06/12/2016 08:02 GMT | Updated 05/12/2017 05:12 GMT

Frugal Christmas

It's the most wonderful time of the year. Or so Andy Williams says in his well-known festive tune. Actually, it's nearly the most wonderful time of the year and I am inclined to agree with Mr Williams, most of the time. But what if it doesn't feel like the most wonderful time? For many it can be a lonely time, stressful and uncertain. Our family Christmas is going to be so very different this year and will be sad at times.

There's also the issue of the western culture we now find ourselves in. Our indulgent society wants us to buy more, do more and have more experiences that can cost us more money. Please don't get me wrong, I'm all for enjoying Christmas by giving and having fun. I'm just feeling a little uncomfortable at the thought of massive spending and debt building. Society (fuelled by the media) likes to try to make us believe that Christmas has to be expensive, materialistic and that the tree has to have a mountain of huge presents stacked underneath it. It does look nice but is it necessary?

Before you start calling me The Grinch or Ebenezer Scrooge, let me tell you that I am the biggest fan of Christmas. I love it all - the lights, the tree, the red cups in Starbucks and I love that it's celebrating the birth of the world's Saviour. I've had Christmas music playing for weeks. I love seeing family and friends. I love watching Home Alone and going to church to sing Christmas carols. I love the Salvation Army Brass Band and I love the childhood memories that I hold dear. However I can honestly say I don't remember many of the presents that I received - apart from my Care Bear and a pop up cardboard Post Office. I do remember the anticipation of what Father Christmas had left in my pillow case whilst I was sleeping though but apparently I sobbed when I didn't receive the toy kitchen that my cousin had. Do I remember that toy kitchen? No. And that is my point. What I do remember most is family, my cousins, a church crib service and lots of magic and wonder. My parents were by no means made of money but every year they provided us with a Christmas that was always so magical (maybe not for them, it's probably what gave them grey hairs) and makes me want to do the same for our children.

In our materialistic world, that is perhaps ironically veering towards austerity, I've compiled a rough list of ideas for a less expensive, less materialistic, less plastic toy filled Christmas.

1). Presents. Four per family member. Something they need, something to wear, something to read and a toy. (HUGE challenge for me right there - I'm not sure I'd ever manage that)

2). Stocking fillers. A clementine, a pair of socks, a bar of chocolate, nuts, a tree decoration - just like the old days

3). Write a letter to your spouse/partner/children telling them you love them. Or a letter of thanks/encouragement to a friend/work colleague/whoever springs to mind.

4). Have a festive breakfast where the whole family sits down together. Maybe Christmas Eve, Boxing Day or at some other time during the holidays. Make a rule of no technology - no phones, tablets, laptops. You could link this with number 5.

5). Meet friends and family - have people over or visit them. Bring and share the food and booze so it's not all on one person/family. Remember this is about less expensive ideas.

6). Play games. Board games, card games, charades, Pictionary - whatever. Again - link it with number 5 and have a blast.

7). A Winter Walk. Ok perhaps an obvious one as most people like to get some fresh air after eating their body weight in Quality Street. You can't beat a nice cold crisp walk through the woods or along the beach. Then enjoy a cozy Hot Chocolate afterwards.

8). Cinema trip. Perhaps this isn't the most inexpensive activity with the prices of cinema tickets these days, but there's usually a decent blockbuster to go and check out. Take your own popcorn to make it cheaper.

9) Take a drive at night to find the house with the most elaborate Christmas lights. Our kids LOVE doing this.

10). Get out of your comfort zone. Offer to meet up with someone you've not seen for a while, get involved in some charity/fundraising work, give a hamper to the Food Bank or donate some Advent Calendars. Buy a homeless person a meal (even if only a McDonald's). Some people like to use Christmas Day as a way of volunteering at homeless shelters. This isn't for everyone, but there are so many ways you can look outwards to others.

I'm sure you've heard all of this before and a lot of this list certainly challenges me. My point is that Christmas doesn't have to end up with piles of debt. It doesn't have to be about being so busy you don't enjoy it. It doesn't have to be about giving your children everything on their Christmas list. Ultimately it's about celebrating a Saviour's birth, it's celebrating life, eachother and enjoying all we have, no matter how big or small.

What other ideas would you add to the list? What family traditions do you hold dear? Hit me with them in the comments box.

DISCLAIMER - this is not intended to be a judgmental or critical post. I'm merely putting some of my own musings down, as I'm really good at going over the top, spending too much, eating too much, looking at my phone too much and anything else that may otherwise sound like I'm being preachy.

This post is part of My 500 Words - 31 Day Challenge and originally posted on https://nauticulture.com