take a snow day to have your kids make some crafts for the family

Decorate Frames

I got this idea from a girlfriend of mine that is so crafty it's unbelievable. You can check out her blog here and see how talented she is. Anyway, for 99cents I got some unfinished wood frames and had my 2 1/12 year old paint them. Then she glued gems, felt balls, colored wood pieces, and other bits of crazy fun. I'll print a photo of her and send it out as Christmas gifts.

Christmas Candle

I got this one from the aforementioned girlfriend. Get some yummy smelling candles, the jar kind, and glue a family photo on the side. Simple, but everyone loves yummy cookie candles.

Snow Globe

The last idea I'll steal from my girlfriend: take a jar of whatever, cocktail onions, etc, empty it, wash it, and take off the label. Then get a centerpiece that fits on the bottom of the lid. Think an angel or Santa Claus ornament that's waterproof. Glue it to the inside of the lid so that it's standing up when you flip the jar upside down. Fill the jar with a little glitter, add water, and viola! You have a homemade snow globe.

Homemade Jelly

Where I live we have these pesky bushes that sprout the most delicious blackberries each fall. I picked a few pounds this year and am planning on sending out homemade jellies with a nice little cloth top. You can also make things like applesauce, apple butter, or apple jelly. Use your internet to find the right recipe for your fruit.

Finally, here's an excellent article for more gift giving (free and cheap) ideas.

Donate to a Charity

Our family favorite is Heifer International. We love the idea of buying livestock for people in struggling communities. Plus, it's a really cool thing to think, wow, I got someone a sheep for Christmas. You can check out their site here. A lot of their gifts are very affordable. An added bonus? Have your little ones draw a picture of the farm animal you picked out for grandma and grandpa. They can put it on their fridge and remember their little ones and your generosity.

 

Well, let me know if you have any other great ideas. This holiday season, although we're more strapped than we've been, I'm amazed at how much more fun we've had. It makes you focus on what really matters.