Author Jay Cradeur shares a few simple strategies to reduce spending and increase the love you share and feel during the ever-increasing commercialized holiday season.

I enjoy the holidays. I grew up in America where the end of the year brings the two big holidays. I recall our family gatherings during Thanksgiving. We met at my grandparent’s home in Piedmont, California. Aunts, Uncles, Great Aunts and Uncles, friends of my grandparents all gathered once a year. I remember eating good food, watching the Wizard of Oz and playing Charades. Christmas also brings about memories of giddy joy upon waking up early in the morning to find gifts under the tree.

Years ago, I learned to say “No” to the social and familial pressure to buy everyone a gift.

As I have aged over the years, it feels Christmas has become far more commercial. Rather than being my bucolic experience of childhood, it feels bloated and excessive. When I see people running on top of each other to get a good deal on a 32 inch television at Wal-Mart on Black Friday, I wonder how it all went so sideways. My children are all grown and out of the house, so the days of big gift buying have passed me by. However, the pressure of the holiday season is still there. It is a pressure to get everyone I have ever known, a gift. Here I present to you a few simple ways to reduce your spending, and recapture the real spirit of Christmas.

#1 Just Say No.

There are a dozen or so people in my life to whom I truly want to give a gift. Then there are another dozen or so that expect a gift. Years ago, I learned to say “No” to the social and familial pressure to buy everyone a gift. I let everyone know that I was planning to cut back and commensurately, I was not expecting anyone to get me a gift. This way, only those that authentically wanted to get me a gift would follow through. I gave my gifts to those that I authentically wanted to have my gift. This cut my gift expense in half.

#2 Give Gifts of the Heart

Ten years ago, I began an institution called ‘Jay’s X-Mas Playlist.’ At the time, people were still using CDs. My first step was to go over the ‘best of the year’ music lists provided by magazines like Rolling Stone. If I saw a song that I might like, I would then go to Itunes and listen to a sample. If I liked it, I would pay the minimal fee and download the song. Each playlist would also have some old classics, some of my favorite music’ like Dock of the Bay’ by Otis Redding or ‘Brandy’ by Looking Glass. Once you have your songs, then you need to put them in an order that has a flow to it. The first few song set the tone. I then select some music that is more mellow, and then follow those songs with more vibrant music, and then end with songs that captures the essence of the whole. Here, for example, is my playlist from 2010:

  1. I Phone 4 Don’t Care – The Bears
  2. If You Could Read My Mind – Johnny Cash
  3. Farther Along – Marideth Sisco
  4. Send In The Clowns – Frank Sinatra
  5. The Hands of Angels – Elton John and Leon Russell
  6. Nobody’s Fault But Mine – Willie Nelson
  7. For The Good Times – Jamey Johnson
  8. Round Midnight – Thelonius Monk
  9. Flume – Peter Gabriel
  10. Wholy Holy – Marvin Gaye
  11. When The Saints Go Marching In –  Bruce Springsteen
  12. Slippin and Sliden – Justin Townes Earle
  13. Me and Bobby McGee – Kris Kristofferson
  14. Femme Fetal – Velvet Underground
  15. Moon Dreams – Miles Davis
  16. Tumblin Dice (Live) – Rolling Stones
  17. Angel Dance – Robert Plant / Band of Joy
  18. Long Road Home – Sheryl Crowe
  19. Stoney End – Barbra Streisand
  20. Tupelo Honey – Van Morrison.


It is unique joy to listen to a playlist that someone you know created. I have found the music is always a welcome gift, and far less expensive than traditional gifts.  If you happen to be a writer, you might add a short poem in addition to the playlist. Icing on top of the cake!

#3  Reduce Electric Lights

Cars can be so isolating. When I was on the train, I had 50 or so fellow passengers, all on a journey together. It felt good.

I remember being shocked by my electric bill in January. All of those lights on the house, and all of the lights inside the house, can add up to a significant energy spike. You can still be festive without lighting up the neighborhood. I have also found that candles inside the house, rather than lights, adds a very magical feel to the holidays. Candle light is very soothing during a stressful holiday season.

Bonus Idea – Take Public Transportation

I have recently begun to use more public transportation. Now that gas prices are quite low, this idea may not be a big money saver, but it does make an impact on your overall energy output. I also find that using public transportation is a soul satisfying experience. I recently took an Amtrak train from Sacramento to Oakland. I was able to relax, look at the beautiful California landscapes, work on my laptop, and eat my apple and almonds. Public transportation also forces you to interact with your fellow human beings. Cars can be so isolating. When I was on the train, I had 50 or so fellow passengers, all on a journey together. It felt good.

If you have any more ideas for reducing holiday expenses, please share in the comments below. I wish you all a very happy and warm holiday season. I now will begin working on my ‘Jay’s X-mas Playlist 2015’.  The only songs I know that I will add are Bruno MarsUptown Funk‘ and the Rolling Stones ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’. I better get to work. Happy New Year!

The article originally appeared on the Good Men Project Website.