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Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case For A More Joyful Christmas

by Tiffany in Green Holidays

Over the holiday weekend I read Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case For A More Joyful Christmas. With less than 100 pages it is a pretty fast read and I loved the fact that the cover was made from brown packing paper… it just screams minimalism and voluntary simplicity.

The core idea is to pick a modest amount of money like $100 and spend no more than that on the holiday. This allows us to slow down the pace of Christmas, make it more about time with loved ones, and less about rampant consumerism. Of course the book has a very slight religious bent (it is about Christmas after all) but this secular mom found it very good as well. I was actually raised in a home that celebrated no holidays and for several years after I started my own family I kept it that way. If I could avoid the money sucking holidays that have no religious significance to me, then why not right? Well, as my children got older it became apparent that you do it for the kids. Still, no reason to go all crazy and put ourselves in debt… or even in financial discomfort every year. The holidays became for us a tradition of time spent with family and modest gift giving.

This book came a little late to try the $100 thing because alas I have already spent that on just one of my kids. BUT I am not sure I would change that because we already travel a path of voluntary simplicity throughout the year and the kids don’t get a whole lot of gifts outside of Christmas and birthdays. I don’t have any guilt about what I spend this time of year. We have always kept it within reason and we pay cash for everything we buy. Some of our splurges for this holiday season are really gifts that will last all year long. I bought season passes to the zoo, the science museum, and the conservatory. I also bought tickets to a Ballet for my two oldest. The gift of time together can’t be undervalued.

That said though, I think this book has some WONDERFUL ideas for gift giving while keeping it under $100 and I am making a mental checklist for this year and next. The author, Bill McKibben, talks about using your skills or learning new ones to make gifts by hand, things like learning to make soap. My husband and I discussed this and we have some skill building plans in place so that we can make more stuff for ourselves, not for holidays but in general. The idea of making our own gifts is a bonus.

Another thing I valued in the book was the history lesson about Christmas and how it has come to be the holiday of excess that it is today. It was very interesting. If you happen to buy this book at some point, you could even re-gift it during the holidays and perhaps get another in your family on board with creating a new Christmas tradition that is more about celebrating life and your time with loved ones and less about consumerism and excess.

  • Gina

    This sounds like such a great book! Thank you for the excellent review. My husband and I have six kiddos, so we watch our dollars pretty carefully, even at Christmastime. This book sounds like it would be a great help and encouragement in our endeavor. Love your blog, btw. I found it fairly recently and I am thoroughly enjoying it. :)

  • Tiffany, you know you’re speaking my language, right? I’m reading this post and nodding my head the whole way through, and trying to come up with a way to share it with specific people in my life that just don’t get it! LOL! I would love to read this! Hope I win! :)

    • The winner was #1 Sofia via

  • Christina

    Thanks for the review. There’s another book in a similar spirit called “Unplug the Christmas Machine,” which I really appreciated for its ideas to make the holiday more meaningful and establishing family traditions.
    I’d love to win this copy!

  • Julie Smith

    I’d love to read this book! I have been really struggling with trying to be less consumeristic this year, and especially this Christmas and really keep it all about the reason for the season and enjoying time with family. Now if I could just get my extended family to comprehend. LOL

  • Heather

    This book sounds fantastic! I would love to give it to my family. They look at my husband and I like we are weird because we don’t spend much on the kids over the holidays. We give them coupons (alone time with mommy, $5.00 for i-tunes, going out for ice cream with daddy, etc.) that they can use whenever they want and they love it!

  • Misty Murphy

    I think we are the only ones in our area who believe in being minimalists and that less is more. We are so simplistic but sometimes I still struggle with what we should or shouldn’t do when it comes to Christmas. Would love to read this book and then pass it on just as you are doing if given the chance.

  • Jenny

    I have always tended to sew/make gifts for people every year, but it’s getting harder to complete projects in time with kids. We don’t need or want much of anything, but family doesn’t accept that. Add in the “wish-list” and all thought it out of gift giving. We are a church going family. I’d love to read this book – if not for ideas for gifts, for the comfort of knowing there are others out there who feel the same way.

  • Great post, thank you! I am trying to move off grid, which will mean a move towards a simpler life, and, of course, much rethinking of where and how I spend any spare money I have. Already starting to simplify, and have decided to make jewelry as gifts for some of my friends and family this holiday… use up all the beads I’ve been collecting for a couple of years now. I would love to read this book too, and can imagine passing it on to a family member (in England, so it will travel) when I’ve finished.

  • What a great idea!

    I think that it’s really important to study your children’s interest. If you don’t then it’s so easy to let the lastest trends guide you. And the next thing you know, you’ve spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on toys that your children will barely play with.

  • Julie

    Sounds great! I’d love to simplify, but know I’d face resistance from my family.

  • Cindy

    My husband and I set a modest spending limit on our Christmas gifts for each other. That way you are trying to get the most for your dollars instead of the most expensive gift. I would love to read the other ideas that the book has.

  • Shannon

    As a new mom trying to find the time and finances for my family, I could really benefit from a book like that. Thanks for sharing!

  • Shawn

    I loved reading this post. My family was the same way growing up we did not celebrate holidays either. I always thought I was the only child not celebrating Christmas ;) it’s that my parents were depriving us of a tradition, it’s just my father hated the stress and debt that came with christmas. Now that I have my own family (son is 11 months) I have been trying to figure out what I want to do for my family. I defiantly agree that we should break the bank but I really like the idea of making things. A gift made has so muchmeaning than buying a gift. I would love to have this book to get more ideas on homemade gifts. Thanks!

  • I would love a copy of this book! Our family is getting bigger and we are already trying to make as many homemade gifts as possible. This book sounds like it has some great ideas. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one. I had never heard of it before.

  • Ann

    I have been downsizing a little bit every year and am hoping to get my extended family on board too. I would love to read this book. Thanks for the great review.

  • Would love to win this book! We try so hard to limit our purchases, buy handmade items and make a few things as well but I could certainly use more advice and inspiration! I grew up in a “go into debt for Christmas” kind of household and refuse to live that way. I just don’t think it is what is best for my kids.
    Thanks for passing on the book!

  • Brooke

    That book sounds wonderful! We’re a family of 5 [Husband works & attends school.. I’m a SAHM], with a continuing to grow extended family.. trying to figure out how to keep our family’s holiday budget in check.. AND still enjoy the holidays has been a task.

  • Pamela

    This book sounds great! I am with you on creating skills to make your own gifts. My family just had a discussion last night re: that very thing!

  • Melissa

    This book really speaks to me. I have been trying to simplify Christmas for my family for many years, but having a hard time getting through to the grandparents and siblings. I would love to read this book and share the ideas with my extended family. If I won, I promise to regift it.

  • Alexandra

    This is totally up our alley. We are striving to do the “one thing you want, one thing you need, and one thing to read” Christmas around here, but haven’t been able to pull it off totally. Here’s hoping that we might be able to get it in swing when our daughters have their bdays in February.

  • Kristi

    I would love to read this. We have been trying to cut back out of necessity, but it is not always easy. Luckily my little one is too small to care yet, so we are hoping to establish a tradition of only a few gifts each year.

  • Tatiana

    I’d love to read it! I’ll even give it away when I’m done…that would be cool.

  • Robin

    Just found your blogspot and I’m really excited about it. I’m looking forward to exploring your site and learning as much as I can from you. Thanks for all of this information!

  • Lisa

    I love the concept of this book and would love to get my hands on it! I am not sure how to implement it in our family. Hope to win, but if not, please share how to get my hands on a copy!

  • Amanda

    $100 for all of Christmas! What a shocking idea in our society. I’d love the inspiration on how to live more modestly.

  • Nadine Saubert

    I would love to read this book WITH my kids if I win! We are guilty of spending too much but I am getting better at getting “needs” as opposed to wants. This book sounds inspiring~

  • Shaunna

    I’d love to have the book! I always strive to make our little bit of spending for the holidays go as far as possible. And I’d promise to pass it along, too. :-)

  • Dani

    Sounds like a wonderful book – I’d love to get the holidays more about time spent together rather than $$!
    Thanks for offering this opportunity to win this book.

  • Sarah

    That book sounds wonderful! We are thrifty for the holidays but I don’t think I will make it in under 100 dollars. Our kids get two gifts each and hubby and I spend 30 dollars or less on each other. The extended family will be receiving homemade bath salts, scrubs, jewelry and assorted baked goodies and chocolates. I haven’t added up the total yet. I would love some more ideas for next year.

  • Deanna Knoll

    I’d love to read this book and discover more ideas about making Christmas more about family rather than materialism.

  • wow this book sounds great. my husband has been laid off for 3 of the last 3 and a half years. i wouldn’t call our simplicity voluntary in the beginning but now, after living lightly and becoming a more “green” family we wouldn’t have it any other way.
    that said this blog has been a resource for us since our son was born a year ago and my husband and i both thank you for the work you put into it.
    happy holidays!

  • This book sounds fantastic! What a great idea to help people understand that Christmas and the holidays aren’t just about material items.

  • Jessica

    I’d love a copy! We are always thinking of new ways to spend less money and more meaning. It’s a difficult balance but with our first baby on the way, it’s even more important to us now!

  • Alisha Blake

    I have just started reading your blog within the last month and I really love what it’s all about. My fiance and I are embarking on our first Christmas with our 4 month old Adeline and he and I both feel very strongly about teaching her how important family IS and stuff ISN’T when it comes to the holidays. I think that this book would lend a huge hand in this jouney!

  • What a great idea! I love it, i would love to read the book!

  • Shena

    It is not yet midnight so I hope I still have a chance at winning the book. On a separate “tab” on my laptop I have a “shopping cart” with $250 worth of toys. I remembered reading something here about how you can’t guarantee that a Melissa and Doug product won’t have paint from China on the wooden pieces, so I decided to look at your blog…a continuous reference point for me, to find some “safe” toys. I know that both my 1 year old and my 7 year old with autism will be putting the toys I buy in their mouths, so I am conflicted about pressing the “purchase” button.
    Anyway, back to this book. It jumped out at me. How I would love to do a simpler Christmas. We are really stretching this year and ideas and inspiration to minimize the spending…and guilt for not spending…are so welcome at this point.
    Thank you!!!

    • Shena

      It really is 11:36 here in FL…not 12:36!!!

  • Amy W

    thank you for the chance – it looks like a great read!

  • Dorinda

    Great idea. I have thought about this before myself.

  • ooo, this looks like a great read! My budget this year on our kids is double what is was last year and I am so grateful for it. Like you we practice minimalism all year long. My kids do not get gifts other then birthdays and Christmas, they rarely see the inside of a store actually This year although I spent more $$ i have made a conscious effort to buy handmade as well as continue to buy well made toys that will last, no plastic, no batteries. I have also convinced grandparents (although tough sometimes) to forgo traditional gifts and give season passes instead. I value that time and the ability to take my kids somewhere special all year long. I credit following your blog for the last 2 years a big help in changing my views on how we buy and consume. I am grateful to you for giving me and my family that. Many wishes for a wonderful holiday to you and your family!

  • andiscandis

    I’m all for one “big” (not necessarily big or expensive, but you know…) gift per person and some stocking stuffers. When kids get a room full of gifts, half of the stuff barely gets touched.

  • I’ve heard about this book before and really need to read it!  Your gifts to your children sound mainly experiential gifts that will provide joy and togetherness the whole year long.

  • Had not heard of the book, but will definitely check it out. You should do a post on the history of Christmas’s evolution too!   Do you know it’s become big in Japan?

  • Karen Hanrahan

    recent years had me gifting within $100 and I felt wonderfully accomplished for all the giving that could be done so minimally.  i adore the brown paper look of this book, very cool

  • Mike @ MyWhiteDoves

    Picked this book up at Marden’s recently & love, love, love it! I like the principle but I also love how he talks about it not just merely from a remeniscent perspective, but has an academic bent to it as well. One idea in particular that I like was that ‘time spent together is a gift in itself’… recently we bought a $4 bag of mixed buttons from a goodwill store and the kids & I sat at the table for about 2h… sorting the buttons & then stringing them on wire to make Christmas  Wreath ornaments to hang on the tree. The time spent together was a great gift!!  (and you get to open that gift before Christmas too!)