Merry Christmas from the Frugalwoods!
Merry Christmas from the Frugalwoods!

On the heels of our mega Uber Frugal Month download on Monday (you can still sign-up to join the Challenge!), I thought we could use a bit of festive frivolity and cheer. Plus, you all know I’m a rampant holiday lover, so really I just wanted an excuse to wax about the season.

I firmly believe that celebrating frugally isn’t merely possible, it’s preferable. It removes stress over gift giving, highlights the actual reason for the season, and allows Mr. Frugalwoods and I to relax by the wood stove and enjoy some yuletide gin and tonics (they’re actually just plain old gin and tonics, but if I tie a ribbon around our glasses, voilà, yuletide. Don’t judge, you know I hate crafts). For us, Christmas is about relaxing. And it’s relatively easy to relax when you’re not spending money and when you’re not concerned about impressing anyone and when you’re content with simplicity (and a yuletide gin and tonic).

Babywoods last year: 1 month old at Christmastime!
Babywoods last year: 1 month old at Christmastime!

I’m particularly excited this year since Babywoods is old enough to (sort of) celebrate alongside us. Mr. FW and I both grew up with lovely Christmas traditions (thank you mom, dad, mom-in-law, dad-in-law), and over the 8 Christmases of our marriage, we’ve molded, blended, and adapted those traditions to fit our own little frugal family. We took Babywoods to see Santa Claus (aka our neighbor) at our local library and it was an ideal, low-key, candy-free event where every kid got a free book! Our kind of gathering for sure.

It’s also true that Mr. FW and I are a retailer’s Christmas nightmare. We don’t buy into the overconsumption panoply of presents and we didn’t even buy any tacky Christmas sweaters. But our season is no less jolly and no less decked with holly. It’s merely less focused on spending money and more focused on spending time together. A note on travel: since plane tickets are inordinately expensive in late December, we often go see family in January or February, when airline prices are usually the lowest of the entire year.

Oh Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding

The cornerstone of our holidays is always food. Probably because I love food. Probably also because it’s our chance to throw our usually healthy, careful diet out the window and instead relish things made with butter. Other ingredients too, but let’s be honest here, mostly butter.

From Mr. FW’s family comes the most amazing (and butter-laden) Christmas morning concoction: The Breakfast Casserole. This thing defies “good” and crosses over into the realm of heavenly. I kid you not. Frugal Hound 100% concurs as she receives a tidbit-o-sausage during Mr. FW’s prep work. To honor the original, handwritten recipe from my mother-in-law, here it is in unadulterated form:

breakfastcasserole_recipe breakfastcasserole_recipe2










shooflypie_recipeAnother culinary gift from my in-laws is the Pennsylvania Dutch Shoo Fly Pie, which is ideal when munched with afternoon coffee or following a piece of Breakfast Casserole (or really, any other time you happen to come into contact with one). These molasses-based pies aren’t overly sweet and they also aren’t for every palate, but I adore them. Pretty sure my mother-in-law decided I was approved to enter the family after I started baking Shoo Fly Pies for our holidays. My mother-in-law’s recipe is at right.

From my family comes a shortbread cookie and frosting recipe, which I crave on an annual basis (ok, actually, I crave it every week, but in deference to decorum and my waistline, I only make it once a year). I remember rolling these cookies out with my mom each Christmas and I cannot WAIT until Babywoods is old enough to bake them with me (which, based on her proclivity for shoving everything in her mouth, will be another few years… ).

I don’t usually make cookies on account of how labor intensive they are (FAR more work involved than sweet breads or pound cakes). But, ’tis Christmas and I want to preserve tradition (and also compulsively dip cookies in frosting while watching Love Actually, happy crying, and drinking wine). Here’s my mom’s cookie recipe (although I use butter instead of margarine):


chickenspiedini_recipeOur main dish for Christmas changes every year depending on what we feel like having (and what Mr. FW feels like cooking). We go ultra traditional for Thanksgiving (probably because we host my in-laws every year), but for Christmas, which is usually just the two of us, we sort of wing it.

A few favorites are chicken spiedini (a recipe from one of my best friends) and pasta with red sauce (this was a traditional holiday meal for my half-Italian family). My friend’s spiedini recipe at right for your spiedini enjoyment.

Drinks are also a key component of any festive gathering we host (which you might’ve guessed based on our seltzer and coffee adorations). I am a gin and tonic enthusiast, though I never make them during the year (probably a good thing… ) but at Christmas, yes to G and T’s (seltzer water does work in lieu of tonic, but it’s not quite as good). Other favorites include hard apple cider, champagne, and mulled wine (regular wine is OK too).


Our in-house reinhound
Our in-house reinhound

The only time Mr. FW and I watch movies is at Christmas. The rest of the year, movies are too much of a time commitment (aka I fall asleep halfway through). But at Christmas, we break out our favorites: Love Actually, Home Alone, A Christmas Story, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph... (can you tell we’re children of the ’80s?).

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas

Every single Christmas Eve, my parents read us “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.” I am thrilled we can begin this tradition with our daughter, who is newly enchanted with books. Reading is a passion of our parents, of us, and it’s something we dearly hope Babywoods will inherit. I can’t think of a better way to tuck her into bed on December 24th.

My ornament taster
My ornament taster

I also grew up going to midnight mass–which was usually at more like 10:30pm. My parents would put me to bed in my Christmas dress and tights and then wake me up, bundle me into the car with my brother and sister, and off to church we’d go. It always felt magical since I was tiny and still half asleep. Fortunately, our church here has Christmas Eve service at the very reasonable time of 5pm, which is much more manageable in my opinion as a parent.

Deck The Halls

We use the same decorations year after year (it’s not like they’re going out of style anytime soon), which means our annual decorating budget is $0. Since we have an artificial tree, there was the initial start-up cost of the tree itself, but, we bought it six years ago and it’s still going strong. Plus, with a baby and a dog who both eat things off the floor, it’s nice not having dropped needles to contend with.

Merry Christmas from these frugal creatures
Merry Christmas from these frugal creatures

All the rest of our decor was either purchased on sale years ago or, better yet, was a hand-me-down from our families. I love having reminders of our childhoods sprinkled throughout the house.

The Best Part

The best part about our holiday is that it costs us very, very little. Greeting cards, gifts for our families, a donation to the angel tree at church, and groceries are the sum total of our expenditures. And while yes, it’s certainly more than if we skipped Christmas altogether, I’m a fan of all things in moderation.

By constructing our lives around the principles of extreme frugality, spending a tad more during the month of Christmas is no big deal. Celebrating Christmas within reason also makes our frugality tenable for the long term: we don’t deprive ourselves of the things we love, and we certainly don’t skip Christmas. Our frugality isn’t deferred spending–it’s not like next year we’ll have some sort of hugely expensive Christmas. Rather, our joyful, lifelong frugality ensures that we’ll always have precisely what we need without giving in to excess.

And now, I’d love to hear all about your traditions! What do you cook? Where do you go? How do you celebrate?

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  1. I always make sure to spend on my child’s teachers. I know they use their own money to supplement what is already in the classroom, and I love knowing that I can contribute to their holiday cheer with a nice letter and some cash. Otherwise, we do exactly what you to celebrate. No need for spending money when you have time slow down with your loved ones. Happy holidays! Here’s to frugality!

  2. This year my husband and I decided not to swap gifts with each other and it feels liberating. We went on a weekend trip together so that felt like a gift. Maybe we’ll make that a new December tradition. Also for the past two years, rather than purchase a $45-$60 dollar Christmas tree, we’ve cut down a tree from a young white pine stand on our property that needs thinning anyway. Some see a Charlie Brown style scraggly tree, but to us it couldn’t be more beautiful. Merry Christmas Frugalwoods!

  3. For us we spend Christmas eve and morning at home. My wife makes fish and lefse every year for dinner. We open some new pajamas she buys for the kidsand let them watch a christmas movie and eat cookies my wifr made a few weeks back before bed. In the morning the kids open gifts.

  4. Merry Christmas! Your photos are gorgeous. Thank you for letting us peek into the Frugalwoods home.

    My favorite way to save on the holidays and work in traditions is to use decorations that have been passed down. Right before my grandma died, she wanted us to have her Christmas tree (we didn’t have one). We gladly accepted a few more decorations, and now it’s such a perfect way to remember her and decorate on a dime! I also think it’s so smart to move things around to keep the decor fresh from year to year. Love your recipes. That’s another favorite part of the holiday for me!

    Cheers to you and happy 2017!

    1. Do you live near a Dillards Department store? They have a sale every Dec 26th and I think it’s 50% off of anything already marked down. The Xmas dresses and clothes are marked way down by then and then 50% off…they are so cheap! The downside is the crowds, but for those prices I’ll brave it 😉

    2. I have had great luck with Once Upon A Child, it’s a chain second hand store in the midwest, not sure if it’s in other parts of the country or not. I got my daughter patent leather stride-rite shoes for $8.50 (they looked a tiny bit scuffed but cleaned up great with some windex!) and her like-new fancy christmas dress for $6.50. She wore tights that still fit from last year, and we were good to go for holiday pictures and for the rest of the upcoming festivities!

      1. I will only buy my son clothes from Once upon a child. I’m just outside of Toronto, Canada and there are a few around here. Children grow so fast out of their clothes that you can get items that look brand new for a third of the price. And they pay cash to buy back any items that are still in good condition! It’s the only shopping (besides groceries) that I usually do and I love it 🙂

  5. Merry Christmas Frugalwoods!

    P.S. If you’d like to Christmas-ize your gin and tonic a little further, stir it with a sprig of rosemary! We have a rosemary plant so our rosemary is perpetually free and it really adds to the holiday “spirits” 🙂

  6. I love this ! My husband and I will be celebrating our third Christmas as marrieds, and we have talked about what traditions we want to practice, particularly when we start a family. This year, we went in search of a free, live Christmas tree to cut down. To no avail. The Lowe’s special was a purchase we wanted to avoid, but the fun was in the adventure of the attempt. We are not exchanging gifts. Instead, we will stuff stockings for each other with small, inexpensive or homemade items and enjoy a homemade brunch of baked french toast, quiche, mimosas, and coffee (of course). And our “gift” to one another will be a trip to Florida out of the Maryland cold in February. We also want to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” every Christmas Eve, beginning this year! We are looking forward to a cozy week off of work, fireside goal-setting, and the start to the Uber Frugal Challenge!

  7. I love being able to pick and choose which traditions we want. It’s nice to have lots of fun things as part of the holidays other than shopping and gifts. We celebrate St. Nicholas day, throw a gingerbread house making party, do crafts, and some special cooking. There are a few gifts, but it’s not 90% of the event.

  8. You’ve hit the nail on the head once again! I feel like some other frugality gurus can push the frugal mindset over the holidays to the point of being miserly. I love traditions and eating delicious food. More importantly, Babywood’s ginormous bow is absolutely adorable.

    My husband and I have slowly been convincing our families that no, we really don’t want anything. After a few years of insisting, my mom now gets us a few small gifts like socks and Amazon gift cards and a donation to charity instead of a living room overflowing with presents. Progress! And she still gets to scratch her shopping itch. We’re down to buying one secret Santa gift for my husband’s side of the family, and small gifts for my brother, mom, dad, and my dad’s wife. We buy experiential gifts to avoid waste, and my husband and I don’t get gifts for one another (though we do splurge on crab legs for our New Year’s Eve dinner).

    Our Christmas budget includes a live tree (I’m a sucker, but we get them for $30 from a farm down the road, so not too bad), a bit more groceries than usual (all that butter…), $20 for cards and postage, and $250 for gifts. All in all, I feel like it’s the right balance of festive, budget-friendly, and earth-friendly.

    The breakfast casserole looks delicious. Over here, I make triple ginger cookies, pecan rolls, and homemade bagels (my husband makes homemade lox with salmon he catches) every year. Tis the season! Merry Christmas 🙂

  9. Me and my daughter spend Christmas at my parents, she is just 2 so is still pretty bemused by the whole thing. I buy gifts for her and immediate family and my best friend but it’s pretty low key. I do lots of xmas baking , christmas cake, mince pies, cookies and truffles which is my contribution to the family meal ( although we don’t eat it all on the day, although I probably could) When you said you only bake cookies once a year is that just cookies or do you and Mr frugalwoods only eat desserts at xmas?

    1. I bake desserts during the year to take to potlucks, parties, and church, but I try not to have them hanging around the house, lest we eat them :). Christmas and Thanksgiving are our big dessert times!

  10. Thanks for those recipes! They look heavenly!

    Mr. Picky Pincher and I just moved into our first home, so we’re still trying to figure out our own Christmas traditions. We did put together a gingerbread house this year, which was so much fun! I’d love to continue doing that with our kids. Growing up I never built gingerbread houses, so this is super fun!

    I really like watching The Nightmare Before Christmas, Elf, and Muppet Christmas Carol (child of the 90s over here).

  11. Every year my brother and his wife and I meet up with friends at a restaurant for Christmas dinner(yes there are places open for dinner on Christmas day).A few years ago I told my brother and his wife that we should stop buying Christmas gifts for each other and the dinner out with friends was gift enough for me at Christmas.They agreed . Yes I spend a good chunk of money on Christmas dinner but the enjoyment of spending the day with my brother and his wife and friends is worth every penny.

    1. We decided not to give Babywoods any presents this year (either for her birthday or Christmas) because at 1, she really has no idea what’s going on. In future years, when she’s old enough to understand Christmas and Santa, we plan to do her gifts frugally–not many gifts and used gifts if at all possible. We also might adopt the “something I want, something I need, something to wear, and something to read” four gift strategy.

      1. We absolutely adopted this strategy. In fact, our babies got one or two items for their first and second birthdays and Christmases, maximum, and much of it was new-used, good quality toys. Honestly, it’s a waste of money.

  12. Our 20 year old fake tree finally gave up. I went to the local hardware/garden supply and got a large tomato cage, wrapped it in lights…BOOM! Christmas tree. It’s our new tradition!

  13. i love the in house reinhound and the baby is pretty cute, too. thanks for sharing your life with me all year long.

  14. Do you give any presents to Babywoods and did she get something for her birthday? And do your parents and in-laws give presents to your daughter?
    My husband and I don’t give each other presents, but we do give gifts to our children. However they only get very few gifts (3 each this Christmas), either something I made myself (like clothing) or we bought used.

    1. We decided not to give Babywoods any presents this year (either for her birthday or Christmas) because at 1, she really has no idea what’s going on. In future years, when she’s old enough to understand Christmas and Santa, we plan to do her gifts frugally–not many gifts and used gifts if at all possible. We also might adopt the “something I want, something I need, something to wear, and something to read” four gift strategy. Her grandparents do indeed buy her gifts, which we greatly appreciate, and we also appreciate that they ask us what she needs, so I do believe some books and shoes are heading her way :).

  15. This is the first Christmas that our young-adult children don’t live at home. I can’t wait to see them in a few days! We always go to my in-laws on Christmas Eve, and spend Christmas Day at home (my mom comes over). We don’t buy new decorations either. In fact, I’ve given our kids many of them to use in their new adult lives, so they can be frugal by not buying any, and enjoying things from their childhood.

  16. Do you do presents for Babywoods yet, or if not how do you plan to do that frugally in the future? I’m honestly not sure what’s the worst about the consumery-ness of Xmas…the cost or the added toy clutter :/

    1. We decided not to give Babywoods any presents this year because at 1, she really has no idea what’s going on. In future years, when she’s old enough to understand Christmas and Santa, we plan to do her gifts frugally–not many gifts and used gifts if at all possible. We also might adopt the “something I want, something I need, something to wear, and something to read” four gift strategy.

      1. Very smart…I’ve heard of that 4 gift strategy and I think it’s brilliant. Used gifts are brilliant too. The other day I saw a youtube video of a mom who went thrifting for her son for XMas and got him the most amazing stuff for I think $12 total. Really, what is the difference other than the fact that they are already out of the box (and that she saved about 95%)?

        I’m a pretty avid dumpster diver and some of the stuff I wrapped up the other day came from dives throughout the year. My kids know, and think it’s the coolest thing ever lol.

  17. Our commitment to curbing the craziness of consumerism around Christmas is the year we simply said ”no more Christmas stockings” (we have three kids), because although they were only ”small things”, they certainly added up, were cheap, generally not lasting items, and one year I looked at what had actually been spent on ”stocking stuffers” and it was a LOT. It had got completely out of hand. So now each child gets 2-3 gifts under the tree (the number is determined on the price of whatever is wanted. This year the eldest desperately wants a drone, these, even the ones for kids, aint cheap, so he gets that and one other thing and that’s it). We have started handing over a new pair of PJ’s on Christmas Eve, and there’s usually a special Christmas treat candy cane type thing for each of them, something they never normally get.

    For each other we get things that are kept within reason, sometimes they can be pricey but they are always properly useful items of value, long-wanted and used for a long time. Husband gave me my kindle one year for example. This year I am giving him an olive tree for our garden, something he’s always wanted. We are in Cape Town and it’s BOILING and in the middle of a drought, so this truly is the ideal plant and he will be delighted. We generally limit the number of gifts to 2-3 each, again, depending on price range. We try and avoid the ”little bits” that just add up so much and stick to quality items OR something specifically consumable, such as craft beer for him.

    Since it’s hot, we do the traditional dinner on Christmas Eve, and rotate between our house, a close family friend and my mom. The host does the bulk of the catering but delegates certain things out, and often there are one or two other guests joining. So it’s not cheap, but again, it’s a wonderful meal, hosted every 3rd year, with leftovers for days, and we enjoy it… BECAUSE it’s not every. single. year. This year the other family is bringing the starter and the crackers. One of the new guests is bringing some good cheese (cheese platter obligatory! Just a tiny one… I have a problem with cheese and can eat it literally forever). Someone else is bringing some good wine, my mom is contributing one of the desserts and will come early to help me prepare… so it is a cross between fully hosted and potluck. On the day, it’s just us (and my mom), eating left overs and a lavish breakfast (that casserole looks AMAZING), drinking gin and tonic (Mrs Frugalwoods, try steeping your gin in 250-300 gms dried apricots plus maybe a tablespoon of sugar for a few weeks, store in a dark place, stir every couple of days. OH MY. It is nectar. I reserved a few of the gin-soaked fruits when straining it and pop one in a tall glass with a measure of gin and a tonic and a block of ice, it is completely festive and elevates an already-yummy drink. Gorgeous. Cranberries might work well too if you were feeling festive… but it is a tiny bit late for this year. Nevertheless, start a batch and try it, it is totally worth doing.

    The day is just spent eating, sleeping, unwrapping presents and swimming, and being pleased we are back in Cape Town and counting our blessings, of which there are so many.

    1. Sounds wonderful! And I wish I’d taken your advice when you posted that gin recipe in the Facebook group! Alas, I shall just have plain gin 😉

      1. Love it ”alas, plain gin” such tragedy! I caught myself saying ”how will I find time to get my hair done and also go out for lunch, it’s SO busy” and then stopped and gave myself a mental slap hehe 🙂

    2. Not doing stockings is so smart. I think I spent more on “stocking stuffers” than on actual gifts…actually, I know I did. The stuff is not the most useful either. More toy clutter 🙁 I wonder at what age you can say “no more stockings” and get away with it. My 2 (8 and 10) would go crazy if I tried to do that right now.

      1. My kids’ stockings usually contain items they need. Usually new pencils and fancy erasers for school, new socks maybe new toothbrushes. We also give candy which always gets used. I hate to buy crap that just eventually gets thrown out.

  18. My wife and I are expats and we son’t have. Kids so Christmas is fairly quiet. But what I do is email our family friends and tell them that the best gift you can give us is something made by the kids. I love homemade drawings and such!

  19. I don’t go to any Christmas parties. Several years ago I had one particularly stressful Christmas season with all the Christmas parties that I felt I needed to go to and those that I felt I needed to go with my significant other to. Usually there was a gift exchange, so hunting for and buying an appropriate gift was a task. Usually it was a potluck, so finding the ingredients for and preparing some special dish was the task. Usually everybody got dressed to the hilt, so figuring out an appropriate outfit to wear was a task. Most of the gatherings included, in my opinion, a lot of people complaining about all the things they “had” to do for Christmas. Very often, there was a difference of opinion or argument of some kind that occurred which left a bad taste after the party. And usually the next day i was miserable as a result of having eaten and drunk too much. So the next year I just decided that there would be absolutely no Christmas parties that I would go to. No
    exceptions, so no one’s feelings would be hurt. I just started saying to people, “I’m a little weird, I don’t do Christmad parties.” That decision has served me well. 😄

  20. We make cookies or quick breads to exchange with our neighbors, a tradition that started 50 years ago when my parents moved to this neighborhood. Our Christmas meal has changed over the years. Now I have my children pick their favorite foods and I make them, which can make for an interesting mix. This year’s requests are nachos and cheese, cherry cheesecake, and scalloped corn. Lol. They would be happy with that all day. But I’m throwing in a ham and a salad too:) we plan to visit my sister midday on christmas, but mainly will stay home with my mom. This will be our last Christmas with relatives as we move in the spring, so a little bittersweet but also grateful for Christmases we have had together!

  21. Our traditions start third week of November. We go to a (faux) Bavarian village (Leavenworth for those in WA) the weekend before Thanksgiving since 3/4 of us have some serious sensory defensiveness. While there is most often little or no snow, there is also little to no crowds, but still plenty of holiday cheer and chilly weather to enjoy. The day after Thanksgiving we go to our local tree farm bright and early and cut down our tree, nearly always preferring the Fraser firs. In terms of live trees we’re paying a premium, over $100 when you include the donation I give to the Boy Scouts each January to haul the tree away. This is an uncharacteristic splurge, but one we’re happy paying for. I love having a tree that was grown and cut in my own community. It means each year we might be walking by up to 8 or 9 future trees in various states of growth! Of course we decorate the tree and the home that weekend, and I find putting lights on a live tree is more of a challenge than the plastic ones we used had. Once we are in December I try to bake 12 types of cookies within the first 12 days of December (this year I only got up to 11 and I just finished on the 19th). As the only sorta SAHM in all generations on both sides of the family my cookies are greatly anticipated by many! My children are 13 and 10, but they still enjoy decorating sugar cookies.. we just did ours last weekend. A few traditions that we’ve done yet this year is to visit holiday lights and the truly impressive gingerbread houses in the lobby of the Seattle Sheraton Hotel. Professional chefs compete for the best and visitors get to vote! I think this year’s theme is wizards… I’m just dying to see a gingerbread Hogwarts! We also have traditions in the actual week of Christmas.. The last couple years we’ve celebrated the solstice by taking a night walk in a Bonsai Museum, but this year we went to a potluck. Christmas Eve we share a meal and Christmas crackers (the British type) before going to mass that evening. I’m a professional animal caregiver so my schedule is pretty full and I don’t have much time for cooking. This year we are having slow cooker salsa verde chicken bowls, brown buttered sweet potatoes (both from Budget Bytes) and ginger cakes. Our traditions keep coming even after Christmas… my birthday falls between Christmas and New Years and I like to have afternoon tea. This year we’re going to a low key British food store with a a small dining room that offers a quaint afternoon, royal or high tea for less than a third of the price as the Fairmont. Notice how I got through that whole thing without talking about gifts? Cool, huh?

  22. The breakfast casserole is similar to one I make but mine also has chicken broth and cream of chicken soup, I believe. I live in the South now but I’m from Pennsylvania Dutch Country and love shoofly pie! Merry Christmas to you and your extended family. I love your blog! We have been frugal all of our married lives, compared to lots of people, but over the last few years I have learned just how much more frugal we could have been. The one thing that really stands out to me is when you have a monthly expense, you multiple it by how many months until a certain time (retirement, a certain age, etc.) and then you see how much money you are really wasting. Add interest into the mix and OUCH! lol

  23. In Ontario, we are allowed to cut down 1 christmas tree a year from Crown land. Luckily, we are surrounded by crown land, so this year for the first time we did this and got a really really great tree just for looking up on a map and stomping through the bush for a bit. Amazing.
    We don’t do gifts, except for our son and so far I’ve gotten him 3 books, and will likely get him a cool toy (though I better get moving on that!), and a few gift cards for people like his school bus driver. No family gift exchanges, nothing. His teacher doesn’t want gifts, they request books for the class or school library instead. it’s so freeing as we have less and less expenses each year!

  24. One of my favorite Christmas memories is cutting down our trees with my Dad. These weren’t just any trees. These were trees we planted on our rural property when I was a preschooler – hundreds of them. Dad would open a hole with a shovel. 3-year old me would hold the sapling in place while Dad closed the hole. And 10 years or so later, we had Christmas trees to cut down. Since Dad’s frugality could rival that of the Frugalwoods’, the saplings were free through some state program back in the 70’s. And my favorite memory was the year we saw tracks in the snow that indicated someone had cut down a tree and dragged it out, unbeknownst to us. Dads reaction? “Oh I would have let them have it anyway. It’s Christmas!”

  25. One of my favorite traditions is one I just started last year, when our daughter (2, then) was old enough to start understanding Christmas. For the entire month of December we’d do one special Christmas-y thing each day. Most of them are free: go for a walk to look at Christmas lights in our neighborhood, watch a Christmas movie. The rest are cheap: make Christmas cookies (spreads them out so we don’t end up with 800 cookies to eat at once), make hot chocolate or drink mulled cider. This year we’re combining them a bit more (go for that walk in the cold and then drink some cider–which is technically free since we picked and pressed the apples ourselves). It’s been a ton of fun and it spreads out the stuff so the kiddo is never overwhelmed.

    1. Love that idea! I am always angling to do Christmas stuff all month long anyway, so that sounds perfect 🙂

  26. Thanks to you sharing that you folks give each other experiences instead of gifts, we have a new tradition. My sister and I took our 93 year old mother to a free festival of trees. I must have wheeled her 5 miles! She absolutely loved it and said it was her favorite Christmas gift of the year. As we drove home through the country we drank coffee from our own thermos pump and sang our lungs out on Christmas carols.

    1. How wonderful of you to have wheeled her five miles, more or less. I am not elderly but am in a chair except for something like the distance from our living room to the bathroom. We priced an electric wheelchair and it was over $20,000! So, I have to be pushed and I feel embarrassed to ask someone to push me around something like the museum or a park. I would love the gift of someone pushing me around something like the festival of trees. Bless your thoughtfulness.

      1. If someone asks you – obviously someone appropriate – what you want for your birthday or special occasion, ask for this. I would love, if I had a friend who could use a bit of help of this sort (and believe me, it’s not a huge deal to anyone of normal strength, it’s so not-a-biggie that it wouldn’t even occur to them to offer!) for them to simply mention it. I hate to think of people being hampered and frustrated by not being able to go certain places. Have it up your sleeve as a response next time friends or family ask… I dare you 🙂

  27. I also cannot stay awake for movies! With Christmas movies as an exception. I just got my family favorite, A Muppet Family Christmas, from the library on VHS. Not sure what happened to our family copy,which was videotaped off of TV, and it’s hard to find and $95 on Amazon!

    We are trying to establish some family traditions of helping others during the advent season. This year we took the kids to visit nursing home residents. And my 5-year-old helped out with a local nonprofit’s “Christmas with Dignity” store.

  28. I’d like to suggest Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas as an addition to your Christmas movie collection. It doesn’t appear to be available on Netflix or Amazon Prime movies, but the DVD is $4 with prime shipping. It may also be available at your local library in their DVD collection or via Hoopla (our library offers this online content service to cardholders). Very sweet story with muppet otters and fun music.

    1. We love Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas in our house, too!
      And also A Child’s Christmas In Wales, with Denholm Elliot. Lovely rendition of the Dylan Thomas short story.

  29. In our home Christmas is a go big or go home type of ordeal. We have all the christmas movies, we go out for our clearance charlie brown christmas tree, we whip up some homemade treats, read the night before christmas, deck the halls, and we make room for charitable donations. Christmas was always a big deal in my family because my mom was obsessed with christmas. Christmas is my non-negotiable so it’s what we save up for all year to go all out on :).

  30. You seem to have tapped into a gold mine of hand-me-downs/great bargains for Babywoods; she is one of the most consistently charmingly attired children I’ve seen!

    1. She is indeed the very lucky beneficiary of many lovely hand-me-downs as she’s the youngest in a chain of girl cousins!

  31. Yes to all of the above! Christmas feels genuinely relaxed this year since we’ve simplified our gift giving and traditions. Our newest family tradition is a living tree that is currently sitting on our front porch decked out in ornaments, many of which were made by our 3 boys. It will come inside for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and then we will find a spot for it to remain throughout the year. Really looking forward to continuing this tradition through the years. Also, can’t wait for the chicken and dumplings my mom makes every Christmas Eve and the banana pudding I’ll make to accompany it. This is what my great-grandmother made each and every year. A cherished memory brought alive through my mom.

  32. Wishing you and your lovely family a very Merry Christmas!
    The last two Christmases has found us in transition. First, our house was on the market, last year and this year we are still in a rental house. We really thought we’d be in our new home this year, but, we’re not! I’m really looking forward to recreating our traditions in our new home!
    When our children were very young, I made an advent calendar wall quilt. Our son and daughter took turns each day with never an argument. When they were in their teens, I was lucky enough to find two more panels to make an advent calendar for each of them! Now, our grandsons are using their calendars.
    Our new home won’t have a fireplace, but, there will be a place for stockings to hang. As we celebrate Christmas at Thanksgiving, each person will have a stocking to hang and enjoy the contents!
    Our favorite foods have evolved to include some new recipes, and we are all looking forward to enjoying them next year.

  33. Merry Christmas! This is the 2nd time in our entire adult lives where we will stay in our own home again and not fly anywhere. We will happily celebrate holiday traditions at someone else’s house like our parents, but in general on our own we are not festive people at all. We don’t decorate, we don’t do gifts or a special meal, we don’t even do a tree (yet through family donations we have enough ornaments to do a legit tree – I just have no desire to) – but we will backcountry ski every day of our holiday vacation and spend time with each other and eat good food in general. I am so unfestive that I have not purchased any Christmas gifts for my nieces and nephews who all live out of state. I do plan to get them something by New Year’s though, just have no gumption!

  34. Thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures and the recipes. We have a natural tree adorned with decorations I bought at the dollar store 26 years ago. Our ornaments are red and gold and the wrath of Khan befell upon me when I had the audacity to add different colour ornaments a few years back. Khan being my son. We have our children over on the 24th and I make a traditional French Canadian dish called a Tourtière du Lac St-Jean. It’s basically meat and potatoes slow cooked in a beef broth wrapped in pie dough. It cooks for six hours and is delish. The only family members receiving gifts this year are Emma, our 22 month-old grandaughter and two small hostess gifts for my in-laws who will be receiving us on New Year’s Eve. We have rented a cottage for a week during Christmas and have invited our children and their significant others to join us for a week of relaxation and winter fun. This is our gift to our children. A beautiful and comfortable venue and time spent together. If we like the resort, we will make this into a family tradition. Merry Christmas and wishing you the very best fo 2017!

  35. Thank you for sharing. Hub is clergy &
    I am a teacher. With 4 kids, we were always extremely buy during the Advent & Christmas seasons. Our kids are grown & gone now & we have 8 grands (4 boys & 4 girls). Our son is clergy now & lives in another state. Like so many other couples our age, we learn they are way too busy to have time for us. Hub & I do 8 Shoeboxes every year in honor of our grandchildren, who have so much. So now it’s a quiet day @ home for the 2 of us. We still have stockings, a simple menu which varies from year to year. We don’t have a tree & our gifts are from the thrift shops. We do for others as we are able, & home made gifts (inexpensive) for our service providers. I applaud your commitment to frugality & although we’ve always been thrifty & modest, we wish we had started @ your age & taught our children better. We appreciate all that you do to lead by example & those who are trying to do better. Merry Christmas.

  36. I think this is wonderful! This is my ideal Christmas as well. I have been angling, for several years, to enjoy a Christmas without presents, and I have as yet been unable to successfully achieve such a wonderful outcome. Everyone in my family seems intent on not only showering my children with gifts (including their well-meaning father), but there is also much pressure from all around me to buy buy buy. I know that I am considered by most in my inner circle to be both a Grinch and rude for not desiring to partake in Christmas consumerism. I hope that your family has a wonderful Christmas and I am very excited for your upcoming Frugal month challenge!

  37. SO and I are doing handmade gifts only this year. We’ll se what I get but he’s getting an arrangement of air plants/cactuses for his desk. My immediate family has agreed to do this as well (though it’s what I’ve been doing for them for years anyways!). SO’s family all agreed to no presents at all, two of his siblings were aghast though, so they are just getting a gift for each other, so it all works out well in the end.

  38. I love this post. We spend Xmas eve with our extended family where we feast on fish and seafood. Originally, when I was a child it involves eating salted cod which was soaked for roughly a week prior. Now, we’ve added seafood to the menu as well. On Xmas day we usually have a large brunch around noon that includes your traditional breakfast foods.

  39. My husband and I don’t exchange gifts normally. A couple years he bought me a booklet of car washes, which was a great present. We don’t typically buy gifts for our daughters since grandparents have that well in hand. This year I did buy them Christmas pajamas and we purchased a metal tea set on Amazon. All the girls love to have tea and hot chocolate parties, but our porcelain set has lost a few pieces to some rough 19 month olds. We also didn’t get very festive this year (no tree) because previously mentioned 19 month old twins are not really humans, but monkeys in disguise. We try to get out and do the free Christmas events in our community. We listen to a lot of Pandora Christmas music, too.

  40. We always host Christmas & i have a large stash of mostly handmade decorations that we use every year.(thanks Mom!) We are always frugal however several years ago I was laid off suddenly around Thanksgiving. This left me with more time than money. Since I am kind of a Martha Stewart wanna be, I used this time to do a themed holiday. “Rustic” decorations have been quite popular so I decided on that as my theme, as I could make or gather everything I needed. I collected acorns, pine cones etc. Then made ornaments with grapefruits & oranges from our tress. I used canning jars filled with acorns for my candle holders, I had all the candles etc. I had left over burlap and made place mats and table runners.

    I had a great time doing all of this instead of worrying about getting a new job! My sister in law said” Martha Stewart” has nothing on you!

    I may have spent $20 on everything and the house looked awesome plus I ended up with some new hand made ornaments. Now I smile every time I unpack those rustic ornaments.

  41. We have some very simple Christmas traditions here at our place. As we live in Australia, we set up our table on the back verandah to escape the heat. Ham and roasted chicken, cooked the day before so that we can eat it cold, and a variety of salads also made here at home, will be for lunch. Family and friends who come for lunch contribute a dish or a salad which shares the cost of lunch around. I make the desserts here at home; always a cheesecake and a pavlova, topped with fresh, seasonal fruit. We have a beautiful Christmas tree and each year our boy helps to decorate it with the sweet ornaments he finds in the pockets of his advent calendar…it is simple, made of felt and used year after year. Many of the ornaments come from family and many were given to me as gifts by the beautiful children I taught over many years. There are gifts given and received but not too many as for us, Christmas is not about excesses, it’s about being with the people we love and raising a toast together over lunch as is a tradition in my husband’s family. Our gentle, old dog, Sir Steve, joins in all this celebrating. My boy dresses him in gimicky reindeer antlers for the day and he gets some of that roasted chicken at lunchtime too. His joy knows no bounds!

  42. When our kids were little, we held a similarly simple Christmas.. ‘reclaimed’ toys and awesome hand me downs, time with family (sometimes near, sometimes travel), church. We spouses did not exchange gifts most years, although once we had “$10 and under, must be from the drugstore” contest for a good laugh! As the kids have gotten older and we’ve gotten to “baby step 6” (which we are still working on), it’s been fun to give them some things they want. We don’t buy them much during the year other than modest birthday presents, and they don’t ask. We save each month in a Christmas fund so we have a decent cash budget for gifts, a real tree (some years, some we use our artificial), cards and then we add in things they need anyway to make the pile bigger (soap, toothbrushes, etc). Our thought is that Santa is only magical for a few years so it’s fun to make wishes come true! Once they know for sure the magic is us, we’ll dial it back to experience gifts and one or two to open.

    The last few years we’ve added a winter hike after presents are opened so that we balance out the madness and feel good spending the rest of the day eating whatever yummy vittles we dream up and hanging in our PJs! Like yours, our menu on Christmas day varies those years we are home … one year it was “appetizers all day,” this year a leg of lamb.

    Merry Christmas!

    Merry Christmas!

  43. Merry Christmas FrugalWoods! I loved reading about your family traditions.

    Our family doesn’t have nearly that many traditions, but we do love to eat good food during the holidays. Some years we splurge on prime-rib, or some years we eat dungeness crab.

    Like you we practice a frugal holiday — even our tree was free!

  44. Ugh, A Christmas Story?!? Swap it out of the rotation. Muppet Christmas Carol is the best holiday movie. (I am glad to see Home Alone in your rotation though as it is second best.)

    We also celebrate Festivus with our friends every year on Dec 23. A very frugal tradition since you only need an aluminum pole!

  45. Breakfast casserole sounds yummy. Adult step kids are stopping Christmas Eve morning & this will be served. Thanks and Merry Merry Christmas to the Frugalwoods Family!

  46. I am happily celebrating my first year with new traditions. A new church, new home, new fiancé, new-to-me Christmas decor, given to me FREE by my mom who was changing hers & lots of new cookie recipes. We are making homemade gifts this year, donating and cherishing experiences over stuff. Thanks for sharing those yummy recipes!

    Cari in NH

  47. Although we celebrate Christmas, it is as equally important for our family to celebrate the Epiphany (the revelation of the Messiah to mankind through the The Three Wise Men) on January 6th, each year. Children put hay in a box for the Wise Men camels to eat and in return, children receive a gift from the Magi. The Epiphany culminates the Christmas season in Latino culture

  48. Awesome traditions! With a 2 year old we’re also loving the joy of this season and watching him learn all about the traditions. We’ve already watched my favorite holiday movie… Home Alone. We splurged this season to buy 3 plane tickets to visit family. We used mainly points and covered the balance, but well worth it to see family.

  49. Not a Christmas tradition but have you signed Babywoods up for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library ? It’s a “FREE” book program that will send you a free book every month from birth to age 5 !!!! Just Google it and sign up in your local area. Happy Reading.

    1. What a great program! I just checked and our area is not eligible, but I’m so glad to know it exists :)!

    2. oh, yes, we love that! We donate money back to our local United Way (local sponsor of the program) because we are not the target audience of in-poverty families. But we love the assortment of books, and we pass on the few that we haven’t loved. So many of those have become favorites in our rotation.

      We also love the library, period, for letting us check out all sorts of books and then let them go back into the world again to be loved. Not every book is a hit with us.

  50. The best part of my Christmas tradition is I bake 200 cookies to donate to the homeless shelter.
    They don’t otherwise get homemade treats so it’s nice to be able to give them something from home they wouldn’t otherwise have.

  51. Nice! My three boys are getting excited for Christmas, although the 1 year old is still trying to figure out what’s going on. For decorations we also go for the artificial tree (17 years old and still going strong!) along with decorations we’ve had forever. It’s amazing how many people will give you decorations, and how much you can find at tag sales. We do sometimes need to pick up new ornaments as old ones break, but typically don’t spend anything on Christmas decorating.

    This year we’re planning to make gifts to friends of my homemade strawberry jelly, made from strawberries we picked over the summer, in addition to some baked goods. I’m hoping to be off work starting today and taking that opportunity to start baking. Yum!

  52. My partner and I have a deal: We won’t give each other gifts unless a stirring tale of thrift is attached. Single gift = OK.

    I admit I like to treat my daughter and son-in-law and also my dad, a niece, several nephews, a sister, a brother, and my best friend. But I do it all frugally: cashing in gift cards for shopping (or to give outright) from rewards programs, watching clearance bins, redeeming credit at the used-books store, and poking around in thrift shops and at yard sales. This year I will have spent about $30 out of pocket.

    A friend gave me a buddy pass (her husband works for an airline) and this year I’ll be going to Phoenix on Christmas Day to visit my daughter and son-in-law. Total round-trip cost will be $174. That’s a gift I’m giving myself: Life is too short to see your kid only at the Financial Blogger Conference. 😉

  53. Traditionally we would go to my Mom’s for Christmas Eve and spend the night and then all go to my brother’s (close by) for Christmas Day brunch. Christmas Eve is all about family – we’d exchange gifts from family to family. (Christmas Day gifts were from Santa.) We would not have a dinner but an excessive array of appetizers/cookies that we would munch on throughout the night while drinking spiked egg nog, wine, and mixed drinks. We would follow that up with midnight mass but that sort of morphed into 5 O’clock mass – drink responsibly! Tradition would include Grandmothers homemade fudge and pickled herring – quite a combination! Breakfast brunch would include homemade rolls, kuchen (coffee cake – the same dough as the rolls with a crumbled sugar topping), and “potato sausage” made by my father – two recipes carried down from generations. I have “veganized” grandmother’s roll recipe as my husband, brother in law and sister now all eat plant based diets. The “potato sausage” is a little bit more difficult as its main ingredient is leaf lard. All that is now out the window, however, because my husband and I migrate south for the winter, leaving on Thanksgiving Day (easy traffic). Seems extravagant but compare rent with heating bills (we completely shut our house down) and it’s pretty even. I just mailed two boxes to my Mom’s for Christmas Eve. We tend to give at least one “gag” gift, include a candy cane (something my grandmother did), and use an unbelievable amount of tape to wrap so the gift is difficult to open. I hope to fly up to my Mother’s (maybe next year – I should make that an affirmation) and surprise all for Christmas! Thank you for bringing up these wonderful memories and traditions.

  54. We get a live tree, as my husband would hate an artificial one, but we sometimes have cut it for free, sometimes have bought a tree, and sometimes have bought a potted tree that we later planted in the yard. Our tradition, started by my mother, was to have a special breakfast on Christmas morning, and open the presents after breakfast. I’ve added attending the late Christmas Eve service on Christmas Eve, although we’ve had to modify that now that we have young grandkids, and go to a slightly earlier service. We never overloaded the kids with gifts, and their first Christmas gifts were always something extremely modest, like a baby rattle. Our kids and grandkids gather at our house on Christmas morning to open gifts, we have a big cooperative lunch together, then our kids and grandkids take off to visit the in-laws and friends. My and my husband’s parents have passed on and we don’t live near siblings, so there is a no other family for my husband and I to visit, meaning we can just stay home. Sometimes the kids will be back together with us for leftovers that evening, sometimes not, but the afternoon and evening are usually quiet and peaceful. We strive to keep the spiritual aspect as the most important part of our holiday, and not going to a bunch of parties, going nuts with gifts, decorating everything in a 100 yard radius of our tree, and getting stressed out over money, helps us to do that.

  55. First time comment. I love your blog. We are driving home to Fort McMurray, Alberta after having spent time with family. I’m happily reading all the Christmas tradition comments. A frugal tip I have is to tie a ribbon around little trinkets that you want to keep but aren’t necessarily sure what to do with. Hang them on your tree every year. We got married on New Years Eve years ago and we received a New Years noisemaker from the 1950’s (a small bell with the year engraved) but I wasn’t sure what to do with it so every year now, I hang it on our tree. We also have a kid sized whisk, a pewter shark, a broken necklace, a stuffed animal etc. Excited to do the Uber frugal challenge in January. Thanks for writing, you do it so well. A gift to us, so thanks!

  56. For my niece, 1 month younger than Babywoods, she gets a classic children’s book that are vintage pre 1960. They take some hunting, but so far she has a nice collection and I have only spent about $10. For Christmas she is getting Robin Hood and a book her mother and I grew up reading. Kids get bored of toys, grow out of clothes etc, so my plan is that when she turns 18 she will have a wonderful library of classic books.
    My family doesn’t buy gifts for each other. However, this year my Mother is helping me organize and declutter my apartment. I couldn’t have asked for a better present. At work today everyone had to go around and say what they wanted for Christmas/Hanukkah. I got a lot of weird looks when I said “nothing”, then finally when pressed answered “wool socks or beeswax candles”lol

  57. Great blog post, and keep the recipes coming! I have cut way, way back on gifting. This year, family and friends got a few nice things. I have also cut back on what friends I gift. Christmas should be about family, friends, and celebrating-in the best possible way. Nothing says joy over the birth of the Messiah like going into credit card debt, $3000 or more! So, the spaniels have been bathed, put on some jingle bells, and visited an assisted living home. We also visited several elderly neighbors. Nothing like 2 wigglebutts who love food to put smiles on faces! I face the new year with no extra credit card bills, less stress, and looking forward to a wonderful future. My fake tree is beautiful, several years old, pink, and needs nothing but plugged in to get the lights going. It was a $10 steal from Kohl’s and is just gorgeous.
    Books are the best gift ever! I am eternally grateful that my mother made reading and books of all kinds, important in my life.
    Merry Christmas!

  58. This is such a great post and so interesting to hear what everyone does. This year my partner and I decided not to give each other gifts, we really don’t need or want anything, and instead spend that money on buying toys for a charity that serves families who would otherwise have nothing. The best part of this is that on hearing what we are doing my husbands family also decided to participate and instead of buying us gifts have bought gifts for the charity. I am going to broach this with my family next year as we send gifts to each other from one side of the world to the other and the postage costs alone will make a difference to one families Christmas. We both feel so good about this that it isn’t really a gift to us. On Christmassy day we will spend time together, go for a long walk in the countryside with our dog and eat some nice food.

  59. Love, Actually! I can’t even hear “God only knows what I’d do without…” before I’m bawling. Every. Year. More than once, because I’m a sap. We only gifted inside our nuclear home with 1 thing this year, our kids are ballet nuts (weird, I know) and the nearest ballet is finally doing Swan Lake again in the spring so we got tickets. Not cheap but soooo worth them getting to see it in person. : ) They loved the Nutcracker last year.
    Merry Christmas!

  60. One year, at a family gathering, I proudly announced that “I chose sanity over cookies this year!” My one brother was shocked and said, “Well, it’s just not Christmas without Mom’s Russian Tea cookies!” He was so let down!
    That prompted me to take a big survey about what traditions were meaningful to each person. WOW! I found many things I did out of just plain ol’ tradition meant nothing or very little to others and few were interested in helping do things in prep!

    So, I cut out a LOT of things and now only decorate for “winter” with greens, white lights, candles, pine cones, moss, small pots of pachysandra or ivy, branches of berries or branches sprayed white, candles, etc.
    That way I can put it up in the fall and leave it until early spring! Nothing that screams “Christmas”

    I had gradually downsized our traditions and decor and trust me, it is SO much more SANE, let alone frugal!
    When we told relatives we were cutting out gift giving we found most were also happy as they were trying to cut costs too and could not really afford the gifts but didn’t want to say so!

    Before that, when our kids were young, we gave them store catalogs n newspaper ads for toys in October-early Nov. and told them we would spend $_.00 of dollars total for each child. (It was a low amount as we were trying to get out of debt and didn’t have much $.) THEY picked out various things they wanted…and kept changing their minds along the way. : ) It was fun to see them make discoveries about the realities of life!
    They could pick one big gift or 20 tiny, cheap ones, it was their choice! They learned more about how much things cost, made decisions and had to learn a bit about adding or subtracting!
    When Christmas day came they REALLY enjoyed their gift/gifts and were totally happy! We also had them give away gifts to needy kids before Christmas day came.

    One year, I made hand made wreaths for every family. The next year, everyone got a special picture frame.
    Or sew a tote bag for a family or make beach towels with their names on them. Sometimes a ‘family’ gift can be a lot easier to do and cheaper in the long run.

    When we were still giving gifts thinking of things to give elders was a problem b/c most really had what they wanted by then. We started giving newspaper subscriptions, car washes, hair appointment $, dinner out coupon, or a paid event to something and everyone seemed to enjoy saving their own $ for things they wanted anyway.

    OR give a gift of a water well or an animal to someone in need in a foreign country in the recipient’s name. That gift will keep on giving and help them do better for themselves.

    My hubby (of 50+yrs now) and I have also quit giving gifts as it seems most folks have plenty or too much already! Most want the gift of peace and serenity and love from others, if the truth be told!

    We’ve NEVER regretted our choices! We both like saving the $ and I LOVE being a lot less stressed, too! And most of all, we focus on our love for each other, the family and friends we have and our personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ!
    Blessings to you all and thanks for your thoughts!

    1. Thanks for this post, Lynnie. So many great ideas and wise words to live by, esp. liked: ” And most of all, we focus on our love for each other, the family and friends we have and our personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ!” Blessings to you and your family.

  61. We pretty much do what you do now that our children are grown. Nice to know we aren’t the only ones who “frugalize” Christmas. On another note, I have been anxiously awaiting your review of your dehydrator as that is one purchase I have contemplated for a long time but wondered if it was all it was cracked up to be.

  62. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Frugalwoods!! Thank you for sharing the gift of your guidance, suggestions and thoughts in lively, informative beautifully written posts. You make the world a better place!

  63. I’m typing this on my way to our family Christmas gathering and feeling like a total contrarian. Our car is loaded with gifts for everyone. With the exception of a pound of premuun coffee, nothing was over $10, and most of it way, way less. I volunteer at our library’s book sales and keep an eye out for gifts all year long. I store them in a box and review my stash in early November to see if I need to fill any gaps. The gift bags also contain homemade toffee, caramel and jam that I made with gleaned and sale-purchased ingredients. All the kids get 2-for-1 lift ticket coupons that I got free when I volunteered at an event recently. To me gift giving is kind of a treasure hunt and a way to say I care without spending a ton of dough. DH and I only exchange gifts occasionally but usually just take a get away together over New Year’s. I hosted an impromptu Christmas dinner for 10 on the 23rd and only needed to buy a turkey. Scored two and deep fried them. The second one is in the cooler to be shared at today’s open house at my brother’s. Finally, we hosted a neighborhood food drive last week. We collected 400 lbs. of nonperishibles and wrote a check for 1,000 lbs. of fresh food. Delivered everything to the Food Bank yesterday, which felt great.
    Merry Christmas to all!

  64. This year the wife and I decided to only get small stocking stuffers for one another and that was just fine. The reality is that there is nothing we really need. We are extremely fortunate, and if we do need something, we simply go out and get it. Plus, we’ve found that for the most part, while we have white collar salaries, we have very blue collar tastes. It works out.

    Of course – the rest of the family is often not on board with taking it easy at Christmas time – but oh well. Maybe next year we’ll get them there…

  65. I thought we’d agreed on no gifts last year, but we always bring food items to my sister-in-law’s house, so we got some things we didn’t count on. At least this year it ramped down a bit further, though my SIL gave us a restaurant gift card, and our recently-graduated-from-college daughter got a couple of things.

    Some churches have after-Christmas bazaars where they sell decorations that people have donated. Most of the things will be in perfect or near-perfect condition, and donated by people changing their decorations up, downsizing to a smaller home, or giving away unwanted gifts. And if it is your church, they can always use the fundraiser.

    I love the pictures of the original recipes. My mother-in-law wrote hers in spiral notebooks. My SIL made recipe notebooks with the ones she made most often, printed and in sheet protectors, and gave those a couple of years ago to her daughter, me and her other brother’s wife. I’ve still kept my hand-copied versions of her recipes, though.

  66. This year I decided to cut back on buying gifts. I gave the children in the family a gift but not the adults. I gave a donation to a local hospital where I was treated for cancer. We spent the day with our family, it all went well. So, why do I feel bad? Not giving a gift to my family has made me feel very sad. I feel as though I have neglected them in some way. I don’t know how to explain it.

    1. Donna, trust me when I say that just having you with them at Christmas was the best Christmas gift you could have given them! We give to grandchildren and grandnieces, but for the adults we do an exchange of a $15 gift. We play a game to see who picks next. The only reason that we exchange at all is that my mil had a fit when we all decided to not exchange at all. Christmas isn’t about the gifts, it’s about love and family. Don’t be sad, you neglected no one!

  67. I made your breakfast casserole and it was delicious! I did however vegetarianize it by subbing seitan for the sausage. Thank you so much and I plan on making it again next Christmas!

  68. So this Christmas we didn’t send gifts to our loved ones. Instead, we’ve decided to go on a trip which feels more like an awesome gift. I may completely avoid gifting in the upcoming years (which I really don’t want to do) but doing something unique and different will always become a remarkable memory. I wish you all merry Christmas, have a good time with your friends/family members etc. By the way, thanks for sharing such an useful article with us brother!

  69. When my littles were little, they received one gift. A fabulous Lego toy. And it continued that way for years. My aunt thought that I had some nerve of only giving the kids a single gift. And let me know her thoughts. I didn’t feel sad or upset as I knew that they were too young to realize what the holiday was about. To this day, the kids (much older now) receive mostly practical items with something fun thrown in. Being a frugal opportunist, the gifts are purchased with rewards points from CC’s, drugstore programs, swagbucks and a few lucky finds that I stumbled across (I tried to make an online purchase and the website was down. So I contacted the retailer and was given a $50 gift card for free and free shipping!). My frugal shopping can be anywhere from $0 to $75 for 7 people. Sometimes, I do make calendars with the past year’s photos and buy items that are not budgeted for, but those items do not put a damper in my bank account.

    Throughout the year, we donate our time to the homeless and less fortunate. We try to spend some time together as a family and make home cooked foods daily. We only exchange gifts for birthdays and Christmas. My husband and I usually do not exchange gifts at this point in our lives as we have “enough.”

    I enjoy your blog and ideas, recipes and family photos. Bless you and your family!

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