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Finding Simple Pleasures of the Season

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The blessings of being broke at Christmas.

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The holidays are a hard time of year, especially if you're having financial difficulties. Our family celebrates Christmas, and I've dreaded shopping so much that I haven't even started yet. It will be a lean year this year (as it was last year and the year before) but I've learned how to make sacrifices in certain areas so I can splurge in others (if you can call it splurging!)

My daughter and I have been enjoying some of the more simple pleasures of the season. We decorated the house this weekend, and we recycled the lights and garland combo we've used for a few years (I think this year will be the last one, based on the amount of times I had to tie the broken garlands together).

As for the tree, we went smaller -- way smaller. It's sitting on top of my Nana's hope chest that had been stored in the basement, so it looks like an eight-foot tree, at least from outside. It's beautiful in the window (and it was half the price)!

The night of the blizzard, we invited our neighbors over for some eggnog and hot chocolate. We baked sugar cookies and ate way too many of them. All very inexpensive, and yet very fun to share the snowy, holiday spirit with our friends. I even splurged on an $8.99 bottle of wine to share with them, since we didn't spend any money on hot hors d'oeuvres.

As for Christmas Day, we're really pinching the pennies. All of my family will come down to spend several days with us. With the exception of the kids, each member will receive a small gift from us both (as opposed to one or two from each, which we did in more prosperous years). The kids will get a bit more, but again not too much.

We made a list in advance of what we'd like to get for everyone, and we checked it twice. (Everyone here is on the "nice" list, at least as far as Santa can tell). Procrastination is working to my favor this year, as I won't have the time to go overboard on the spending. I'm not using credit -- only cash. December's bills are paid and January's bills (with the exception of rent) are not due until the 15th. So, this helped form the parameters of the shopping budget.

Christmas dinner is a holiday tradition for our family. We always have a prime rib that I make special every year. It's the most expensive part of the celebration. To help with the cost, everyone is bringing the makings for a side dish. For dessert, I'm baking a cake. Nothing fancy here, but I'm sure my Dad will pick up the ice cream.

The blessing that comes with being broke during Christmas is the opportunity to focus on the "Reason for the Season". Our family is healthy. We're blessed to have a nice home to live in and large enough to host our whole family. We'll watch funny movies together and have a mega-tournament of Trouble and Scrabble. And after four days of being together under one roof, I'll be happy to see them leave and get my house back (that doesn't change irrespective of how big your Christmas budget is).

Next week, I'll share with you 10 must-do's for the start of 2010.
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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