12 Days of DIY Christmas

I wrote 12 Days of DIY Christmas, because this time of year, there are so many extras to buy! 

This list of 12 tips will help you capture the spirit of Christmas without spending much money. Everyone's home is full of things that can be repurposed and recycled. DIY doesn't need to be DO IT YOURSELF since you can recruit friends or little people to help! Kids love to help and moms usually want friends around to make a task feel more like an event.

I'm a believer that people should not dive deeper into debt at Christmas. It robs the season of joy and peace! There is money to be saved if we discipline ourselves this time of year. Prioritize things that have a lasting impression. Why not focus on what matters most this Christmastime, and create lasting memories that are joyous and guilt-free?

Save Money. Be Resourceful. 

Here's my list of 12 to get you started:

1. Make it Smell like Christmas.

If your house already smells like peppermint or pine trees, you're winning. Christmasy scents will set the tone even if you haven't started decorating yet. Candles and essential oils are my absolute favorite, but you can make your house smell like Christmas without them. My friend Denise has a family tradition of simmering cinnamon and other spices in water on the stove. I also learned a trick from preschool last month- the walls were decorated in turkeys made from construction paper and stuffed with shredded brown paper, and they tucked nutmeg cloves and cinnamon sticks inside. You can also melt down the old candy canes you left in the ornament box.

2. Decorate like a Kid.

Ditch your preconceived notions of what is pretty and start looking at things differently. Get your children to help make loops of colorful paper into garlands, and youtube how to cut snowflakes from folded paper. If you find those window chalk markers, let you kids make pictures on your glass panes. Or if use them yourself to add holly trim around your window and on your mirrors. Decorating is simple! Allow yourself to break out of the typical and go for the fun and whimsical vibe.

3. Befriend the Kitchen. 

Block out a day or two to bake treats for Christmas and let the kids help you. You might be making some for Santa, or making a huge tray for your Christmas party. If you're not into baking, team up with someone who is! Or make chocolate houses and characters using plastic or rubber molds. As kids, our neighbor Nancy invited us over to do this with her daughter Kristen and Alex. My sister and I were used to baking with my mom but we had a great time learning this new technique. We danced around to Christmas music and took home our little chocolate houses to display and devour.

4. Christmas Music is Non-negotiable.

If your husband is watching football and calendar page says December, it's cool to mute the TV and turn up the radio. Christmastime is supposed to be merry, free, loud, expressive and exciting. It's so easy to turn the household mood with some blasting music and crazy dance moves. Hilarious fun. If you live with a Grinch, let me empower you. There is a "Sounds of the Seasons" audio channel from Comcast, and plenty of holiday playlists on Spotify. If you have a CD collection that's even better. Bring out the same albums every year and it's instant nostalgia. Plus your kids will remember the words for next year.

5. wish Lists of Activities.

Here's a teaching op for your kids to help them appreciate more and expect less. That is the key to a happy life, no matter what age you are. My son wrote a wish list the other day including video game consoles and such. I made a comment like "What about a list of things you'd like to DO??" and tonight he brought me a sheet of paper. There were three things: Ice Skating, Sledding and Have a Snowball Fight. When I told him we could do the first one, and the last two as long as it snows, he was extremely pleased. Good news: Kids are not doomed to be materialistic! Bonus Tip: Avoid watching TV commercials this month.

6. Start a Memorable Tradition.

Brainstorm with family and friends to start a new holiday tradition. Maybe it's caroling in your neighborhood or at a senior citizens home. Maybe it's watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and drinking hot chocolate in your pajamas. Maybe it's sponsoring a child through a community gift-giving program. Make it something that fits your family and something that will stick every year. (But starting a tradition means that it's YOUR job to coordinate it the next year too! So don't slack!)

7. Make cards/ Take a family photo. 

You can make your own cards if you're crafty, or help your kids to make them. Buying cards is my pet peeve, because they're so pointlessly expensive and wasteful. Having someone else print a message on a card simply to attach to a gift seems hardly worth the paper, to me. Making cards is more personal, more appreciated and it makes for a fun activity. If you like to send photo cards to your relatives, consider getting a friend to take your pics or taking them yourself. Make them silly if you want. Think outside of the box. Just remember that printing them and shipping them adds up, so consider the cost and your count.

8.Rethink Wrapping Paper.

Seriously, wrapping paper is up there with Number 7 for my worst pet peeves. What is the point of buying fancy paper, wrapping the gift and having someone tear it off and throw it away? I actually enjoy wrapping gifts but the wastefulness of it drives me crazy! There are re-useable options out there like fabric gift wrap and gift bags that can be used again. But those cost money. If you want to be green and creative, collect some clean newspapers and paper bags from the grocery store. Dye them, Paint them, Stamp them. This is my favorite idea on the list and I'm going to make an art project out of it for the kids. It's a conversation starter, gives the kids a sense of pride and and participation, and you'll probably inspire the gift recipient to make their own wrapping paper too!

When you try it, share a pic on Facebook and tag #DIYgiftwrap

9. Plan and Host a Potluck. 

The more the merrier, but feeding a crowd gets EXPENSIVE. Start early enough to plan a potluck dinner! Host at a house with adequate seating and tables, and create a menu of items plus a few blank spots for spontaneous additions. Ask your guests to commit by signing up. If you have a few notoriously undependable ones, assign a backup person. Or ask them to bring something easy to come by like soda or ice. The potluck format is actually really great because it spreads the work and cost around and it ensures you will have a great turnout because people are more likely to come if they've committed to bringing something.

10. Save up for Family Trip or Staycation. 

If you want to give a family big gift, to include your parents for example, plan a trip or a staycation. You might plan it for summer, when the kids are off and the weather is nice plus you'll have 6 months to save up for it. Or you might want to plan a ski trip for February. Figure out all the costs and be disciplined to put the money away each month. As for presentation, print some photos of the destination and place into a photo album. Or start a scrapbook leaving empty pages to fill in afterwards. This could be an exciting gift without the burden of paying upfront. Just make sure the tickets don't sell out! 

11. Homemade Presents or Written Gifts. 

If you're crafty, you probably already know what you're making for people this Christmas. If you're not, find some inspiration on Pinterest. You can make affordable gifts especially if you have most supplies already on hand. If you're not comfortable giving homemade gifs, at least consider letting your kids make some. It's ALWAYS culturally accepting for kids to give things they've made, so don't be deterred from DIY presents. Another option is to write a commitment or a poem for someone. When I was a kid, I wrote a contract allowing my sister to ride in the front seat for a set amount of time. It was heartfelt and sincere, and free! You could write a story about someone who means a lot to you, and print it on heavy paper and frame it. There are so many possibilities. Gifts do not have to cost money. That's a tough concept to absorb in our culture, but when you do it opens so many doable alternatives.

12. Combine the Old with the New.

Find used items on yard sale sites or at toy swaps, and clean them up to give your kids. I just received an easel in great condition from a friend. My oldest is an artist, so I bought 2 drawing pads, paints, dry erase markers and chalk. That's going to be one of his main gifts, and he's never going to know or care that the easel was preowned. You might find a used Xbox for sale and you can buy new controllers and games. Look for a used bikes and buy a new seat and tires. There are so many ways to combine old and new things to make a great gift and it's sustainable! Green all the way. 

Share these tips with your friends and try and come up with ideas yourself. 

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Which one are you going to try first?