Manners Matter: Holiday Cheer on a Tight Budget

Dear Mary Pat,

Because of the pandemic, my hours have been cut, and I haven’t made as much money as I typically do. Although my husband is still working, money has been very tight this year. Now I’m worried about Christmas and making it perfect for our kids. Because of our tight finances, we won’t be able to go all out like we usually do. Any advice on how to add cheer to the holidays on a tight budget?


Xmas on a Budget

Town Withheld

Dear Xmas on a Budget,

It’s a stressful time of year for parents under normal circumstances. Throw in a pandemic and financial insecurity, and now it’s even more overwhelming. Here’s the good news: Not even your kids are expecting perfection.

There are many things you can do as a family that cost little or nothing:

• Take in the Christmas lights throughout Door County.

• Set aside some time to bake together. Keep it simple, and don’t try to be Martha Stewart. The point is that you’re doing something fun together.

• Have a Christmas carol singing contest. The winner gets bragging rights for the whole year.

• Watch the movie classics with your kids (that means cell phones out of sight), whether that’s Rudolph or It’s a Wonderful Life.

• Decorate your tree together. Can’t afford a fresh one? It doesn’t matter. Artificial is fine; a Charlie Brown tree is fine. Again, don’t try to be Martha.

• Ask your kids to write a little story about their favorite Christmas memory. Then hang them on the fridge.

• Plan Christmas Day with your kids. It will most likely be quieter and with a lot fewer people around the dinner table. Maybe you’ll have to do things virtually: visiting with grandparents, attending church, drinking eggnog with your neighbors. Encourage your kids to think creatively about how to celebrate on a smaller and more remote scale.

• Consider not giving gifts to other adults, and maybe not to each other, and focus just on your kids. It’s fine to not give gifts to your best friend or co-workers. No one will be hurt or surprised if you say, “Would it be OK if we skipped our gift exchange this year?”

• Find a big puzzle – borrow one if you need to – and work on it as a family.

• Read a story together over hot cocoa. Let each of your children select a book, and do this for several nights. Better yet, make this a weekly event year-round.

Things are tight for a lot of families right now. There are many resources available, and our neighbors are doubling down on their generosity. If you need help, it’s OK to look for it from food pantries and community meals. 

Finally, Christmas shouldn’t be measured by how many presents are under the tree. Your kids will remember the time they spent with you more than anything. Read Luke 2:1-20 for the original Christmas story.

Good luck,

Mary Pat

Miss Pat was educated at the Finnish Finishing School for Fine Ladies. Eloquent in edifying etiquette, she is fluent in seven languages, including the language of love. Mary Pat has generously extended her counsel to you and will answer any and all inquiries. Email Mary Pat at [email protected].