Not long ago, a friend asked me how I managed to make Christmas merry but affordable. He came to the right person for advice. For most of my adult life, I have lived on a very modest budget, so I’ve had plenty of practice with what might called Frugality 101. Nevertheless, our family’s holidays and celebrations are always jolly. We love getting together, eating, and giving presents. You can still do these things on a modest budget, you just have to plan ahead.

Because of our country’s hard economic times, my husband, Clif, thought I should share my response to my friend, so here it is: “I love Christmas, and I love giving presents. It’s the one time of year where I give in to glorious excess. However, because of our modest budget, I have developed a series of strategies. The first is that I’m always keeping an eye out for sales, and this includes books that are in great condition on the Friends cart at Bailey Library. When I see something on sale that I think someone will like, I pick it up. Second, and this goes along with the first, I start early. I don’t save it all for the month of December. I begin in earnest in the fall. Third, I order quite a bit from Daedalus Books, which, as I’m sure you know, has DVDs, calendars, and other small gifts. Fourth, we use our credit card points for gift certificates. Fifth, Reny’s Department Store, which actually shares its profits with its employees! Sixth, I like to make goodies to add to gift bags and baskets. This year we’re going to experiment with chocolate-covered pretzels and homemade cracker jack. Seventh, I go to local craft fairs. Sometimes you can get really cute things at a bargain.”

From the above advice, I’m sure it can be gathered that there is seldom anything big or grand under our tree. (Unless, of course, I found it in mint condition at a yard sale.)  Nevertheless, we have a lot of fun and make the unwrapping of gifts last as long as possible, with one person at a time opening a present so the others can see and admire what was given.

I could have added one more thing to my list of strategies and that is to enjoy simple things. If you do, then you will find many pleasures in this life, pleasures that might even elude those with plenty of money. I know this sounds like a Bob Cratchit approach to life, but you have to admit, he and his family were happy.