Photos by schuey

For anyone with a few friends and family, the holidays bring major stress and chaos to those with low income.

If you’re like me, the horror of spending hundreds of dollars on presents, decorations, food and merrymaking is difficult to stomach when your feet are wrapped in plastic bags to protect against dampness. On the other hand, it’s an incredible time to show your appreciation to loved ones and to celebrate the finer things in life. Below are some alternative ways to spice up the season without leaving you scrounging for pennies.
  
Leave a large pot of apple cider with whole cinnamon on the stove — Your house will smell great and you have something on hand to offer guests. Leave a bottle of rum nearby for those who want the extra kick.
 
Make your own salt body scrubs to hand out as gifts — Using three parts kosher salt and one part regular sea salt (non-iodized), pour in an oil of your choice. The supermarket offers all sorts of options like grape seed, almond, olive and sunflower oil. Grape and sunflower tend to be lighter and better for sensitive, darker or oily skin. Olive and nut oils work for dry, paler skin. You can also substitute white or brown sugar for the salt.

For a fancier effect, grind up herbs like lavender and calendula or add a few drops of essential oils. Lavender is soothing, tea tree is cleansing, and bergamot offers a great smell.

Photo by Baying Hound

Adorn your tree with origami decorations — Using any type of paper, including recycled paper, you can create paper animals, birds, and other objects to hang from the tree. The craft is simple, and children will love it.
 
Buy environmentally-friendly gifts — While greener doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper, it’s still a good idea to keep ecology in mind with economy. Refer to The Ultimate Green Christmas and Holiday Guide for some gift-giving ideas, and then consider recycled wrapping paper to accompany your generosity.

Make your own gift wrapping — Get creative and have the kids express their artistic side by creating their own wrapping paper. You can let them think they’re having fun with sponge or potato stamps, paints and brown paper bags, when really they’re doing all the hard work for you.

Eat for less — Paying less doesn’t mean a low quality meal. For example, don’t get caught up in fancy packagings and brand names; the no-name brand tastes just as good as the others.

Reducing your food consumption will also help: do not prepare too many side dishes, and buy a cheaper turkey. Don’t worry, your family will still get fed. Take the time to prepare your food rather than buying expensive pre-made equivalents at the supermarket.

Purchase LED lights — Ok, so this suggestion is pricey to begin with, but is another environmentally responsible decision to make when decorating the tree or house. Also, because the lights are so energy efficient, the long-term effects are super beneficial: LED lights only use a fraction of the regular lights used during the holiday, and can save up to $50 per holiday season for a household.

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How do you cut corners for the holidays? Share your wisdom in the comments!