For a tree you could do what my late mother did one year, because she had seen the idea in a magazine and liked it. She painted an empty coffee container and filled it with sand, then she went out in the yard looking for a good sized, nicely shaped tree branch and found one laying in the yard. She spray painted it white and stuck it in the coffee can and put the regular decorations on it. She received lots of complements on it from different visitors. I feel adults put way too much on what is expected at Christmas.
Explain to your kids that there won't be much, that the main thing is that you are all together. Call 211, that is the number for the national HELPLINE! organization. They keep lists of different organizations that provide different kinds of help that people might need. The Salvation Army also does some help. Ask your pastor about it, sometimes churches take up a special offering to help people in the congregation. Also you can pick up inexpensive gifts at dollar stores and thrift stores. All any kid needs is one gift each from the parents.
There must be grandparents and aunts and uncles that will be sending packages. We all know for a year in advance that Christmas is coming. I start my shopping in January, and buy one gift a month and have been done for at least a month. This way I avoid the last minute crowds. I spend $20.00 for one gift for each of my adult kids and each of my four grandkids that range in age from 15-25. If I find a $20.00 item on sale for $10-15.00, it still counts as a $20.00 item. It takes a little planning ahead, and yes I do know what it is like to be hard up, and have to ask for help, but I consulted the phone book and called different organizations.
Most of the charities that provide Christmas help have started having a cut off age of 12 years for kids. Even yet, I live off $600 a month retirement social security and no pension or savings of any kind. If you have a social worker and my guess is that you do if you are hard up, ask that person for advice. Actually you can decorate your house without having a tree. Have the kids make paper chains, cut out snow flakes, etc.
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