Over the past couple years our family has scaled back on Christmas giving. This year we're scaling back even more and you know what? It's okay. Really, it is.
This was my post from last year.
Last year we told the kids "There will not be much under the Christmas tree." and there wasn't. Aside from the 20" iMac that was given to our family for Christmas (though we opened it right after Thanksgiving!) there wasn't much under the tree. What money we had went to bills and food. In hindsight we should have waited until Christmas to break out the computer, but we were so excited. We were able to talk our family members into helping with the computer instead of buying other gifts, so (for the kids) it was a bit difficult for them to watch everyone else open gifts while they watched. We had to constantly remind them that they got the computer. If it weren't for my mom, the kids wouldn't have had that Wii under our home Christmas tree. That's about all they received "from us" (which is more than we ever imagined), except for a new pair of pajamas and a few small items. The Wii was a hit, of course, so Christmas Day was a success in that sense. Still, I couldn't help but feel guilt as I scanned my children's faces. Sometimes I wonder if Caleb (in the picture below) is feeling sad because he didn't get what he wanted. "Lots of Star War's Legos!"
Christmas will be different this year.
This year, I am on a mission to make Christmas the best one yet! I really feel that we can do without Christmas presents this year. We don't need presents in order to have a great time. I don't need to stress out because there is nothing to wrap. I don't need to feel like a failure because my kids don't have the latest gadgets. Nor do I have to feel guilty that they don't have anything under the tree.
For years we would pile gifts atop gifts under the tree. We were trapped in the commercialism and social views of modern day Christmas. Instead of my husband and I working hard to develop Christmas Traditions that would form lasting memories, we worried about who was getting what and did we have enough money to pay for it all. Juggling checks and hoping gifts of money from family would come in at the right time so we could buy what we knew the children wanted. Then, when we thought we were done shopping, we would remember that we still needed to buy for families and friends. The constant trips to various stores to "find the right gift" was overwhelming and tiring. Over the past several years, we've dropped the family and friends (out of necessity) and only focused on our children and mothers. And still, this year, we're narrowing it down even more.
Each and every year I dreaded the holidays. There was always a feeling of not being good enough. The guilt and shame ruined our Joy. Some years not one ounce of Joy would be felt and on those years where I tried really hard, I failed that much more. My husband and I fought every year because of all the stress. This is not how Christmas is supposed to be. It's just not good! I don't want this to be our children's memories of the Christmas holiday. I don't want them to remember that during their Christmas break from school, mom was out shopping every day, tired, angry, bitter and frustrated.
Instead, I want the sweet smell of cookies baking in the oven to greet them as they walk in from playing in the snow. I want their friends to come in and sit and laugh at our kitchen table while warming up with a cup of hot cocoa. I want to drive around the city looking at the lights and counting all the ones on your side of the car (no cheating!!) to see who wins, like my brother and I used to do every winter. By the way, nobody wins anything, it's just all in fun.
This year I say, NO MORE!
Christmas will be different this year.
This year it will be hard work for Rob and I to keep on this path. We will need to remind each other it's going to be okay. When we're feeling down or the kids say something and we start to feel the teensiest bit of guilt, we'll have to just keep moving forward. Christmas isn't about gifts whether you can afford them or not. Children will not usually remember what was under the tree, they'll remember the yearly traditions that were so much fun.
In order to help our children with the new Christmas idea, we decided to put all our extra money into a family vacation. If you've read this post, you know that we have a very strong desire to go to Orlando, Florida in July 2010. We've already had our family meeting and, at first, Casey and Caleb weren't on board. At all. They wanted gifts that we couldn't afford and gifts that would only be fun for the first day or two. If we were lucky, a week. Then I had a bright idea. I urged them to check out DisneyWorld and all the other things we could possibly see while in Florida on the web. They researched a few places and then came to us with an emphatic "Yes!". We were all on board and everyone is excited. So excited that we currently have some $31 dollars in the jug. *We have a long way to go, but we really do hope to get there!
It's a good thing, too, because this Christmas it doesn't mean that we'll be able to stick what money we would have normally spent on Christmas gifts into our "Orlando Fund" Culligan water jug, though I'm sure we'll stick a few dollars in there. It just means that we've transferred our thoughts from gifts on Christmas to a future goal. It's no longer about an individual, but about our family. That's the first step. We have a future goal that is (with lots of work and sacrifice) going to take us on a family vacation.
*As for how we will get enough money to actually take the trip to watch Chloe compete in the North American Championships, well, I can only pray, be disciplined, fundraise and hope for corporate sponsors and donations.
Most everyone is struggling finacially this year. It doesn't matter if you make the same amount as you did last year, have a second job, or a third job. Things are tight. You've felt it at the gas pump, in the grocery store and even in your day to day spending. We've had to tighten things significantly and change our spending habits. I am no longer an impluse shopper. I've broken the habit of "nickel and diming" and we rarely eat out as a family. If we do eat out, it's for lunch and it's just Rob and I. It's a nice way to cut back and still have that "date". The menu is cheaper and we're more likely to choose Chick-Fil-A than we are Chili's. We also share meals and we've found a local Mexican restaurant where the daily special of Chili Verde is just $4.99. We've even had to come to the hard realization that we were not careful with our finances before and now we have to do things MUCH different. That includes Christmas.
Which is why....
Christmas will be different this year.
Are you struggling with finances this year and would like some ideas on how to spend less for Christmas or totally change the social traditions and start making your own? Here are some of my own ideas and even a link where I found some great ideas, too.
1. Spend time teaching your children how to bake. It's a great skill, plus it teaches them simple math problems. Bake cookies, cakes and breads for your neighbors, family and friends. You don't have to give them the whole loaf or batch. Count how many are in the family and give them a plate with enough to give each of them one to two treats.
2. Write a letter to your loved one (friend, neighbor, family) and tell them how much they mean to you. You don't have to buy pretty stationary, just write (or type) it out, roll it up and tie it with ribbon. They'll appreciate it more than you will ever know.
3. While the kids are off of school, get them in on making menu's for the next two weeks. Not only will it teach them what goes in to all the meals they eat, but they'll begin to see just how much work it is for mom when they don't help. Can you tell that's my struggle? Let them make the menus, grocery list and let them shop. It doesn't end there. They help put the groceries away, maybe reorganize the fridge and pantry while they're at it (that's what Chloe would do) and even make the meals, too. Even the young ones can make pb&j with a plastic knife or a mini spatula.
4. Watch Christmas movies, eat popcorn, make pizza's and laugh yourself silly. That's what we'll be doing.
Elf is my favorite.
"Call me elf one more time!"
"He's an angry elf."
Haha! I love that movie!
"I like smiling. Smiling's my favorite!"
See? I just can't stop!
The part where he gets hit by the taxi and goes up the escalator are classic.
Okay, enough about Elf. Watch many different movies. If you don't have many or would rather not rent them, just ask your friends what they have in thier collection. Send an email out and see how many responses you get. List the movies you have in your collection in the email and maybe you'll be able to trade with a few friends over the holidays. Sharing is always good! Just remember to give them back and handle the DVD's properly and return them as soon as you can. Which, reminds me....
Anyway, while I search for that one movie I keep forgetting to return to a friend (sorry!), why don't you take a few moments to check out these links. If you have some of your own to share, please leave them in a comment!