God has richly blessed my family. We have our health. We have good relationships. We have a roof over our heads and plenty of food in the pantry. We’ve been able to purchase Christmas gifts for our boys and I haven’t had to stress about where the money was going to come from to make Christmas special.

Believe me, it hasn’t always been this way.

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We’ve had some very lean years! Near the beginning of our marriage, my poor husband had a lot of trials with having a secure job. He went through multiple layoffs and times when his company went out of business. There were several years where we had two young boys and barely enough money to scrape by.

I remember one Christmas when our boys were 3 and 1 1/2. We were broke and we didn’t have any money left over to buy presents. We’ve had LOTS of years where we didn’t have the money to buy presents for anyone except our boys, but this particular year we couldn’t even swing that.

So, I looked around the house to see if I could find anything to make presents with. I found some scrap material that I used to make a Busy Book for my oldest son. It had zippers and buttons and snaps and a lace to tie.

I was also able to find a small, unused scrapbook that someone had given us at a baby shower. So with that and some photos, I made an ABC book for my youngest son.

I have no gift to bring: 5 Low Cost Ways to Make Christmas Special

I also grabbed some fruit snacks and animal crackers from the kitchen and divided them up into plastic baggies. I wrapped those baggies as well so that they would have more to open.

That year, as we sat down to let our boys open their gifts I was very nervous. I didn’t know how they would react to these meager gifts. Would they throw tantrums? Would they be disappointed and cry? Would this be the worst Christmas of all?

I will never forget watching as my 3-year-old opened his first gift and cried out in an excited voice, “Fruit snacks?!? Can I have some right now?” Tears were rolling down my face as I said, “Yes, you may have some fruit snacks.”

Our boys opened the rest of their presents with joy. My husband and I were so relieved. We hadn’t been able to buy anything for our boys and they were alright with it.

I Have No Gift to Bring

That lean year taught me a very valuable lesson. Christmas doesn’t have to be so expensive!

I know we all know the reason for the season. We know that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus. However, it’s easy for parents to get caught up in the hype of the holiday. We want to create priceless, Facebook-worthy memories for our kids… memories that will last a lifetime. Christmas is a time when we want to indulge our kids a little bit – especially us parents who don’t buy much stuff for them the rest of the year.

So, what can you do if money is tight? How can you make Christmas special for your family if you have no gift to bring?

Here are 5 Low-Cost Ways to Make Christmas Special:

1 – Shop Thrift Stores

You can get some pretty great gifts at thrift stores for very little money. Our family shops at Salvation Army quite often and it’s amazing what you can find. Garage sales, thrift stores, coupons, and major sales are all great ways to buy gifts at a low cost.

2 – Swap With Other Families

Do your kids have any toys that they have outgrown? Or items they just aren’t interested in anymore? Reach out to friends and family on social media to see if you can do a toy swap. This is a great way to get your kids new things that they will enjoy for no cost.

I have no gift to bring: 5 Low Cost Ways to Make Christmas Special

3 – Make Homemade Gifts

Pinterest has some amazing ideas for homemade gifts. With a little bit of searching, you may even be able to use materials you already have laying around the house.

4 – Get Creative

There are lots of ways you can have a special Christmas without breaking the bank. Give your kids gifts of things they need, such as socks or underwear. Have Christmas music playing in the background. Come up with a scavenger hunt so that the kids search for their gifts.

5 – Make it Fun

Christmas doesn’t have to be all about the gifts. Attend a special church service together. Build a snowman with your kids. Have a game day. Drive around and look at Christmas light displays. Make a special meal. Try my favorite tradition of the All Day Buffet. Allow your kids to decorate the tree or to put up the Christmas village. Make Christmas cookies together. Watch Christmas movies! My favorite movie that we watch every year is The Nativity Story.

Christmas doesn’t have to be a super expensive affair. If money is tight, there are plenty of ways that you can make the holidays special without spending a lot of money. Like me, you may look back and discover that the lean years end of making some of the most special memories of all.

Question: Is money tight for you this year? Have you discovered any other low-cost ways to make Christmas special that you could share?  Please leave a comment below.