Family And Kids

What If You Can’t Afford the Holiday Gifts This Year?

Adults understand the larger meaning behind holidays that have become highly commercialized. While Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other wintertime holidays represent significant events and remembrances relating to faith, culture and family, these messages are often lost on children who instead think of the holidays in material terms.

To put it bluntly, the centerpiece of each of these holidays is the exchange of gifts. Whether or not they believe in Santa, the anticipation of gifts creates expectations among children that are sometimes hard for parents to match. Unfortunately, many working moms are on tight budgets that don’t allow them to fulfill every last material desire of their children.

But that doesn’t mean the holiday season has to be a letdown. Instead, moms just need to get a little more creative in finding ways to deliver a satisfying, joyous holiday that kids of all ages will be able to appreciate.

That may seem impossible at first glance, but it’s not! Here’s a quick guide to planning a successful holiday season on a small-to-nonexistent budget.

Emphasize giving rather than receiving

Understanding the giving mentality of the holidays is valuable at any age, and it can instill children with a sense of fulfillment and service that may be as satisfying as any gift. This is tougher to sell to really young kids, but if your children are old enough to understand the challenges of the less fortunate, they might be more inclined to helping out. This service can come in a variety of ways: By gathering up unused toys and other items to donate to less fortunate kids, or by offering to volunteer at a local church or shelter in whatever capacity needed.

Such acts of service will also demonstrate to your children the harsh realities many poor people face, and it will help them embrace their own situation and be thankful for all that they have.

Free activities in the community

A variety of holiday-themed events are available in most communities. Check your local newspaper and pick out some fun events to go to. Many communities put on parades at the holidays, and you can also take your kid to various church services putting on holiday specials, as well as schools and local community theaters performing plays or musical performances. And there’s always the option of going through town checking out the various holiday lights displays.

Make hand-crafted decorations

Crafts are an inexpensive way to keep kids busy and provide them with a finished product. According to, your local library or a quick Internet search should reveal a number of options of hand-made items, such as gingerbread houses, popcorn garlands and other items that will spruce up your home at a nominal cost — and keep your kids busy for a solid afternoon.

Offer gifts of service to one another

If you can’t afford gifts of any kind, encourage your family to provide gifts to one another in the form of acts of service. For example, children could offer to do certain chores for their parents, while older kids could offer babysitting or special one-on-one time with younger siblings that look up to them.

Put on family celebration events

The holidays will still feel special as long as you deviate from your normal schedule to have fun in new, festive ways. Think of family events that are inexpensive to put on and will be fun for the entire family. For example, watching a movie with popcorn and other snacks will gather the entire family and make for a pleasant experience. Other options include doing a jigsaw puzzle, going sledding or on other outdoors adventures, or having celebrations specific to the religious meaning behind your celebrated holidays.

Ultimately, your kids will most remember the experience of the holidays more than the gifts they receive. Even if you don’t have any extra funds to provide gifts, you can always give more of your time and attention to indulging in the holiday experience with your kids.

With a little extra planning and creativity, your kids will barely notice the bare spots underneath your Christmas tree.