Christmas on a Budget
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In times like these, when almost everyone is affected by cutbacks and shortages, necessity can spark creativity we don't even know we have. By the end of one particularly tough year, we found ourselves in a crisis that forced us to take a good hard look at our budget. We had never been in a position to afford "indulgences," but now it seemed we would have to find another way of doing some of the things we considered "necessary."
Christmas had always been somewhat of a challenge with six children in the house. Utility bills and rent don't take a holiday so they had to be paid first. And, even though it would be expensive, the holiday baking had to be done! What kind of Christmas would it be without mounds of chocolate chip cookies, and the wonderful smell of fruitcakes baking? And what about the fun of decorating the sugar cookies with all the little silver beads, sugar sprinkles, and the bright red and green icings? No, we had to do the baking! Still, there had to be a way to make things special and still keep the expenses to a minimum!
The next morning as I read my Bible, the scripture in Philippians 4:19 seemed to leap out at me. "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." I prayed for the Lord to give me some new creative ideas and for wisdom in handling the little bit of money I had. God is so good! I came up with ideas that were not only practical, but fun too.
I told the children we were going to have an "old fashioned" Christmas! All gifts were to be made; bought from second hand shops; or picked up at garage sales. Each one was to spend more time on the gifts than they did money. They resisted the idea at first. But as we began to put the plan into action, they soon were caught up in the excitement of preparing for the big day.
For the next couple of weeks we would get together early Saturday morning and pray for the Lord to direct us to the right places and to provide special things for each one. We headed out with a list of addresses we had gathered from the garage and yard sale ads in the paper.
They were soon whispering and hiding little treasures as we went from place to place. I was amazed at the great bargains they discovered. At times the excitement was almost too much for them and they nearly blurted out what they had found!
They smuggled the bags into the house with such enthusiasm. Because they were not out in the regular stores shopping, they were able to concentrate on buying for others. The children were not distracted by their own desires for the so-called "hot" items of the season.
Every area of the house that could be used as a workplace was occupied. Orders were given to "stay out!" No peeking allowed while projects were worked on!
Everyone was busy! A second-hand wagon received a coat of metallic blue paint. It looked like new! Two cradles were getting little handmade quilts, pillows, and mattress pads. Small plastic refrigerator dishes were transformed into fancy containers for everything from crayons to jewelry. Bits of lace and ribbon added to ordinary pictures changed them into personal works of art.
We looked for a Christmas tree on a friend's farm. It was much more fun than the usual trip to the local shopping center. The selection was not as good, of course, but the country setting added so much more to the holiday spirit. (And it was free!)
Everyone worked at putting up the tree and making decorations out of the remnants from all the Christmas projects. The most ordinary things were transformed into delightful ornaments for the tree. Each was a special creation not just something picked up from a department store shelf.
On Christmas Eve, we added the strings of popcorn to the tree, putting the final touch to our old-fashioned Christmas. The children stood back to look at it and their faces beamed! Everyone thought it was the prettiest tree they had ever seen!
Christmas morning finally came and the kids came rushing in to wake me at "daylight-thirty." The presents I had for them had been put under the tree after they went to bed. Some were not wrapped because of their size and were clearly visible as soon as you walked in the room.
I was amazed when they rushed to get the presents they made for each other and passed them out first! They were eager to see the reactions to those gifts. They were so excited as they told how and where they found the special gifts for everyone. The creativity and thoughtfulness of each gift was overwhelming. Not only did their selections for each one express their love, the choices showed how each one took the time to find out the special interests and desires of the others. What a special blessing that Christmas was. How abundantly God had answered our prayers!
Our financial situation has improved, but the children still talk about our "old-fashioned Christmas." We never experienced a Christmas with more love or Christmas spirit. We started out as victims of a recession, but we ended up as the recipients of a blessing! Great memories!
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