I know Christmas is only a week away. So I wanted to share some fun ideas that may help you capture the spirit of the holidays for little or no cash. Remember, the point of “gifts” is to let people know you care! You can do this without breaking your personal bank. No one would want you to go into debt simply to buy them a gift.

• Offer to watch the children of busy parents while they spend some special time as a couple. Make them a gift certificate for this.

• Plan a scavenger hunt or Game Night with another family. It will take the focus off gifts.

• Set aside time to make handmade wrapping paper from brown paper grocery bags and paint or stamps.

• Encourage the children in your life to make things for the people they love. They can make a card or a picture book, a bookmark or a collection of recipes. Two children I know made their mother a book of poems that were typed out in the shape of things the mother loved – a teapot, a bathtub, an ice cream cone.

• Send e-card greetings. They’re free!

• Get together with another family or several families to make a charitable contribution to a cause you believe in.

• Make a “wish box” filled with wishes you have for that person. Include pictures and trinkets that represent the wishes-come true.

• Give something from your existing possessions. When my grandson, Nicholas, was ten years old, he went into his room on Christmas Eve and chose a gift for each of his family members. My husband likes cars, and so Nicholas wrapped up one of his toy cars for him. Later, Nicholas proudly declared, “It’s in pristine condition.” He gave his dad one of his hats emblazoned with their favorite football team. This was one of the most heartfelt and loving displays of gift-giving I’ve ever seen.

• Start a simple ritual. I met a woman who goes on an ornament hunt with her children each December. They go to a magical Christmas store filled with candies and decorations, elaborate elf villages and beautiful Santas, but they’re there to find one perfect ornament. There are rules to the ritual, which is part of what makes it fun: each person is allowed to choose their own perfect ornament, and it must cost less than ten dollars. They now have a collection of special ornaments, and memories that will last a lifetime.

• Enjoy serving others. My granddaughter Jacqueline loves to help others during the holidays. She looks for things she can do to pitch in, whether it’s helping someone wrap a gift or giving gifts to people who may not have as much as she does. My grandson Mathieu helps his dad (a Rotary member) ring the bell for The Salvation Army in front of the mall, and then he helps count the money they collect. These simple acts embody the true spirit of giving.

Remember, the holidays are about letting people know that you care about them. It doesn’t have to be about the money. Because it’s NOT about the money.

I wish you peace and joy.

December 20th, 2010 by Karen McCall