Did you blink? I blinked and now apparently it’s Christmas. Okay, so we still have Halloween and Thanksgiving to get through, so yes it’s basically Christmas already. I love Christmas, but I am not immune to the stresses of the holidays and the pressures of gift-giving. I know that for many, Christmas can be more stressful than enjoyable when our heart is huge but budget is small. I always think back to the very first Christmas I spent with Chris (for those who don’t know, my husband). It was one of the best holidays I’ve ever had in my life. He managed to create a magical Christmas on a small budget, and I want to share with you how he did it.
Before I start it’s important for you to know that I love penguins. They love love, I love love, they are awkward and clumsy looking, I’m pretty sure I am too. You get the connection. I met Chris in August of 2008, so our very first Christmas together wasn’t too long after we started dating. Of course by then though, he knew I loved penguins.
How he created a magical Christmas on a small budget
On Christmas morning he instructed me to open my stocking first. First and foremost, I thought it was really cute that he made me a stocking and filled it full of my favorite candies and other small random things I liked or needed. When I got to the bottom though, there was on small stuffed penguin. I wish I could show you a picture, but my kids have since confiscated all penguins in the house and they now live somewhere at the bottom of a toy chest.
The penguin had a note attached that read:
“Hello, Can you please help me find my Mom and Dad? My father and I set out to see some of my fathers friends but I got lost in all these presents. I last remember talking to one of the oldest creatures alive.”
A scavenger hunt had begun! At first I didn’t realize what was going on, only that I had to find something. I had to think for a minute, but at the time Chris had a pet turtle on his patio, so I eventually went outside and behind his tank I found a gift and a note. Honestly, I don’t remember what the gift was, something sort of candy wrapped in pretty Christmas paper. I do remember thinking how cute it was that he was sending me on a scavenger hunt to find my presents! The next note was apparently written by the turtle, and it read:
“I’m sorry, he has already left. He said he was on his way to find an old wise man. One of the smartest to ever live. I’m sorry you came all this way, hope you enjoy these treats.”
By then I couldn’t keep the smile off my face, thinking about how much work he had put into making this a fun Christmas! I loved his creativity and thoughtfulness more than anything else. At the time he had an Einstein poster with a quote on it above his desk, which is where I found the next wrapped gift and another note. The gift, if I remember correctly, was a desk quote calendar (which he has continued to get me every single year since then). The note read:
“Well hello, and a Merry Christmas to you. You just missed Papa. We had a lovely talk. He said he was going to see 3 old friends of his. He said the Holidays have been a little rough and he needed some good old fashion slap stick humor. Please take this with you. Education is so important.”
Isn’t this a fun Christmas idea that you can do on a small budget? I loved it so much! The 3 old friends were hard for me to figure out, but then it dawned on me that Chris had a collection of antique 3 Stooges stuff in his house at the time. There I found the next note, and another gift. I don’t actually remember what the gift was, maybe a pair of socks? (I still to do this day am always complaining that I’m cold even though we live in Florida). The note read:
“Why I oughta!! Wish you a Happy Holidays!! Sorry you missed Papa, he said he was going to get some rest before making his journey home to see his lady. But please take this, it should warm you up.”
I couldn’t believe how much thought and planning he had put into making Christmas so fun and memorable! I wasn’t even thinking that he got it done on a small budget, I was just thinking about how creative he was and how much fun we were having laughing as I went along trying to find things!
The next note was in the bed under a pillow. If I remember correctly, the gift that was with it was a flashlight keychain (because I was coming home late from night classes at the time and could never see to unlock the door). Along with the note there was the Papa Penguin. The note with it read:
“I’m so glad you found me and Jr. Hey do you think you could help us get home? It’s so hot out here. You are going to need these where we’re going. Merry Christmas! This will help you at your own house.”
I’m sad to say, I must have lost the last note. I do remember specifically though, that it said we could find the Mama penguin in a “place only a penguin could live”. To some, that might be obvious. But I’ll never forget how hard we laughed as it took me forever to figure it out. I searched the bathtubs and showers and everywhere else in the house before Chris had to give me a few pointers. He seemed to be in quite a rush at this point and I wasn’t sure what the hurry was.
As it turns out, it was the freezer. This was probably obvious to a lot of you, but apparently not me. Inside the freezer I found the mama stuffed penguin, with a card, and a string around her neck. The string had a small ring on it, and the card was full of promises that Chris was making to me. The promise ring wasn’t expensive, something he got at a local antique store (can you tell he was into antiquing at the time?). It was the sweetest surprise.
Now, you may be thinking that’s a cute story but you need to create a magical Christmas on a small budget for your children, not a boyfriend or girlfriend. You can use the same process, but just put their one larger gift at the end, and some smaller things throughout. It’s about the experience, creativity and thoughtfulness put into it.
We’ve had many wonderful holidays together in the 10 years since our first Christmas together. Having kids changes everything, but I can still say that Christmas of 2008 is on the top of my list of great memories. I am hoping to put more of that magic into our Christmas this year as we’ve had to tighten up our budget with lots of surprises happening this year.
Here are a few more creative ideas for Christmas on a small budget
- Write heartfelt letters sharing what someone really means to you. This is a priceless gift, since we tend to forget to say how we really feel.
- Share your plants. I have been working on propagating my succulents for several months now and growing new plants in small pots that I can gift to friends and family. I love the idea of gifting something that I grew myself from something that I love so much.
- Give your favorite books. If your budget is so tight that you can’t buy a new copy, gift your already read copies, even if they’re highlighted and noted in. I think it’s neat to see what parts of a book were important to someone else, and if they loved the book that much and were willing to part with it the gift is even more special.
- Give out coupons for things you can do for people. For example, if you are good at computers give a family member who may need help a cute coupon to use your services when they need help. If you think your in-laws could use some help with their landscaping, offer to spend a day helping them.
If you have any more creative ideas, I would love to hear from you! Leave your ideas in the comments. If my tired pregnant-mom-brain thinks of any more ideas, I’ll be sure to come back and add them to the list and let you all know!
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Hi, I’m Jessica! I am wife to Chris, and mom to Kaiper, Alana and Koa. I am a graphic designer, website developer and aspiring author. In this space, I share about everything from parenting, working from home, food we cook, and lots of things for kids! Learn more about me here.