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Have yourself a thrifty little Christmas

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Are you worried that Christmas is becoming too expensive and too commercial? Do you find yourself in a panic trying to afford all of the items on your child's wish list? Christmas can be a huge source of stress for some and financial hardship for others. There seems to be more presents and parties than anything else and the real reason for Christmas seems to be getting lost in the shopping! It should be a time for family, biological and otherwise, and a time for love, peace, and goodwill towards others. So, how about taking the holiday back to the basics and finding a simpler, and cheaper, approach to this wonderful holiday.

A good first step for simplification is your tree. Make a popcorn or paper garland with your children and string it on the tree. Collect pine cones to make ornaments. Handmade ornaments that are brought out year after year are a wonderful expression of your children's creativity. Watch Christmas shows together while you decorate and afterwards, sit together and drink some hot chocolate. Make your own Christmas cards. Shop at the dollar store and then donate these items to charity. Donate toys or clothes to needy children. Make a gingerbread house or bake and decorate cookies. Share a plate of these goodies with an elderly neighbor or young new parents in your neighborhood. Go caroling together. Take a ride together and see the Christmas lights. Read one Christmas story each night before bed, a tradition that can go on year after year. Are you starting to see a pattern here? It's about the family togetherness, reaching out to others, spending less. and probably enjoying the holiday more.

There are many other things you can do to make Christmas meaningful and thrifty. Draw names instead of buying gifts for everyone in the family. Volunteer in a soup kitchen as a server, visit a nursing home and sing carols, volunteer at a local shelter with your family, or help sort food at a food pantry. Invite a lonely older, or young, person to share your meal. Attend church together. Find an angel tree at a local library or mall and help a needy family. Or perhaps shop at the Compassion Gift Catalog and help a child in a country that is struggling to feed and give health care to it's families.

And last, but not least, make some of your gifts. Knit or crochet some hats or socks. Sew a stuffed animal. Make some doll clothes or a new outfit for the children. Build a family greenhouse or some other project you all would enjoy. Bake bread, make wine or jelly, or just bake cookies and give them as gifts. Not everyone has the time to bake anymore! Anything that you can make is a wonderful gift and appreciated by everyone.

Whatever you do for your holiday, remember that it is not about the cost of the gifts or what is under the tree. It is about the love and compassion that is shared, the goodwill towards others, and helping your fellow man. There are so many people in this country who do not have enough and are in need, perhaps yourself included, and this holiday should symbolize giving much more than taking.

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