It's going to be a lean holiday season. No big deal. Any member of the "working poor" has been cutting back for years now. Make Christmas just for the kids? Done that. Don't exceed your credit limit? What was left of the cards spontaneously combusted at the mere mention of holiday shopping months ago.

So for those who've already scraped their emergency barrels clean, what to do? Well, possession is nine-tenths of the law. And that other tenth really isn't worth fretting over until January.

Five-finger fruits: During the Great Depression millions of people suffered from malnutrition. Scurvy, even. What cures scurvy? Vitamin C — as in citrus. And citrus trees grow like weeds in these parts at this time of year. Carefully take note of the orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit opportunities hanging around your neighborhood — or someone else's. (Also take note of barking dogs living near said trees.) Then one foggy pre-Christmas Eve, don dark and stretchy garb that's good for climbing, grab a couple of sacks (pillowcases will do; paper bags make crinkle noises), and revisit those scouted locations. Save what's needed for a fruitarian feast and give the rest away with well wishes for a healthy new year.

Purloined yule: Burning the yule log may be a centuries-old tradition, but there's a fresh relevance thanks to exorbitant energy costs. A fireplace is nice, but an impromptu one can easily be rigged up with commonly found yard items — barbecue pits, concrete blocks, truck rims. The bounty is twofold: 1) Keep your ass from freezing should the electricity get cut off, and 2) ensure the cozy feeling that comes while making merry fireside, bottle or no.

While it is customary for the yule log to be the biggest available so it burns all night, how are you going to find it? Be efficient. While hunting down fruit-bearing sources, keep those eyes peeled for stacks of aged firewood. Select carefully and think of how proud the original owner would feel knowing his was the biggest yule you could handle … on the run.

A little trim: It just isn't Christmas without festive decorations. Those who've slaved over the homemade variety will scoff along with me at the mere suggestion of self-crafting; have you priced glitter and glue guns lately?

Save time and money and get them ready-made. Where? Do you think those nuts that cover their humble abodes with blow-up elves and twinkling lights like snowflakes in a blizzard will really miss a few? Start by taking slow-walking tours down electric avenues, and scavenge a string of this and an armful of that. Religious types might score an added feel-good by making a home for a stray baby in a manger. It's not really stealing if someone sees your filched manger scene and subsequently finds Jesus, right?

And remember a little bling does go a long way when you're running that extension cord into the neighbor's outlet.

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More by Lindy Shepherd


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