Tegan Thuss

The Community Edition Guide to a (More) Humble Holiday Season

Look at your bank account, and subtract $1,121. What’s left? Whatever the number, that’s where PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PWC) conservatively estimates your bank account will sit after this year’s holiday season. And while it would be nice to say this spending is extravagant and unrealistic, saying so won’t get you out of the countless holiday parties, obligatory office gifts, drinks you need to serve, potluck items you need to bring, train rides you need to take, gas you need to buy, wrapping paper you have to fight with and craft shows you have to attend. Your aunt really will love that artisanal, organic candle.

PWC’s estimate – a 10 per cent increase from last year’s consumer spending – accounts only for straight-up under-the-tree gift giving. And while they foresee a shift from material goods to non-tangible gifts (vacations or something hosted in the cloud), the effect on your wallet will still quite certainly feel tangible.

The alternatives? Get cheap with your favourite, free community newspaper (that’s us). While we can’t attack the entirety of the big ol’ system we call capitalism in the allotted page space, we’ve honed in on one of the biggest culprits of overspending during the holidays: alcohol. We know that not all of you drink, but at the very least this might come in use as a host. And if you do imbibe, please do so responsibly.

Here are two of our favourite recipes:

Festive, a.k.a. holiday spices in a box of cheap, wine:

1 box of red wine

1 handful of festive seasoning, like anise, nutmeg, cardamom or cloves

1 orange

1 lemon

Put a large pot on medium heat. Chuck in a few cinnamon sticks, plus whatever other festive seasoning you have. Whole spices are great, but if you’ve got powdered spices on hand, that’s fine too. Slice your orange and lemon, add to your toasting spices. Add the box of wine. The little spout on it will probably make pouring easy. Bring to a simmer and reduce to low heat. Serve whenever the heck you feel like it, because you’ve turned a cheap box of wine into lovely, spice infused wine. Serve in mugs and bask in the glory of being an awesome host.

Makes about 34 cups for about $45

The holiday miracle, a.k.a. one bottle of rye becomes many delicious gifts:

2.5 cups of half and half cream

2 cans of sweetened condensed milk

6 eggs

3 cups of inexpensive rye

2 tbsp of chocolate sauce (off-brand NesQuik is A-OK)

½ tsp of salt

Mix all ingredients in a blender (at least one of your friends will have one you can borrow). Store in tightly sealed bottles. That’s it. We recommend getting a few small mason jars, but don’t buy them new, thrift stores have more than they know what to do with. Throw some ribbon on them, or don’t. Keep refrigerated, and these bad boys will last about three weeks. One cheap bottle of rye turned into homemade Irish cream gifts.

Makes about 10 cups for about $38

So, PWC’s forecasted $1,121 reduction in your account balance is just that: a forecast, and not a recommendation or necessity. If your expected holiday spending doesn’t fit into this bracket, don’t sweat it. Pressure to spend and consume – often beyond your means or interest – is sitting at an all time high, but there are a ton of cheap and free ways to enjoy the season. And, they’re arguably better than any mediocre bottle of wine you’ll give someone (they’ll probably forget you gave it) or the gift basket of dry crackers you’ll give your boss (she probably got seven this year). Beyond our two thifty recipes, other options include walking through a beautifully lit Victoria Park (what the hell Bingemans, why is it $20 to drive through your light tunnel?), watching a weird, claymation Christmas special from your childhood, and wrapping your gifts in this newspaper! Homemade Irish cream isn’t going to topple the consumptive house of cards that is the holiday season during advanced capitalism, but hey, it’s a start.