The holidays are glorious even when you’re trying to make ends meet!
Holiday spending can be a challenge for most families, but families of divorce have their own unique set of difficulties especially during the season of giving. During the adjustment period, single moms are learning how to parent the children solo as well as create new, fun, family traditions and now, with half the cash.
Here are 6 savvy ways that single moms can save money, simplify the holidays, and still have a rockin’ good time!
1. Celebrate the little things
“Little things make big days.” Isabel Marant
My divorce left me with limited resources. I celebrated the first Christmas as a single mom with a three foot, artificial tree. The bottom half of the lights were blown out. Most of the ornaments I salvaged were reminders of the intact family that no longer existed. My children’s eyes still sparkled amidst the partially glowing tree, but I felt so ashamed of that puny plant stand. I was embarrassed that the holiday was no longer over-the-top spectacular.
Fast forward two years. I learned to love our mini tree. The children decorate our beloved “Charlie Brown” with ease, reaching the tip-top with smiles and laughter. Today, I would graciously decline the opportunity for anything bigger. Our mini tree reminds me that love begins at home around the tree, not on it. Every holiday, I save that $30-50 in lieu of purchasing “the real thing.” We now celebrate the “little things.”
2. Open New Doors
“Old ways won’t open new doors.” Author unknown
Before the divorce, our family holiday traditions included a $300 train ride for a party of five to visit the “North Pole”. We always had a wonderful time. The first year after my divorce, I insisted on continuing the tradition as a single mama. I foolishly dipped into savings to purchase the tickets and quickly realized my error in judgment. I felt so sad accepting the fact that I just could not afford to maintain this tradition any longer. I smartened up. The children and I decided to enjoy a new experience.
We opened new doors, literally. Last year, we filled up on hot cocoa, donned our pajamas, and climbed into my 4-door. We drove around beautifully lit neighborhoods while singing Christmas songs and admiring the twinkling lights. We found a local park that features a free festival of lights display. The drive through the park is a 20-minute trip, which allows plenty of time for each child to choose their favorite Christmas song on the radio. Every holiday I now save that $300, drop $3 for hot chocolate, and still slow down to make the most magical memories beginning at the car door.
3. Lower Expectations
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home.” Melody Beattie
I cut back on spending from November through January in order to plan for Christmas gift giving. As a single mother of three children, the gift money gets spent so fast. Two years ago, I implemented “the five-gift-tradition”. The tradition is as follows:
“Something I want, something I need, something to wear, something to read, and one special gift from Santa Claus.” The children have learned to broaden their ideas of gifts, explore their love of reading, consider clothing items as gifts, and understand that mommy works very hard to provide for them. The children fill in each item on the Christmas list. We browse stores and take photos of toys on the shelves. The children narrow their lists by choosing their favorite things. Santa brings one gift. Mommy does the rest.
4. Give the Gift of Presence
“The gift of presence is a rare and beautiful gift.” John Eldredge
Though I have not ever considered myself to be very creative in terms of crafting, the children love to paint, color, and cut. The first year after my divorce I did not have a star decoration for the top of my tree. That “Christmasy feel” was limited due to circumstances. We gathered supplies from around the home; construction paper, tape, scissors, and glue. My sweet 4-year-old used cardboard from the recycling bin to trace, cut, and color a tree topper star.
We all joined together to make gingerbread men and women to decorate. We made a Santa face and glued on cotton balls for the beard. We baked cookies and made a huge mess. We drank hot cocoa and munched on candy canes. We played music and danced. Our new home was filled with joy and creativity. In time I began to realize that my children will not remember what seemed to be lacking that year. I know this because to this very day my sweet kiddos still say with smiles, “Mama, remember when we…?”
I hold onto the cardboard star and “cotton ball Santa Claus” as reminders of gratitude for my children’s love and creativity.
5. Learn to DIY
“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Albert Einstein
I recently took note of my very large collection of unused mason jars at home. I searched the internet for craft ideas and discovered a simple, inexpensive yet adorable Christmas creation for the jars. Instead of purchasing additional craft items, I connected with other mamas that have stored supplies as well; a plethora of paint, glitter, and dried flowers. My craft will be completed for $0. I encourage single moms to poke around the house, seek out any surplus objects, then internet search for ideas. By connecting with friends, we will develop common bonds, save money, and find new ways to develop our creativity!
6. Turn Trash into Treasure
“One man’s trash…”
When it comes to holiday decorating, I really enjoy switching up color schemes. Though I wish to be inspired by the creative mind of Martha Stewart, I certainly don’t have her bank account. Around holiday time I look forward to perusing stores like Goodwill and Savers.
Last year I was inspired by the classic Santa theme with red and gold ornaments. Stores often have an oversupply of certain items, which are available at an even lower discount. There are usually bags of antique ornaments on sale for a few bucks, sparkly garland, or sweet little baskets for cheap that can be filled with pine cones or potpourri as a centerpiece. I plan to humbly donate the gently used winter coats and boots that the kids have outgrown and swap out for some “new” Christmas decor. As the old saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
Though holidays can be financially difficult for single mothers, creating special moments does not require spending a ton of cash. With grace and patience, I encourage all supermoms to turn those presents into presence. Simplify, save money, and celebrate the ho-ho-holidays!