My Minimalist Christmas

The first picture I took with my first DSLR Camera

Christmas is approaching. I tried to ignore it, but when I set foot outside for a run yesterday and realized it was only a few degrees above freezing, I really couldn’t put off the fact that Christmas is on it’s way, slowly and steadily.

As much as I love Christmas, I don’t love the extravagant expenses that come along with it.

It’s really easy to get swept up in the consumerism of Christmas. Whether your thing is buying amazing decorations, or hunting for the perfect gift for every single person you know, there’s literally something for everyone when it comes to Christmas and consumerism.

Just the other day I was looking around online for some Christmas decorations and I found bacon flavored Candy Kanes.

Really, REALLY?

I can’t deny it though, my initial reaction was not one of disdain and mild disgust. It was “Cool! Those would be totally perfect for (Insert Name of Relative Here)!”

That’s the problem with Christmas. As much as I try to be smart and have a budget, there’s just too much good stuff out there to pass up. It seems like everywhere I go or browse on line, I see something that either I a) want for a decoration for my house or b) think would be absolutely perfect as a gift for someone I know.

My cat Mia a few Christmas’s ago.

This urge to go all Christmasy is conflicting with my minimalist tendencies. Normally, less is more for me. Besides upgrading my wardrobe and my home furnishings (both of which are still stuck in the university era) I don’t tend to shop much.

So what’s a frugal minimalist to do? Well, I don’t want to deny myself the joys of Christmas, since I do love this holiday. That said, I’m going to try and engage in activities that have less to do with the consumerist side of things, and more to do with the festive, family and charity oriented side.

Minimalist Ways to Celebrate Christmas

Bake gingerbread cookies
My sisters and I did this last year. The gingerbread men turned out, the icing, however, made them appear to have been grisely murdered rather than festively decorated. I think scheduling attempt number two this year would be a fun way to get together.

Trim the Tree
This year will be the first year that I get to have a Christmas tree of my very own. Last year I lived in a creative living situation, and before that, I was at University and would come home for the Holidays. I’m really, really excited to have my own tree.

As much as I’d love to go out and buy everything that caught my eye, I can’t. I’m still on a strict debt repayment schedule and money is tighter than ever now that my fiancé’s business is slowing down for the year. That said, I’ve already started saving for Christmas, so I should be well funded to buy a few decorations and presents for the people close to me.

Hand Make Decorations
My fiancé’s step mother is amazing at making Christmas wreaths, and I’m thinking there must be lots of ways to DIY Christmas decorations. Not only will it be a fun activity, it’ll save me money. That’s a win-win in my book.

Donate to Charity
I plan on gathering up a bunch of clothing to donate to local charities this year. I haven’t cleaned out my closet in a long time, so there’s no time like the present.

 Remembering What Christmas is All About

I’m not going to go all “peace on earth, good will towards men” on you. In fact, I don’t participate in the religious aspect of this holiday, so there’s a whole other dimension of Christmas that doesn’t apply to me. That said, I think that Christmas should be about spending time with family and friends, and appreciating that beyond the freezing temperatures, the expense, and the stress that comes with attending four family events in 24 hours (I have a big family) I’m lucky to have these people to gather close and celebrate with.

In my ideal life, I’d be celebrating with these people in my brand new house with all brand new Christmas decorations and enough alcohol to get a horse drunk. This is my alternate life though, and I’ll take Christmas in my little four hundred square foot house, with my DIYed Christmas decorations, a few presents under the tree, and my young little family, and I’ll have fun just the same.

What’re you doing to keep the expense of Christmas at a manageable level? I want to know!

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  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    Good post. I think I’d have to pass up the bacon flavored candy canes. Althought I think my Dad would love them. We overcome this by having a Christmas budget and sticking to it. We pull out cash each month for it and use our credit card to earn the rewards and then pay it off.

    • Jordann

      Being prepared is definitely the best way to avoid the Christmas crunch. Also, if candy kanes aren’t your thing, they also had bacon flavored lollipops and mints. :)

  • Plunged in Debt

    It`s so easy to get caught up in the insanity of it all. My favorite things are baking with my sister and decorating the tree. Christmas is forced at a manageable level because we simply have no money!

    • Jordann

      That’s good that you don’t turn to credit cards to make up for the difference.

  • Michelle

    We spend a lot of Christmas. It’s something that we REALLY enjoy. I am obsessed with it. It’s not the presents that I am obsessed with, it’s the decorations and the holiday mood (and I’m not religious at all by the way).

    • Jordann

      Me too, I love pinterest around this time of year, helps me satisfy my Christmas cravings without spending money.

  • Emily @ evolvingPF

    We have never spent Christmas at home so we don’t decorate at all! We spend a lot on traveling but at least that isn’t collecting stuff. After travel we just have gifts. My husband wants to give consumables this year (we’re still debating) but we can’t control what we receive.

    • Jordann

      You can’t control what you receive, so true! I get a lot of useless stuff.

  • Christopher

    I’m definitely giving myself a tight budget for purchased gifts. I’ll be giving homemade gifts, mostly food — pasta, canned items, etc — since I love to cook.

    • Jordann

      That’s a great idea, I’m terrible at home made gifts.

  • frugalportland

    I like this, a lot. I’m not decorating my home, much, but I’m spending time on homemade gifts.

    • Jordann

      If you come across any really good home made gift ideas, let me know. I’m terrible at making stuff.

  • K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks!

    Solid post! What I enjoy most about Christmas is eating great food in the company of people I love! That said, normally we spend a couple hundred on gifts for each other and we draft a general gift list but we keep that amount to no more than $200 total. We don’t exchange gifts between family because it would get out of control due to the sheer number of people.

    • Jordann

      My family is huge too, and we do gift exchanges/yankee swaps to keep things under control.

  • AbigailP

    We don’t really decorate the home other than a tree. Which is more about the fact that I only ever got a two-foot tree as a kid. (Jewish dad.) But a surprising number of our ornaments are from that tree.

    We always tried to keep things within reason. Usually my husband would get one big present as a combo Christmas/birthday gift — and I’d use Amazon GCs courtesy of rewards programs. That’s how we got a couple of our gaming consoles.

    But last year we’d just gotten a house and things were pretty tight. Plus my in-laws had to move in with us, and they were broke. So we instituted a $25 Christmas. Each couple was only allowed to spend $25 on each person. It definitely made us get creative! There was still some things that ended up being superfluous, but by and large it was successful.

    This year things are a little less tight. So we might do a $40 Christmas. But my in-laws are still pretty broke, so maybe we’ll stick with $25.

    • Jordann

      That is a pretty serious rule! My family has a $50 limit on each person, and since we do gift exchanges, my whole Christmas only costs around $500.

  • Gillian Money After Graduation

    I am sticking to a very small price limit for my family, and making homemade gifts whenever possible ! As you get older, the gifts don’t really matter anymore imo, just spending time with loved ones!!

    • Jordann

      Exactly. Our Christmas’s have been getting smaller every year, and I love it.

  • Matthew Bruce

    I like the idea of donating to charity on someone behalf. I might give up my Christmas gifts one year, and ask that people donate to a non-profit in my name.

    • Jordann

      That’s lovely of you! I fear I’m too materialistic to forego getting any gifts at all.

  • Pauline

    In my family only kids get gifts. Adults get a good meal and that is about it. Takes the pressure off to shop for 25 people.

    • Jordann

      Definitely! I’m the opposite, I have a “no kids get gifts rule” because I have about 13 nieces and nephews.

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter

    Enough alcohol to get a horse drunk, hehehehe! If I buy presents too early (big risk this year), I end up spending more because I like buying them, haha.

    • Jordann

      That’s my trouble, I love buying people presents, it’s hard to keep that urge in check.

  • April

    I think I have met a kindred spirit! :) I will add you to my reads.

    • Jordann

      Hey thanks!

  • Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses

    Yup I’ve been feeling a bit like I can so easily get swept up in the whole Christmas consumerism and spend way more money than I want so easily! At least my BF and I have decided not to give each other gifts this year since we’ve got a wedding to pay for soon.

    • Jordann

      That’s a great idea! This year my fiance and I are exchanging gifts, last year we just did stockings because money was tight.

  • Katie Collins

    Speaking of bacon and the holidays… I bought bacon bandaids last year as a stocking stuffer for my husband. They were awesome! Didn’t smell like bacon, but that’s okay.

    One thing my family decided to do a few years ago to reduce Christmas expenses was to pull names from a hat. Instead of each family buying gifts for every one of our 12+ cousins, each family bought for as many cousins as they had children. So our family bought 3 gifts every year instead of 12.

    Now that I’m older and married, I only exchange gifts with my immediate family. We’ve also decided to dial back the Christmas gifts this year. (My brother has cancer, so we may not even have a celebration. Don’t want people dragging their germs into the house.) With friends, we decided long ago to share experiences instead of exchanging gifts. I usually catch a hockey game or dinner and a movie with my friends instead of buying a gift. Those memories last longer anyway.

  • CanadianBudgetBinder

    I think there is bacon flavoured anything nowadays lol although candy canes are new to me. Christmas in Canada I find is very commercialized compared to what I am used to. I do enjoy hanging out at the mall when it’s snowing, with a coffee or hot chocolate shopping as it really gets me into the spirit but I don’t fancy spending the money. We not only donate food and a toy each year we remember that there is more to Christmas than presents. It’s about famly, love and spending time together. We put up a tree, we found at the side of the road, we draw names out of a hat and buy one gift and bake treats and enjoy our time together. Great post! Mr.CBB

  • Budget & the Beach

    I don’t have many people at all to buy for. I might try to arrange having a small white elephant party. Those are always fun. And some of the business districts around here have a holiday walk, and give out free wine and cookies and such. There are also fireworks and lighted boat parades. Plenty to enjoy if you are on a budget.

    • Jordann

      That’s one thing I miss about living in the city, there are way more free holiday events.

  • David @ Bankruptcy Canada

    Christmas is something that almost everyone loves to celebrate, at least for Christians. But, you are right that it is important to economize as well particularly during the difficult economic times. Do not be an impulsive shopper. This is one thing I would like to add. Yes, making hand-made decors is also one way of saving money.

    • Jordann

      Christmas is one of those times of year when it’s really easy to get carried away with spending, I think it’s important to try and cut costs wherever possible.

  • OutlierModel

    My sisters and I do gingerbread each year. It started out as just a silly way to do something together, but now we all look forward to it. :)

    • Jordann

      I really enjoyed myself last year!

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  • Samantha L

    I try to pick gifts that are needed vs. wanted. For example my in-laws live in a split level house (you open door and have option to go upstairs or downstairs), they have three granddaughters under age 5, and are always very nervous to have kids walking down the lower set of stairs because there is no hand rail.

    They aren’t handy people, but my husband is, and I’m crafty. So we bought a rail (to lead downstairs) to match their existing rail (going upstairs) and I’ve stained it to match color, and my husband will hang it for them. It was an expensive gift (@$75) normally we do $25-30 for siblings/children (whatever we choose for the year), and up to $75 for each set of parents, so it was right at the top of that budget, but at least it’s something they want and would use regularly, and doesn’t add to the clutter of a home.