20 Tips to Have a Humble Christmas

More and more families will be having a humble Christmas this year. And in my opinion, it’s about time! Almost all of us are guilty of falling for the commercialism of Christmas, and pushing aside the true reason for the holiday.

We become consumed with buying the biggest and the best for our children especially, and we feel guilty when we can’t afford all that they want.

So many of our kids today are spoiled, ungrateful, and selfish. They pout if they don’t get the expensive gadget on their wish-list. They don’t appreciate the small things that they do get, and it doesn’t even cross their mind to give anything to others.

This year needs to be different. This year, we get back to enjoying a humble Christmas.

We are all in the same boat. The economy is suffering. Our jobs are diminishing, and our wallets are thin. And I think our kids know this. If they don’t, and are old enough to understand, you need to tell them.

If you’re interested in learning how to enjoy a more humble Christmas, this article should help you get started on the right track!

1. Slash Your Gift Budget

This year it’s not about racking up credit card debt so that your little ones have all that they ever dreamed of. This year, you need to see what you can afford, and then set that aside in cash.

It helps if you don’t sit your kids down in front of the Toys R Us Big Book of Toys and ask them to circle everything they want. You are either setting them up for disappointment, or setting yourself up for either tons of debt or tons of guilt. It would be wiser to not ask at all, or, if they are not greedy, ask them what the one thing they would like to have would be.

Our kids are getting $20 each in Christmas gifts. Doesn’t sound like much, but I doubt they’ll be disappointed!

I’ve already spent the money on 2 yr. old Ty’s gift. I found a really nice Melissa & Doug rocking horse on Craigslist for $20. It’s in great shape, and I know he’ll love it!

I’m trying to find a microscope for Jada’s gift, but haven’t been able to find a good one within my budget yet. That’s the only thing she’s specifically said she’d like to have. But I have no doubt that I’ll be able to find something that she’ll love.

2. Try Homemade or Inexpensive Stocking Stuffer Ideas

Here are some cool, inexpensive stocking stuffer ideas that I might try a few of as well:

  • A bag of homemade treats
  • Make your own creative and personalized Christmas cards
  • Create a homemade star or angel for the top of your Christmas tree
  • paper dolls and animals
  • A Bottle Cap Yo-Yo
  • A bag of Treasure Rocks
  • Sidewalk Chalk
  • Magazine Bead Bracelets
  • Edible Bracelets
  • A tub of misc. craft materials
  • a Sock Puppet
  • Homemade Playdough
  • Crayon Muffins

3. Set a Budget

This is one of the most important things you can do if you want to enjoy a humble Christmas. Even if your reasons for doing so aren’t necessarily money-related (perhaps you just want your kids to be able to appreciate the little things in life a bit better), it’s a good idea to set a budget for the holidays.

This will give you clear parameters to work with so that you won’t find yourself mindlessly adding treats and gifts to your shopping cart willy-nilly.

Long before the frantic, exciting time of the holidays descends upon your family, sit down and figure out how much you want to spend on Christmas gifts, festivities, and other expenses. Don’t leave anything out – include everything from food to decorations to presents.

Stick to your budget as best as you can. It should be non-negotiable.

If you want to have a little extra money for the holidays moving forward, that’s fine – you can set aside a separate savings allotment for this. However, don’t get too carried away – after all, the point of this article is how to enjoy a humble Christmas, not how to save more money for the holidays.

When you’re setting your budget and talking to your family about the plans for the holidays, make sure everyone is on board.

Your kids might protest the idea at first, but it’s important to remind everyone that gifts that are thoughtfully chosen are more memorable and thoughtful than those that are expensive but with no thought involved.

You might find new ways to save on Christmas here, too. You might decide to only give gifts to the kids in the family or to have each family member bring one gift and play a Yankee Swap with the presents.

What can you cut out? Some items really aren’t needed and are just a waste at Christmas time. Things like fancy bows and ribbons, disposable plastic tablecloths with holiday designs, and excessive amounts of outside lights usually aren’t worth the cost.

As you create your budget, be sure to include line items for all of the following:

  • ✅ Christmas cards and postage
  • ✅ Meals and food
  • ✅ Baking supplies
  • ✅ Outdoor and indoor decorations (and extra energy expenses for powering them)
  • ✅ Wrapping paper, tape, and other supplies
  • ✅ Christmas party expenses
  • ✅ Gifts
  • ✅ Charitable donations and tips
  • ✅ Family photos

4. Take Advantage of the Post-Christmas Period

Take time after Christmas to reflect on your budget. Did you spend exactly what you wanted to? Did you overspend? Re-evaluate your spending and your budget to see what you might be able to do differently for next year.

This is also a great time to prepare for next Christmas. There are all kinds of post-Christmas sales that offer steep discounts on things like gifts and decorations.

Don’t spend money willy nilly, but if you have an idea of something you need or want to get for next year and don’t want it to break the bank, this is a great way to save.

5. Make Your Own Wrapping Paper and Greeting Cards

Get the whole family involved in making your own wrapping paper and gift tags. You can print gift tags off the internet or draw out your own on cardstock that you then attach to some string or twine. When it comes to wrapping paper, buy bulk kraft paper and enlist the help of the kids in drawing festive images all over.

If you love sending Christmas cards, don’t assume you have to cross these off the list if you are trying to enjoy a more humble Christmas. You just need to plan smarter!

Get the family involved in making your own artwork for Christmas cards, or even consider sending e-Cards. Many sites offer free e-cards, meaning you won’t have to pay a dime or worry about cards getting lost in the mail, either.

6. Make Lists

…and check them twice! Isn’t that the name of the game during the holidays?

Make a detailed list prior to the start of the holidays about what purchases and activities are most important to you. Can you cut out those extra outdoor lights? Is the visit to Santa and the picture at the mall really important to you? Cut out what needs to be cut, and keep the important things.

7. Start a New Family Tradition

The holidays are a perfect time to start a new tradition with your family. This could be related to gift-giving – such as implementing the four-gift rule that says you only buy your kids something they want, something to wear, something they need, and something to read. These should be thoughtful enough to help them enjoy their holiday season.

You can also start a family tradition like playing gift games such as hot gift potato or white elephant gift exchange. This is a great way to enjoy a fun, humble Christmas with the adults in your family.

You can even start family traditions like hosting a potluck or going to midnight Mass. All of these offer your family a wonderful way to enjoy the holidays without going broke.

8. Go Sledding

Fun is free – and chances are, it’s the moments you spend with your children that they’re going to remember. Not the presents.

Think of fun ways to spend time with your kids during the holidays, such as going sledding. It’s free, it’s fun, and it’s memorable.

9. Play Board Games Together

The weather outside is frightful – but there are plenty of ways you can spend time with your family when you’re shut indoors. Play some board games together – you can designate one weeknight a week to be the dedicated “game night” and try to play a different game each time.

10. Make Homemade Hot Cocoa

While you’re playing those board games, you need something tasty to sip on – how about homemade hot cocoa? You can whip up some extra patches and give tins as gifts, too.

11. Bake a Birthday Cake for Jesus.

Baking a birthday cake is a great way to remember the whole point of the holidays – plus, your kids are sure to have fun with this activity, too!

12. Make a Nativity Scene

You can go to the store and buy a fancy nativity set, but why bother when you can make your own? YOu can use items you have around the house, like clothespins or bottles, to make a classy nativity scene on a budget. This is also a great way to reteach your kids the true meaning of the holiday and the nativity story.

13. Make Homemade Ornaments and Other Decorations

You can make your own homemade ornaments and other decorations with the kids – this is a great way to save money and also enjoy some quiet time with your family. You can make Christmas ornaments from dough or other materials – that’s a fun idea!

After you make those ornaments and decorations, be sure you store them in a place where they won’t get damaged. You need them for next year, after all!

Another tip? Swap out Christmas decorations with friends and loved ones! That way, rather than buying new decorations each year, you can create a fresh look without having to spend a ton of money.

14. Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to tap into your CHristmas spirit – there’s no better way to fully appreciate the beauty and wonder of the holidays than to help others. You can volunteer your time at a soup kitchen or even do something as simple as shoveling snow for friends and neighbors who might have a hard time getting around.

15. Give to the Needy

Even if you’re trying to do Christmas on a budget, that doesn’t mean you have to cut corners when it comes to your charitable giving. Give whatever you can to those in need, even if it’s just some food from your root cellar or the extra unused gifts you had left over from last year.

It may not mean much to you,but even the smallest gesture can mean the world to a person who is in need of some care.

16. Bring a Meal to a Shut-in

Again, take time to think about others during the holidays. Bring food to someone who has trouble getting out, like your elderly neighbor. Paying a visit to the nursing home with the kids, even if you don’t have any relatives there, is another great way to brighten up someone’s day.

17. Bake Cookies or Make a Gingerbread House

Baking is one of the best parts of the holiday – take advantage of the chilly weather and fire up that oven! Get the kids involved in making and decorating a gingerbread house or host a cookie exchange. Encourage everyone to bake three batches of their favorite cookie recipe so each guest can get at least two of every variety.

You can play fun games like “Guess the Cookie” and send everybody home with inexpensive containers to pack cookies in.

18. Make Your Own Family Gifts to Give to Family Members

You might be hesitant to give this tip a try if you don ‘t consider yourself to be a crafty person – but don’t worry, because you don’t have to be. There are plenty of ways you can impress your friends, family members, and loved ones with homemade gifts.

If you have a special skill like woodworking or painting, tap into that to create your gifts. Even if you aren’t crafty, you can still whip up cheap gift ideas like baking mixes, homemade soaps, bath salts, or tins of Christmas cookies. Make it a family affair!

And while you’re at it, look for alternatives to gifts. You might end up spending the same amount of money on an experience-based gift as you would a product, but the impacts of this gift will linger for much longer. Treat everyone to a night at the movies or dinner at a favorite restaurant. The camaraderie from sharing an experience together will last far longer than the brief thrill of opening up a wrapped gift.

19. Go To Free Events

Most towns and cities have tons of free events around the holidays, like tree lighting ceremonies and Christmas parades. Make a list of all the ones you want to attend this year – and bring the whole family along. It’s sure to be memorable.

Even something as simple as walking around and looking at Christmas decorations is a great way to spend your time during the holidays.

20. Host Your Own Family Play or Go Caroling

Start a tradition of a family holiday skit – you have your own built-in theater troupe in your kids, after all. You can choose a family-friendly play, like The Night Before Christmas, and start rehearsing late into it all. You can host a potluck on opening night!

If the play sounds like too much work, here’s another option – just go caroling! The music of the holidays is always such a joy to listen to.

And Most Importantly…

Fill the holiday with love, togetherness, and the spirit of giving. Don’t apologize to your children for what you couldn’t give them. Show them all that they have to be thankful for.

And don’t forget that Christmas is about our Lord Jesus, not Santa Claus.

I’d like to know how your family is making this Christmas a special one without spending a bunch of money! These are just a few ideas. I’d love to hear yours!

The point is… if you don’t have a lot of money to spend this year, don’t feel bad! We are all tight this year. Just because you don’t have a lot of money doesn’t mean you can’t make the holidays special!

updated 08/20/2021 by Rebekah Pierce

humble Christmas pinterest image

17 thoughts on “20 Tips to Have a Humble Christmas”

  1. I love this and I really need help! This year I decided that I was tired of how spoiled,selfish and ungrateful all 8 of my children are. Yes I said 8! 5 step-daughter’s and 3 boys of my own. It amazes me the lack of gratitude they have. So I said that this year our family is going to do Christmas in reverse! We’re going to give instead of receive and remember the true meaning of Christmas. I told them it’s not going to be about what they want or how much they each get. But I really need ideas on how to go about EVERYTHING please!!! I want them to be kind, loving,caring individuals.

  2. Here it is after Christmas, but still good for thinking about next Christmas! I love all the ideas, and am always looking for new homemade ideas. Here’s what our family does:

    1. Our kids are teens now, and we’ve always given them 3 gifts (to represent the 3 gifts from the wise men)and they fall into these catagories: clothes they need, a book they’d like, and a $20-25 dollar item they wanted. They’ve never complained as they’ve gotten older and if they want something more expensive (like an ipod), we give them money towards it and they have to earn the rest. It gets more complicated as they get older and you can’t make them aprons or wooden blocks anymore! 🙂

    2. For extended family, we all make “family gifts” and some I remember over the years: Italian food basket (homemade recipe book, pasta, homecanned sauce, garlic & wood spoon), Notecards made with children’s artwork, Basket with soup and bread mixes for a dinner, family fun night(basket with popcorn & flavorings, candy, and a game/movie),Personal care basket (homemade soap, bath salts, insect repellent, lip balm, and lavendar sachet). Everybody gets creative in their own way and we’ve gotten wonderful “heirloom” items over the years- even a homemade board game this year!

  3. This year I took apart an afghan my grandmother made for my father (both deceased) and made lap blankets for myself and my siblings from it. It has lots of family meaning and cost was less than $40 for thread and shipping. I started a blog so siblings could watch the progress since we live thousands of miles apart.
    My immediate family got scarves and hats that I made for less than $5 a set, the computer wizard of the family gave coupons for 2 hours of computer work, someone made made music CD’s and picture CD’s for everyone. We spent the whole day sharing a meal and TIME together. It seems that time is the one thing my family never has enough of.
    We are not home yet from hurricane Ike, so nobody wanted a bunch of dust collectors. Store bought gifts this year were at a minimum and I think it was our best Christmas yet.

  4. We started a tradition last year for my new baby (now 21 months) and will continue it (we stole the idea from a friend so i will give her credit ..thanks angie)…but we do J.O.Y. gifts…the J stands for Jesus..so something that will remind him of the greatness of God, O something to play with others and Y for you (him to play with).

    So this year…J is silk scarves in rainbow colors for him to hide, play..etc…and to remind him of the beautiful colors god made.

    O is two books to share with mom and dad to read with.

    and y is a set of wood blocks that are left over pieces sanded and painted from his dad’s woodworking projects.

    So we have only spent like $30. he will then get some markers and glow sticks in his stocking from santa….it is our way of limiting and making it special. we are writing all the JOY gifts down to remember them later.

    thanks for all the ideas i can’t wait to start another tradition this year

  5. As a single mom, I’ve learned to be very frugal. As first I felt guilty about her making gifts for friends and family, but everyone always enjoys it! The difficult part now is coming up with new ideas! This year we are making no sew blankets and painting art canvas with hand print pictures. We are also making ornaments and I found a lil wood nutcracker for her to paint for my sister. (My sister is taking her to the Nutcracker ballet this year.) If anyone has ideas for homemade gifts that are still tasteful, please post! I think the other important thing is making a budget and sticking to it all year, even at the holidays. Share the magic of Chirstmas; its better than the gifts! My daughter and I always pick out a few used toys and a few new to donate to children without any. We drive around and look at Christmas lights and just enjoy being together. Also, I do think it’s important to explain things to children. Just today, while at a closing sale, my 4 year old asked why so many places are closing. So we had a discussion about money and savings. Thanks for the ideas too! I’ve been trying to do things to bring Jesus back into Christmas and make it fun and exciting; a birthday cake is the perfect idea!

  6. We buy our kids 2 gifts during Christmas. I save all year for this. We don’t give them anything during the year except for one b-day gift so I let them splurge a little (within reason) I also do this frugally though. I made silk (found on clearance) hankies for my little one to play peek-a-boo with. PVC pipes and fixtures make great tunnels for little cars and my boys prefer these to already made sets. Boxes are also a big hit. One year we got my oldest daughter (then 5) two huge boxes (we had the room then). She had a great time constructing a playhouse and decorating with scrap fabric and so forth. I think she lived in there for a few years. A sewing kit is simple to put together for little girls. Also a teddy bear making kit…take felt cut it up, add stuffing and thread. You can find buttons and so forth for decorating the face, but if you have little ones use fabric paint so it won’t be a choking hazard.

  7. I recently wrote a guest post on Christmas on a Zero-Budget, which you can read here:

    I have some links on there to my site that I’ll link here for your convenience as well.

    Home-sewn gifts (including links to free patterns and tutorials, inlcuding several on making clothes over):

    Frugal gifts (non-sewing ideas) including links to lots of free printable gifts for boys and girls, wrapping, tags, other homemade ideas, etc:

    And some ideas for helping others in need when you don’t have any money to spend:

    I know my children will be geting some printable paper dolls and toys in their stockings, handkerchiefs made from an old top sheet, dresses made from fabric I had on hand, an apron for one child (all of my other children already have one), new shoes for 2 children, and slips for 2 girls made from fabric I already have.

    My parents have asked what my children need, and are getting them some thermals, new pajamas, and slippers.

    I have 5 children, with one who has a birthday right before Christmas, so I have lots of sewing to do (for needed clothing; I make most of my oldest daughter’s clothing). I’m glad I bought fabric when it was on sale years back, and that others have shared fabric with me who were no longer sewing.

  8. I don’t exactly know what you’re looking for in a microscope and maybe you’ve already found one. But I stumbled across this sale and thought I would pass it along. It’s $26 – so a little bit more than $20, but they do have a limited time offer of free shipping for orders over $25. There’s another one on a different site that’s on sale for $15.99, and I think they might have free shipping too.

  9. Im unusual here, I always loved buying for mine when they were little, and now I still do, I just dont spend as much now as I did when they were little. I look forward to christmas every year, and I still remember that exited feeling I would get as a kid, just anticipating christmas!

  10. Great ideas!

    You asked what we’re doing…

    Let’s see what did I do this year so far… I made book bags for each of them (3), got them a couple garage sale books and made a little stamp book with 12 library dates for them with their dad. I’m making aprons for each with a stamp book of 12 cooking dates with me. And it seems I found something else thematic without it being clutter. They are kind of involved but all together it’s cost me about $2. I’ve had everything else here at home.

    Of course I started working on projects and collecting things in June during garage sale time. I’m due to have our 4th in 9 days so I knew I wasn’t going to want to do much in December!!

    I love the magazine bracelet idea, I might just add this as a craft for my oldest and I to do together!

    Anyway – I LOVE your blog!

  11. we are one of those “weird” families who don’t buy their kids presents-gasp-…only because they get WAY too many gifts from family already. If they didn’t get anything, we would buy them something as giving gifts is definatly what our good Lord loves to do for us too!
    But one year we did sneak in some batteries, as a stocking stuffer I guess! But it helped to make a ton of toys like new that hadn’t worked forever because of dead batteries-they loved it!

  12. 🙂 Good post Kendra! It always made me laugh when I was pregnant and people would say, don’t have a lot of kids cause you won’t be able to get them all the latest stuff. And my husband and I were always saying, we wouldn’t get them that stuff anyways! It makes me sad how spoiled today’s kids are. And I admit to be a bit spoiled myself so I’m not just poking at others! But I hope that I have come a long way in not being so spoiled. I really hope that our children do learn the true meaning of Christmas and don’t get so caught up in the commercialism…but that will be hard with grandparents who like to lay on the gifts:) But our oldest almost always says thank you without prompting and if she doesn’t we remind her…so I’m hopeful:)

  13. Hey these are great! Very inventive/original ideas, we are going to use some these this year with our kids! Thanks 🙂

  14. My kids get the most excited about new toothbrushes, toothpaste (we use the strawberry Tom’s of Maine for them), and bandaids in their stockings, along with a few tiny candy canes or chocolates or something. And really, the toiletries are things we need anyway. 😀

    We do make homemade ornaments. The kids think it’s grand because I let them dump stuff into the mixer, pick out the cookie cutter shapes, and hang on the tree when done (I do have a modest little stash of skinny ribbons). The gingerbread ones make the house smell even more amazing on top of the tree smell, and I have applesauce-cinnamon, salt dough and hand-sewn felt ornaments on my eventual to-do list.

    We don’t exactly spoil the kids to today’s standards, and we rarely go into TRU (it’s like a once-a-year kind of deal with birthday money from Grandma), and I just keep ’em busy doing all sorts of things here that they don’t notice. Too much fun digging in mud to be bothered by the newest version of Leapster or whatnot. 😀

  15. These are some great ideas! Thanks for the links! I do agree, we have conditioned our kids to expect so much. Well, at least I have. My older son did have a big list with a couple expensive things on it, before he realized how little we had to spend this year. He went back and changed his list and now the whole list is less than one of the expensive things he had on the other list.

    I used to make a birthday cake for Jesus, but I haven’t done that in a while. Thanks for the reminder, I think my son would love to help make one!


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