In today’s economy, there is a real need to keep the Yule holiday frugal. Going into debt is not a heathen value, in part because it hinders one’s independence. Yet, heathens, especially followers of the Vanir, seek abundance and prosperity. Frugality can be a means to later prosperity, yet I believe one can have abundance in the here and now while still on a frugal path. The key is to have simple abundance.
Something that I have found to make a difference is to not set up big expectations. I’ve bought gifts at flea markets and thrift stores for several years… I start earlier than most shoppers so that I can treasure hunt over a long period of time. Sometimes I even find time to give homemade gifts. Everyone knows that the gifts they get for me will be of the non-returnable variety, but this also takes the pressure off others to give me expensive gifts. All in all, this paradigm makes the holiday a lot less stressful. None of us make “wish lists”, but rather we just keep in mind the themes of each family member; their favorite colors, items they collect, etc. Absence of a wish list takes the pressure off for getting a specific gift, allowing for serendipity finds, and also makes the gifts true surprises.
It can be easy to get carried away with spending on things like stocking stuffers too. If making (or buying) Yule stockings for the first time, you might want to go for a smaller size, if you think you may have problems filling it. A lot of people fill stockings with toys and gadgets, but in earlier times, stockings were more often filled with candy, fruit, and nuts. Filling stockings with home made food items is not only a cheaper alternative, but also a more homey and loving touch. Some good ideas are rice crispy treats and popcorn balls for larger items, and nuts in the shell for smaller items, interspersed with classic Yule treats; sugarplums and peppermints.
Incidentally, according to Phyllis Siefker’s book “Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men”, the real origin of the Yule stocking was from heathen times when children would fill their boots with carrots, straw, or sugar, near the chimney for Odin’s flying horse, Sleipnir, to eat. Odin would reward those children for their kindness by replacing Sleipnir’s food with gifts or candy.
Yule decorations need not be expensive either. If you’re like me, you’ve collected a few decorations every year and carefully pack them away to be used every year. But if you’re just starting out, you may feel tempted to go out and buy a bunch of stuff to decorate your home. I suggest that instead, start out with homemade simple decorations like paper snowflakes, salt dough ornaments, popcorn strings, pine cones rolled in glitter, and sprigs of trimmed greenery brought in from outside. (Find more ideas here.) You may also find a few treasured items at after-holiday sales and thrift stores, if your budget allows.
Consider wrapping your gifts in re-usable decorative boxes and drawstring bags. If you’re going the wrapping paper route, dollar stores are usually cheaper than larger department stores. I like to get a few rolls of just solid colored paper if I can find it, to use for wrapping birthday (or other occasion) presents during the rest of the year.
Finally, the best way to have a great Yule without going into debt is to focus more on activities with family and friends more than on things. Go potluck for your tree decorating party. Go caroling, or just have a get-together with Pagan/Heathen friends to sing (and teach each other) Yule songs. Light a homemade Yule log (or candles on a Yule log.) Decorate a tree in the woods with treats for the wildlife. Awake early to see the Solstice sun rise and ring solstice bells!