Frugal Christmas; Celebrating Advent

Use what you have, source.

Use what you have, old jars and paper or paint to hide the gift inside., source.

Celebrating the countdown to Christmas was always more fun for me than Christmas day.  Since I hosted Christmas dinner I only had a few minutes to sit with my boys and their gifts before heading to the kitchen to keep the food on schedule.  I had days when I wished I had never celebrated Christmas in the “traditional” way and instead focused more on Advent with a simple dinner on Christmas with family, but without gifts.  think of how relaxing the day could be and yes frugal.

I found quite a few ideas for inexpensive Advent Calendars and have included my favorites today, there is something here for everyone from those experienced in sewing, crafting or crochet, to those a bit timid of taking on an art project.

Crochet advent tree, pattern from Ravelry

Crochet advent tree, pattern from Ravelry

Bunting has come back in style so why not make a simple Advent bunting you can use year after year?

While you could buy a ready-made calendar why not make your own?  You can easily change them to fit your family’s needs as the years pass, or you could make something timeless with a piece of wood and some painted clothespins.

source unavailable

source unavailable

Not a crafty?  That’s okay, I spotted this idea which while meant for Valentines Day would work for any holiday, Simply add a new heart to the door each morning.  If you are giving experiences this would be a great way to announce them rather than making a calendar.  Have a little gift, hang it from the door knob that morning.

valentine door

This may sound like a strange thing to admit, but the little gifts I hid for my boys during Advent were more special than the gifts under the tree or in the stocking.  I hid little notes or something small for each boy. Even adding them up over the entire 25 days, I rarely spent more than $10 per child and some years nothing at all.

Think back to Christmas mornings of past when you find yourself with wrapping paper and boxes all over.  There are calls for batteries, and scissors to remove toys from the packaging, and don’t forget assembly of toys.  Yet, before long the toys are tossed under the tree and as you are cleaning up the mess you  hear “what’s for breakfast”  Wouldn’t you enjoy a simple gift, or note written just for you stretched out for nearly a month than a bunch of packages all on one morning?

Just think of all the little gifts you could share with each member of your family over the course of 25 days some of the notes I hid included:

  • It’s your turn to decide what we will have for dinner
  • You can stay up 20 minutes later tonight
  • I love you
  • Breakfast in bed!

Simple food gifts were usually a favorite homemade cookie, or a packet of hot cocoa, things we didn’t have often.I don’t believe the ideas of what experiences or gifts to give is as difficult to come up with as the calendar itself is.   This next idea is made using empty toilet roll tubes.

Coupons redeemable for any day were often a big part of my gifts during Advent.  Coupons could be for just about anything you could do together such as:

  • build a snowman
  • skip a chore
  • Holiday joke
  • read a favorite book together
  • play a favorite game
  • have family movie night with popcorn
  • have a camping night,(being winter we would camp in the living room
  • Of course a gift of a night out is special too. if you have ticket why not make an Advent calendar from embroidery hoops like this

Yes, you could give a larger gift using the Advent calendar.

  • New or handmade winter gloves, hat or a scarf
  • play dough, recipe here
  • stickers
  • hair accessories
  • Ice scraper, yes I gave this one year, it had a metal blade which cleaned the ice off the windshields easier than plastic. It cost me $1 brand new and was this person’s favorite gift that year.

Here is another toilet roll calendar using some cardboard pieces to create a house.  As the creator of this one states this will not hold heavy objects and lists simple ideas which you could stick inside each such as lip gloss, a packet of tea, a USB stick, even a pair of earrings, and since his ideas are for two consenting adults there are suggestions such as a coupon for naked dancing. :-)

Not convinced to begin a new tradition but still want a way to count down the days until Christmas especially if you have young ones who need a constructive way of seeing time?  Why not try this tutorial for a pretty tree where each morning you simply move an ornament from a pocket to the tree.

Need some ideas for gifts to include in an Advent celebration?  Here are a few I found for you.

click here to see what gift each tag offered.

click here to see what gift each tag offered.

Do you celebrate Advent or a countdown tradition?  

26 thoughts on “Frugal Christmas; Celebrating Advent

    • Sarah, I came across many ideas for adults to share with their significant others, and I can think of many things I would use in an advent calendar for an adult, that I think it would be a great thing to do with your BF. If not this year, then maybe next year?


    • EcoGrrl, when I spotted that I knew it was definitely meant for Valentines day even without reading the details but couldn’t think of a better idea for a frugal gifts leading up to Christmas. I would have loved it as well. And for a child, can you think of anything better to leave but notes telling them why you love them?


      • Exactly and not just that but saying things about their personality is so important that a lot of people forget to do – it’s often about being “pretty” and “smart” but the things like “kind” and “funny” etc are SO important so they know that no matter how they look or score on a test, they are good at the core :)


        • Yes, I was told often that at least I was smart as that was my consolation prize for everything other way I didn’t measure up. I may have avoided years of battling anorexia and low self-esteem if someone had taken the time to just see me and let me know.


    • Marlene I debated on posting advent ideas as they are mostly geared to families with young children. But then I realized some of my readers do have young children and those that didn’t might like the idea of simple gifts leading up to Christmas instead of going overboard on Christmas with their significant other. Of course for you and I, that isn’t at the top of our lists. :-)


    • Alex, I thought so too. There are as many ways to create a countdown calendar as there are imaginative people out there. Just for the decorative look I like the first picture of the green jars as it would make a lovely centerpiece on a table, but I have so many empty toilet rolls here I could easily make one of those.


  1. OK… you’re bringing up childhood memories. We never celebrated Advent, in fact, I haven’t got the foggiest idea what Advent is – though I gather it’s some sort of Christmas countdown. Does it have some grounding in Christian belief? Well, anyhow, I do remember that my neighborhood friends got these little calendars with a piece of chocolate for each day and I was always SOOOO jealous! Or maybe it’s a Scandinavian thing? Their mother was of Scandinavian descent and one of your pictures says “Christmas calendar” in Norwegian. Hmmmm….


    • The history of Advent is very convoluted, it was generally a christian celebration of the 4 Sundays before Christmas and comes from the latin word Adventus which means coming. There is also the 12 days after Christmas which is referred to as Epiphany, but I’ve never known anyone who celebrated this.

      Somewhere along the way the marketing brains decided selling a calendar, usually with a piece of candy for each day was a way to prolong the retail sales(?) Just like you remember your friends having.

      I left the Catholic church before I had my children which resulted in Christmas not having much meaning for me in a religious sense, so I started to come up with my own traditions for my boys. I noticed the advent calendars and thought this was a great way to incorporate a longer time of celebration. The boys liked it but I never went into the religious history with them.

      I don’t know how many religions practice Advent but I was told it came out of the Roman Catholic church,


      • Thanks for the education! Actually, when I lived in Norway they had a whole pile of special parties and meals for each of the days between Christmas and New Year – and all of the stores were closed then, so I guess they were celebrating Epiphany. I’ve gotta say, even though I have absolutely NO grounding in the Christian tradition, I do love the idea of simple, spread out celebrations – especially when they mean that people get to stay home from work and enjoy quiet time with their friends and family.

        I think that’s part of what makes me so sad about Christmas… the solstice has been celebrated by virtually every culture that ever existed, but generally it was a time when regular activities were suspended and the celebrations were done instead. But these days, it’s like people try to do all of this crazy celebration stuff on top of their regular already hectic lives… it just seems like missing the point to me.


        • Cat, I would love to have everything closed and be able to celebrate a holiday for a set period of days. You are right there isn’t any holiday celebrated like that here. The most we have are two days of celebration, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and New Year’s Even and New Years Day, although New Year’s Eve is about overindulgence in alcohol more than anything else.


  2. Hello Lois, I love the idea of celebrating Advent and Christmas your way. I’ve been trying for years to get my family to agree to no gifts at Christmas, but unsuccessful so far. At least we all keep it to a minimum. Your simple gift ideas are excellent!


    • Carol, like you I wish there were no presents for Christmas. I haven’t succeeded in this any more than you have. Once my boys were out on their own and making decent money they wanted to give more expensive gifts, especially to me as a way of thanking me for being their mother. It took some effort to get them to stop.

      I see 2 of my three grandchildren almost every day, if even for an hour so I could feasibly do an advent Christmas with them instead of a big deal on Christmas day, but still trying to work out how to do that for the youngest granddaughter I don’t see very often. Good luck to you convincing your family to embrace a no-gift or at least a no-cost gift in the future.


    • Bethany, I thought of you and your minimalist ways when I was writing this. I could picture Beanie enjoying a small gift per day rather than several presents on Christmas day. Plus you could make them very minimalist to share with her the idea of less toys. :-) You will have to share what you come up with.


  3. We didn’t celebrate with an advent calendar, however some years we had an Advent wreath and lit a candle once a week. However, you have lots of good ideas for Advent calendars. I especially like the one with clothes pins and the one where you put ornaments on the tree.


    • Live and Learn, an advent calendar wasn’t something I grew up with, but I did use one when my boys were young. An advent wreath sounds lovely, I would have liked that as I love having lit candles.


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