Some reporters say that this level of financial hardship has not happened to American since the late 1960s. This must have poured into the the 1980s. During my childhood, my widowed grandmother came to live with us. My mom worked graveyard shift at the dairy plant laboratory to help out with the family income. Grandma babysat me. My dad worked as a chemist and made a 30 mile commute to work. Reflecting on how my parents lived during those lean years, I have a pattern to follow on how to celebrate the holidays in 2011.
Three budget savvy tips stand out in my mind. I would recommend this for young families now: accept food subsidies from the government, scout out free events in the community for entertainment, and make use of holiday advertisements to transform into holiday decorations. Can this work? It did during my childhood.
Somehow though I wasn’t a perfectly well-behaved kid, Santa remembered me too. My mom had her coworker write me a letter in Santa’s handwriting a week before Christmas. One year I really wanted a coin-operated gumball machine, a piggy bank. I found one, unwrapped, in the kitchen on Christmas Day.
1. Use Paper and Items Found Around the Home to Decorate
My twenty-something mom was resourceful. She folded pink tissue paper into fans and decorated what appeared to be a table top Christmas tree. She may have covered a paper cone with tissue. She also used her wedding cake topper and other knick knacks to decorate around the tree. My Brownie Scout leaders taught mom how to sew sock animals so during the holidays, I had new stuffed animals. My favorite stuffed animal was a ghost bunny, an unfinished sock rabbit without legs. You can find so many DIY free tutorials now through Pinterest.com for crafts and holiday decor.
My dad was a pro at folding monkey soldiers and row boats. These joined the angels, candy canes and gingerbread men pictures that we rescued from junk mail. When it comes time for holiday photos, do them at home. You already have the outfits and props you need in your closet. Dress the family in blue, silver, gold, red or green. You can find these colors in sports jerseys and even old Halloween costumes. Babble.com gives a slideshow of ideas for creative family picture poses.
2. Say “Yes” to Neighborly Invites
Stop being shy and attend free community sponsored events such as church celebrations, tree lighting ceremonies and mall promotions. Dress warmly and pile the family into the car after dinner. Enjoy the lawn ornaments and lights of your local Candy Cane Lane. Accept coworker invites for holiday parties and cookie swaps. Mom learned to make reindeer candy canes from some neighbors. Be a model for your children and make new friends. See your money worries chased away for a day. Beat the blues.
3. Go to a Chinese Restaurant
Watch reruns of “A Christmas Story” by Sam Sheppard on internet tv. If you are inspired by the movie to dine out on Christmas, hit a cheap Chinese restaurant for beef chow hor fun. This dish of flat rice noodles, grilled onions, bell peppers and tender beef is filling. You can feed a family of four if you order sweet and sour pork too!