Almost as soon as the school supplies are sold out; stores become full of a fleeting assortment of pumpkins, black cats, and orange candy. If you are lucky you can find some dinner napkins with a turkey or cornucopia left over to adorn the Thanksgiving table- but more than likely the Halloween goblins become quickly replaced by Santa Claus. The first signs of Christmas begin long before most people even think about all the shopping, cold weather and decorating that goes in to the biggest money making holiday for marketers of the entire year! The first time you hear the bells of the Salvation Army trying to collect your nickels and dimes at a local storefront the stress of Christmas has begun.
What to get for whom and how to afford it all- are two questions that don’t always go together. Most families have forgotten entirely about the meaning of the holiday and have replaced the celebration with credit card debt, loan applications and misery! Children are adorned with more gifts than they can even appreciate and many of them end up put out in yard sales come spring. If you take a minute to think realistically; you might be able to alleviate all this stress of Christmas and actually enjoy the time with family and friends.
Christmas is definitely a holiday that has been ballooned for children to enjoy. While the kids sit opening presents under the flickering lights of a Fir tree, mom and dad are seeing dollar signs flash in their heads. Sure, the kids smile for a minute perhaps even squeal out in excitement; but are quickly tossing the gift aside to rip open the next one. Appreciated, no! But, you can’t blame the kids. This is something that they are taught early on in life. Many parents set a certain inexplicable amount of money to spend on each person in the family or actually count gifts to make sure that things are even. It doesn’t matter if they can afford it or not. People might exclaim that they “just love to give presents” or that “the holidays make them go overboard” but the sad truth is that no one should give anything they don’t have the money to buy. If someone thought less of you because they didn’t receive their nut basket or if a family member was offended by being left out of the mix then they certainly aren’t the Godly or wholesome person who truly cares about your wellbeing.
The stress of Christmas doesn’t have to be. Setting limits and imposing boundaries is a good thing to do. Talking with extended family and perhaps picking names out of a hat, rather than buying for the whole lot can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Do you really need a gift from all of your in-laws and do they really need one from you? Shopping sales and infusing the kids’ presents with things they actually need and don’t just want, want, want- can stretch the household budget and teach kids a valuable lesson about money and gratitude! When people ask what to get your children tell them they need a nice winter coat, a new pair of boots or something for their school like a computer accessory. This saves you from having to buy it, is useful – meaning it won’t end up in a plastic tote marked 80% off the price paid for it at your garage sale and won’t end up buried or broke at the bottom of a sticky toy box.
If you can’t remember what you bought last Christmas, are still paying for it now or feel ill at the thought of the holidays- you owe it to your self and your loved ones to make a change. There is no shame in telling people you don’t have the money to buy elaborate gifts. Truth is that there are tons of things you could make at home that would minimally impact your credit card statement. Make photo stories for your parents, inscribe a beautiful frame with hand prints and kid pictures for the grandparents or put together festive snack bags with dollar store items and hot cocoa or baked pecans. The holidays and Christmas in particular holds an aura all its own that should not be compromised by worries, stress of Christmas and dread at the months ahead. If you over indulge and feel that you must have the most ornate decorations on your block, come up with the best gifts foregoing the consideration of price and run around like a maniac for weeks before just to meet all your invisible obligations; you are stealing the true meaning of Christmas and the spirit of the holiday away from your loved ones. You are also more likely to find your self sick, in debt, losing hair and resentful of the season as a whole.
The stress of Christmas is something that everyone feels one way or another. Lessening it so that you can enjoy the season is most definitely the best gift you can give your self. There is always beauty in simplicity and simplicity brings beauty to all who bear witness. Children included! Driving around peeking at lights, visiting holiday markets, venues and chopping down a live Christmas tree out of an orchard are the things that memories. When the children get older using the holidays to indulge in a family event like a ski vacation or beach side getaway can build holiday memories that will last forever. Maybe buy each person a new bathing suit or ski boots and put their travel itinerary in them.
The bottom line is that we don’t spend our lives handing out money aimlessly to everyone we see who adds value to our lives. At least not until Christmas. A heart felt card thanking your carrier, a home cooked meal for your child’s teacher complete with all the sides and some art work painted in pastels by your kids framed with a spiffy $5 frame are gifts of the heart that far surpass any of the money you could have spent! The holidays should be over on January 2 of the following year. For many people who go about this whole thing wrong; this is when the real stress of Christmas begins!