Christmas Shopping on a Budget


"Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read."

I love Christmas. What I don't love however, is getting into debt, buying stuff we don't need, and neglecting the poor. The desire to live within our means so that we can be free to give defines our Christmas gift giving.

I want Christmas to feel extravagant for our children, but I don't want to spend extravagantly. With this goal in mind, there are a few strategies that I use each Christmas.


Keep Expectations Low- Every year I tell the children that it will be a small Christmas and they won't receive many gifts. I do spend a morning asking them what they would like for Christmas and writing it down, I love hearing what they are dreaming of, but I make it clear that they will not get everything on their list.

Download Our Free Christmas Bucket List Template Here

Use A Formula- I love the phrase, "Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read".  It has been attributed to Ann Voskamp and is a very good guideline for me on gift purchasing. With seven children, I need a framework to keep the gift purchasing simple.

Start Early- Throughout the year, I am constantly on the lookout for good books at thrift stores. These are stored in my closet where I will then divide them up between the children for their Christmas gifts. There is nothing quite like a new book, with a holiday to enjoy reading it. This is a good principle for all gift giving, while being careful not to overbuy or overspend.

Wrap Everything- I use Christmas as an opportunity to give my children things that they already need. I may spend a little extra to get day of the week undies, or a bamboo toothbrush, but even necessities should not be taken for granted, and giving them as gifts helps my children recognize that fact.

Keep Relationship as the Priority- Throughout the holiday season we try to keep relationships at the forefront. Making time to read through an advent devotional, sing songs, build a puzzle, and reach out to the needy are what the holiday should be defined by. If all my time is spent shopping, the memories will be bitter for everyone.

Christmas can be a wonderful time, free of debt and stress, it just might take a little more thought and planning.

For more ideas for a simple, thoughtful Christmas, check out the Wild and Free homeschool bundles. The December subscription, Yule is full of beautiful ideas for Christmas celebrations with your children. I’ll be speaking at their conference in Frisco this February, I’d love to see you there!

If you need some help to define a budget, and create a more simple Christmas, check out my course, Bountiful Homeschooling on a Budget. 

If you are searching for a fresh guide to homeschooling your children in the new year, check out our parent guides. We have year long, and month long resources to bring joy, connection, and learning into your home.

Here at The Peaceful Press, we’ve created a heartwarming Christmas Guide. We include nature based crafts, recipes, favorite story suggestions, phonics and counting activities, games, and fine motor activities to make this your best Christmas ever. Click the link below for more information.

The Christmas Guide


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More Christmas Blog Posts;

Handmade Christmas with Children

Christmas Books and Toys for Intentional Families

Christmas Stories

A Simple Santa Mask

Favorite Books for Advent


In our family, we love slowing down over the month of December and settling into a quiet, devotional rhythm. We focus on family togetherness around our fireplace; talking, reading, and baking together as the cold dark days of winter settle in.

We love incorporating advent guides into our evening routines, and included a few of our favorites here.

Jotham’s Journey is the advent devotional that we are using with our The Precious People study. It follows a boy in his adventures in Ancient Rome at the time of Jesus birth, and includes daily readings and reflections.

Jotham’s Journey


Another favorite resource for advent is by our dear friend Jennifer Naraki. Slow and Sacred Advent is a thoughtful four week guide to help your family celebrate the birth of Christ.

Slow and Sacred Advent

Photo by

Photo by

I printed an early edition of this Jesse Tree themed devotional way back when it was on A Holy Experience Blog. Now you can get a beautiful read aloud edition, with the hopeful and inspiring words of Ann Voskamp to lead your advent celebrations.

Unwrapping The Greatest Gift


A new one that we haven’t read yet is by a favorite devotional author, Marty Machowski. We have used his children’s devotional books for the last few years of school and are excited to check this one out.

Prepare Him Room

Photo by

Photo by

Here at The Peaceful Press, we also created this Christmas Guide. The focus is on fun activities to do with your children over the four weeks of Christmas, including weekly nativity stories, favorite Christmas books, crafts, recipes, handmade gifts, games, and more.

The Christmas Guide


What are your favorite resources for celebrating advent?

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for clicking through and showing your support.

More Christmas Blog Posts;

Handmade Christmas with Children

Christmas Books and Toys for Intentional Families

Christmas Stories

A Simple Santa Mask

Handmade Christmas with Children

The best Christmas memories are made by hand…

The best Christmas memories are made by hand…

The best Christmas memories are made by hand. 

And if that is true, then perhaps the worst Christmas memories are those made when we spend the majority of the holiday season in department stores without our children, trying to purchase toys that will be played with for a few days and then forgotten. 

I love gifts, and giving them is important to me, but often the gift that our children most long for is the gift of our undistracted time.

On the other hand, many of us envision making things by hand as just another distraction from our children. When these gifts are difficult projects that must be done solo, we are again forced to choose between time with our children, or time doing something for them, but not with them.

A few Christmases ago, we made some changes that have set a precedent for more family time at Christmas. We had a theme of "used or homemade" for Christmas gifts which meant that I would take a few children at a time to hit up thrift stores, or that I was sewing simple gifts for them such as capes and doll blankets, while they worked on their own homemade gifts.

By choosing alternative ways to celebrate, including forgoing gifts in exchange for a Christmas vacation, we have been able to lower expectations and focus on family time. However, we still want to have a few gifts on hand for grandparents and friends, and we have chosen to have at least a few of those be handmade.

These are a few of the simple gifts that we have made;

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Rolled Beeswax Candles

You need:

Beeswax Sheets


  • Carefully cut your beeswax sheets in half lengthwise. 

  • Cut your candle wick to fit.

  • Place wick at the edge of the beeswax and carefully fold over the first roll.

  • Finish rolling tightly.

Our two sheets of beeswax made 4 thick candles. You could also cut the beeswax in thirds for thinner candles or cut in quarters for short candles.

1st image.jpg

Essential Oil Bath Salts

Soaking in bath salts is a great way to supplement your body with magnesium and get better sleep.

You need:

1 32 oz package epsom salts

essential oil (we used Young Living Lavender Oil)

pint sized mason jars

Christmas fabric and ribbon

  • Pour your epsom salt into a large bowl. You could also add himalayan pink salt, dead sea salt, or other mineral rich salts.

  • Add about 15 drops lavender essential oil.

  • Stir well to combine.

  • Use a scoop to pour bath salts into jars.

  • Cut circles from your holiday fabric that are slightly larger than your jar lid. We used a gallon size jar lid as a template.

  • Place fabric over lid and then screw on jar ring. 

  • Tie ribbon around jar ring and add a gift tag if desired.

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There are loads of other possibilities for homemade gifts, bean soup in a jarcloth doll, a simple cape, or even potted plants such as geraniums that you start from a cutting. Our new Christmas Guide includes tutorials for several of these activities, along with stories, games, and early learning activities to bring more joy to this holiday season.

We can turn the tide on Christmas expectations, and create a holiday celebration that is defined by precious moments spent with our loved ones.

If you are struggling to figure out how you can pay for Christmas, please check out my course, Bountiful Homeschooling. When you use code, "Budget" the course is only $18.

This post has affiliate links. Thanks for clicking and showing your support.

You might also enjoy:

Favorite Books for Advent

Christmas Books and Toys for Intentional Families

Christmas Stories

and A Simple Santa Mask

Christmas Books and Toys For Intentional Families

Christmas Books and Toys

I’m excited about Christmas! We have traveled away from home the last two years, but this year we will be home, and we are planning lots of memory making around crafts, service, and family togetherness.

Our new Christmas Guide is full of inspiration for making sweet memories in your family. We include heartwarming literature, nature based crafts, and developmentally appropriate counting and phonics activities to create a Christmas to remember.


While most of our Christmas celebrations revolve around making memories together, we will also have a few gifts under the tree. We use the guide, “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read” to help keep our shopping simple and intentional.

These are a few items we love that fit into this formula.

Ever Earth Jr. Ramp Racer

Melissa and Doug Shape Sorting Clock

Melissa and Doug Fold and Go Dollhouse

Melissa and Doug Multi Craft Knitting Loom

Paper Making Kit

Holiday Pajamas

We’ve also loved experiences and subscriptions for gifts that keep on giving. The last two years we’ve forgone presents in exchange for exciting adventures and this year we are enjoying fun monthly boxes from Kiwi Crate.

Check them out here


Although you will be inundated by opportunities to buy and spend this season, we want you to know that the most wonderful gift you can give your child is yourself. As you read to your child, bake favorite holiday treats, and just hang out, you are building into your child the knowledge that they are a delightful human, and people who feel delighted in, have the confidence to make the world a better place.

You might also enjoy:

Favorite Books for Advent

Handmade Christmas with Children

Christmas Books and Toys for Intentional Families

Christmas Stories

and A Simple Santa Mask

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Fall Nature Study

Fall Nature Study

Fall Nature Study

We love fall in our family! The leaves are turning colors and my house smells of apples and cloves as I bake and diffuse.

One of our favorite activities each season is nature study, and we love observing the change of seasons in our favorite places. We try to take time on every outing to pause at a scenic spot to sketch or play.


Sometimes getting young children to actually observe nature, requires giving them a craft that involves natural materials. This allows them to slow down enough to actually observe the leaves, bark or feathers that they are supposed to be studying.

One of the resources that we are using this year, is the book, Exploring Nature With Children, by Lynn Seddon. This manual includes activities, book suggestions, an overview of the topic and even poem and art suggestions to go along with the theme of the week. 

We also enjoy collecting leaves on each of our outings and identifying the trees they came from. Our new Tree Guide has been a helpful resource for observing trees and enjoying the fall season.

We have also used the book, Look What I Did With a Leaf for our annual leaf creatures, and one of the girls in our local nature group, made this fabulous horse, using ideas from the book.


Another family fall tradition that we have is a visit to a place called Apple Hill. We don't live as close as we used to, but purchasing fresh apples and fresh apple donuts is worth the drive. You may have apple orchards or pumpkin patches near you where you can celebrate the changing season.


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We have many free items for your family. Parent guides, children’s activities, printable and book lists to give you a taste of The Peaceful Press Curriculum. Click the button below for access.

Fun With Ancient History

Fun with Ancient History!

Fun with Ancient History!

We are on our 6th week with The Precious People and having so much fun. In all honesty, ancient history is not my favorite thing to teach. Many of the stories are so heavy, and it is so long ago that it can be hard for us modern families to find a connection point with ancient people. We’ve solved this problem in part by starting the year with a reading of The All Of A Kind Family, which ties the life of a 1900’s era Jewish family to stories from ancient history that relate to Jewish holy days and Ancient Egypt.

With the sweet stories and projects that I included in The Precious People, this time period is coming to life in new ways. We celebrated Rosh Hashanah with goal setting and sweet food, made mini sukkahs from graham crackers for our harvest themed celebration of Succoth, and then, for the first time in my 22 years of homeschooling, made sugar cube pyramids as we studied Ancient Egypt (I promptly threw the extra sugar cubes in a bird bath and watered them down so that children wouldn’t be tempted to eat them. I’m hoping sugar is good for birds and bees.)

I especially love the projects included in The Precious People. Projects are an amazing way to promote STEAM learning in our homes, and as we made small buckets from clay and set up a model of a shadduff, we were learning about simple machines, while being amazed at how hard it was for ancient people to irrigate a field.

Each parent guide from The Peaceful Press has a similar focus, and as we learn through great stories and projects, a much deeper intellect is formed in our children. When learning is literature based, hands on, and multi-sensory, skills are built that will enable your child to excel in many areas of life.


A Few Favorite Stories For Getting Started With Ancient History

National Geographic Readers; Pyramids by Laura Marsh

Hands On History! Ancient Egypt by Philip Steele

The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo

All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by Cathy Goldberg Fishman

Galen and the Gateway to Medicine by Jeanne Bendick

The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

We will also be studying papyrus and making paper in the next few weeks, so we ordered this deckle to help with that project.

Economy Deckle

We will also be working on building this Roman Villa as we start studying Ancient Rome.

While studying the ancients might not be quite as engrossing as learning about American history with The Playful Pioneers last year, we are making the most of it with The Precious People.


I hope you enjoy these resources as much as our family has!

-Jennifer Pepito

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Learning Through Play- A Forgotten Element of Education

“Let’s play Fox and Geese!” My five year old is referring to a new game that we learned from The Playful Pioneers. It’s a version of hide-and-seek and they LOVE it.  We pick a home base (usually our couch) and I pretend to be a fox while they are the little geese. I count to twenty as my two girls scamper off giggling to their favorite hiding places. When I’ve finished counting, I make a big scene of sniffing for delicious geese snacks. I can practically hear their little hearts beating with anticipation. If I pass them, they run to base. More often than not, I do catch them. I envelope them in a hug while giggles and laughter ensue. Our hearts are connected.


My husband joins in these games, usually in the evening after dinner has been put away. It's a way for the girls to get their last wiggles out before bed, but more importantly a way for them to connect with their father. They play Fox and Geese and more recently “Mad Dog” as Laura and Mary played with Pa (Little House in The Big Woods). My husband gets on hands and knees, acts like a ferocious dog, and chases the girls. Usually somewhere during this time he changes into a dragon, play swords are brought out, and the girls have either defeated or tamed the dragon (depends on the day).By the time they are through hearts are pounding and there are smiles all around. Connections have been deepened and warm, sweet memories have been tucked away in their hearts.


Whole movement play has such a unique way of uniting our hearts together as a family. The laughter that echoes and the connections that are made are too important to just let slip past. Right now it’s play that speaks to my daughters' age and ability. So it’s games such as Hide-and-Seek, Mother May I, and The Floor is Lava (the kids LOVE hopping across couches and pillows!).

The play possibilities are endless. It just takes some time to brush off the dust settled on our memories of childhood play and jump in there with our kids. It’s tiring, but invigorating and the memories made are worth it. 

Melina Boswell


Check out our playful parent guides for a year full of learning fun.

The Peaceful Preschool

The Playful Pioneers

The Precious People


Our Tree Guide and Ocean Guide are one month, literature, project, and nature based units for 3-5 year olds. They make a perfect introduction to learning with The Peaceful Press.

Discover the beauty of learning through play!

Discover the beauty of learning through play!

A Preschool Guide To Trees

Last spring I shared here on the blog about a tree unit study our family was enjoying at that time and that has blossomed into a very lovely preschool collection. You can read a bit more about that learning unit, the books and the activities I shared HERE, as well as the heart of why I love studying trees with my little ones. 

Tree Mobile.jpg

Following a similar four week breakdown, this tree unit is broken into four components, which are:

A Tree Begins 

The study of how a tree begins to grow and how to care for a growing tree. Transferring acorns, sorting tree seeds and watering plants are a few activities we do this week.

About A Tree

The study of what makes up a tree and how tree are similar, yet different. This week we measure trees, sort bark, and make leaf prints.


A Tree is a Home

The study of the habitat that is within and surrounding a tree. We will explore the world of bugs and birds and other tree dwellers in this week of playful learning.

A Tree Gives

A study on some of the ways a tree gives to us. This week we will play with fruit, making a rainbow fruit snack, apple star print, and learn about some of the beautiful gifts the tree generously gives.


My heart is that as you study trees with your little ones you will see your hearts grow together and your roots in your family deepened. This study has a mix of living books,  simple crafts, directed printables, fun activities and adventure.  You will also find simple food preparation and home skills you can work into the rhythm of your day.

These lessons are created with play in mind, but offer some skills an older preschool or kindergarten student will also enjoy as well. They have been loved by my two year old on the simplest level, engaging for my four year old, while still grabbing the attention of my six year old. We have been testing out and trying all of these activities in preparation to share them with you. And I have been praying over each mama, and each little learner, who reads and journeys through this tree unit. I am here cheering you on as your love and lead your little ones.  

Book List

A Is For Acorn by Analisa Tripp

Because of An Acorn by Lola M. Schaefer

A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Aston

Seeds and Trees by Brandon Walden

The Busy Tree by Jennifer Ward

A Tree is Nice by Janice Udry

A Log’s Life by Wendy Pfeffer

Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman

Farm Anatomy by Julia Rothman

Trees, Leaves, and Bark by Diane Burns

The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown Ups by Gina Ingoglia

The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger

Going on A Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger

How do Apples Grow? by Betsy Maestro

The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall

Johnny Appleseed by Steven Kellogg

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman


With Love, Lisa Wilkinson 

You might also like our other post LEARN ABOUT TREES.

Enjoy this 4 week breakdown of A Preschool Guide to Trees!

Enjoy this 4 week breakdown of A Preschool Guide to Trees!