Living on $13,000 or Less: Christmas Unemployed (part 3)

How a family of 3 (with 1 on the way) made it through the first year of grad school living on less than $13,000 without any federal aid for housing, medical care, or food.

This series is based on how our family of 3 ½ made it through the first year of grad school living on less than $13,000–without any federal aid for housing, medical care, or food. I tried a lot of things and failed at a lot of things, but also found success and confidence through that time. I learned that sheer guts can see you through.

This is part 3 of the Living on $13,000 or Less series, if you missed previous installments click on through to read: Storm’s a Brewin’ (part 1) and The First Hurdle (part 2).



Well we had made the first hurdle, our young family had enough food and rent paid for the first semester. Now we had to figure out how to do operation Christmas. Luckily I had a craft stock pile just like we already had a food stock pile in place.

So I did a lot of sewing using fabric stashed from fatter days. A couple yards of fleece became neck warmer/pillows and scarfs. I drafted a pattern and splurged on 2 yards of brown fabric in order to create some pretty awesome Jedi robes for our nephews.


The hubster and I also abstained from getting a tree (to own the truth we’d never been able to afford a tree before either so this wasn’t any real sacrifice) and presents for each other. The only presents Sunny received from us were pampers village rewards or paid with swag bucks. We ended up doing Christmas for less than $30.

It may sound cheap but it meant we made it through that first semester. It definitely isn’t my prescribed way of celebrating the holiday, this is just how it worked for us that particular year.

We returned from my parent’s home heavy laden but with lighter hearts. If we could pull off Christmas at the end of our funds, figuring out how to eat second semester should be a breeze. Unfortunately we didn’t realize how much a birth would affect us or how long it would take to get an internship. We soon learned that Christmas was a walk in the park and what true unemployment was….


Update: You can now click through here to read the rest of this series published posts.