What to Do When You’re Broke at Christmastime
Nothing is worse than when Christmas rolls around again and you’re strapped. We’ve all been there. Every movie shows heaps of presents under the tree. Commercials convey the heavy-handed message that love isn’t love unless it is accompanied by a diamond ring or a new car. Storefront windows and displays depict winter wonderlands and advertise tiny gifts with huge price tags. I have found myself channeling Cindy Lou Who and wondering, “Where are you Christmas? Why Can’t I find you?” Because, despite your beliefs…
“Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.”
I’m not usually strapped for cash anymore at Christmastime, thankfully, but it wasn’t so long ago that I can’t relate to people who find themselves searching the couch cushions for any bit of extra cash they can find to buy their mom a gift. So I came up with a few suggestions for those of you who find yourselves broke this holiday season. These are some ideas that will help the season still feel festive, despite your precarious financial situation.
7 Ways to Have a Great Christmas…Even if You’re Broke
1. DON’T MAKE THINGS WORSE: Resolve to refrain from going deep (or deeper) into debt over the holiday. Plan to be better off next year. That’s great. But for now, look at things honestly. It is what it is, and you don’t need to put on a show for the people who are supposed to love you anyway. Just be honest with yourself and your family and friends. Let them know you don’t have a lot this year. Tell them it’s fine if they go easy on the gift-giving, too, or even forgo it this year. That way you won’t feel strange about receiving a bunch of gifts when you can’t give them. If possible, set a small budget and challenge yourself to use that stipend to make this Christmas as meaningful as possible. Believe it or not, sometimes these types of restrictions end up being fun because you have to put a lot of thought into each purchase. In doing so, you find the gifts to be meaningful.
2. MAKE SOME QUICK CASH: You’ll probably end up needing some money, even if you cut your list down to the bare necessities (your mom better have made the cut!). So how can you make “quick cash?” Well, let’s roll up our sleeves and see…First, do you have anything you can sell? Even for pennies? Some examples are name-brand clothes you can drop off at Plato’s Closet or other upscale consignment shops, used instruments, furniture (even beat up dressers, desks, and chairs), appliances (think dorm fridges) you can sell on Craigslist, and jewelry. If you have anything gold, even if it’s in bad shape, there are numerous Cash for Gold stores in every city. You won’t get much, but at this point anything will help, right? Next, can you do any babysitting? Even if it’s once or twice, that would give you $50-100 to stretch this Christmas. Depending on where you shop, that could cross nearly everyone off your list. Finally, many retailers are hiring seasonal employees. If you just can’t get a job right now, don’t worry. I have some more ideas. Keep reading!
3. GET CREATIVE: Make a gift like homemade fudge (about $13 which would provide quality gifts to at least 2-3 people), a simple boxed cake (add a Dollar Tree poinsettia to the finished product to make it look Christmasey), or chocolate dipped pretzels, which couldn’t be easier…or cheaper! Not a baker? Write a poem and frame it with a Dollar Tree picture frame. Not a writer? Copy a Robert Frost poem (by hand) and frame it. The receiver, regardless of who it is, will be super impressed. I promise! Like I said, get creative! Sing a song dedicated to your loved one, if that’s your thing. Knit a hat. Write a sappy letter telling the recipient what he or she means to you. Make a coupon book where you offer services like babysitting, car washing, dog walking, dishes, laundry, a homecooked meal, etc. There is always something thoughtful you can do that will mean so much more than a cheap gift they’ll forget by Easter.
4. GIVE THE GIFT OF TIME: 2020 has been the strangest year anyone alive has ever experienced. It’s been really bad in a lot of ways. Many people are minus a loved one or two (or more) this Christmas. Don’t wait until tragedy strikes to spend time with the people you care about. If you’re really, truly broke and can’t afford anything, your time is free. Put down your phone. Go on a social media “fast.” Go watch cheesy holiday films with your brother. Make your sister pancakes and then go build a snowman like you did when you were kids. Ask your mom to cook your favorite meal and then sit at the table and have a great conversation. Do I sound trite? I don’t care. In fact, if I do sound cheesy, then good! Maybe we all need cheesy right now.
5. SUGGEST A DRAWING: Suggest a name drawing in your family this Christmas. Encourage Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, and everyone else to throw their names in, too. That way you can have way less people on your list. You’ll also be taking the pressure off of everyone else who may be embarrassed to say they’re a little strapped this year, too.
6. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE BARGAIN STORES: Have you been in a Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Five Below, or in the Dollar Spot section of Target lately? You’d be surprised at what great, thoughtful gifts they have. Trust me! I shop there even though I don’t really have to anymore. Their stuff is cool and why pay more just because you can?
7. RESCHEDULE: I don’t recommend this one and I’ll tell you why, but I’m including it as an option just in case you’re backed into a corner here. Why I think it’s a bad idea: Like I said earlier, you never know when it’s someone’s last Christmas. Why put off seeing the people you love when togetherness is exactly what we all need in 2020? Also, they love you for who you are, not what you bought them. Why you might opt to put a get-together off till later: Well, it is a pandemic and some people are immunocompromised (older relatives, people with cancer, diabetes, etc.) so maybe you shouldn’t get together with them for now. But again, I wouldn’t do it just because of money. Only refrain from seeing your loved ones if safety is a concern.
Merry Christmas, everyone! Remember, it’s not about the stack of (probably useless) gifts under the tree that matters. There are starving children all over the world who will never know what it is to receive a gift. There are people lying in overcrowded hospital wards fighting for every breath this December because of a senseless virus. There is a lot of tragedy out there. So take a step back, think of ways to make Christmas memorable under whatever circumstances you find yourself in, and be grateful you have this relatively minor problem when so many people have it worse.