This post was originally published 9 Nov 2015, but has been updated to be included in the Frugal Festivities series.
Truly Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but some years we are so busy that we miss the most important parts of the season. It’s easy to let presents and decorations and travel and parties and making everything perfect crowd out the calm and joy that should come when we spend time with our families and contemplate the life of the Prince of Peace.
On top of the usual busy-ness, when finances are tight the holidays can become stressful, even dreaded. Instead of seeing a time to join with family and celebrate the birth of the Savior, you worry about how you will manage to make ends meet with all the extra costs brought on by Christmas.
It’s okay to scale back on Christmas. You definitely don’t want to add to your debt by going overboard on holiday expenses. As an added benefit, you might find that a simpler Christmas is more enjoyable and meaningful.
Here are 7 practical tips for having a simple, low-stress Christmas:
Limit and prioritize your activities.
One way to minimize the busy-ness of Christmas is to talk with family members about the one activity that is the most important to each of them. If they could each only choose one holiday activity what would it be? When planning out your December schedule, prioritize each person’s most important activity. You might choose to add in other activities, but they will be secondary.
Give of yourself instead of spending money on gifts.
Think creatively about how you can give thoughtful gifts through service without spending a lot of money. One of my favorites is to offer to scan old family photos (the ones gathering dust in your parents’ garage) and put them on a CD or USB drive for family members. What a treasure!
Do you remember making coupons for your mom for mother’s day that she could redeem for a hug, breakfast in bed, or a chore of her choice? You can still give those as grown-ups too! The important part is to make sure that you follow through. Don’t wait for the recipient to ask you. Keep reminding them.
Resist the social pressure to give gifts that are outside of your budget.
Don’t compare what you are giving to what someone else gives you. I know this is easier to say then do, as we naturally tend to compare ourselves to others. Remember the purpose of a gift is not to impress or to get praise. The purpose of a gift is to show love. Your gift does not need to be expensive or match any monetary standard to show love.
Give fewer gifts to your children.
Children can be easily overwhelmed by the hubbub of receiving. In fact, sometimes we do our children a real disservice by over-giving. I like the advice, “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.” We stick to that pretty well, though we usually give some family gifts as well, like a game or a special experience. Giving is fun and it’s easy to want to shower our children with gifts, but too much of a good thing stops being good.
Trim down your giving list.
Some years it is fun to include the postman, the plumber, and every teacher your kids have ever had when you’re giving treat plates or “neighbor gifts.” Other years you just need to simplify and be more selective.
If you’re feeling the need to simplify this year, whether out of time or budget, give yourself permission to cut your giving list down.
Give where it matters.
A couple of years ago, my husband told me that one of his co-workers announced that he and his wife decided that instead of spending the $200 they usually spend on making goody plates for all of their co-workers, friends, and neighbors, they planned to take that money and donate it straight to the food bank.
What a wonderful idea! Not only are you saving yourself all the time and stress of making and delivering treats (and let’s be honest, no one really needs more treats during the holidays), but you’re giving in a way that makes a bigger difference.
If you’re hosting, make it a potluck!
Many hands make light work. In many families (including mine) this is standard, but often the burden of the entire elaborate meal is left on one person’s shoulders. Don’t hesitate to ask others to contribute to the meal.
If you’re that person, don’t hesitate to ask others to contribute to the meal. They will feel happy to contribute and you will have more time to actually enjoy their company instead of slaving in the kitchen the whole time.
Those are just a few of the ways we’ve simplified Christmases. I would love to hear what you have done to simplify, whether it was motivated by time, energy, focus, or finances.
How About You?
- What do you do to simplify Christmas?
- How do you keep from getting too busy?