Why not make 2016 the year you finally enjoy a simple Christmas? I don’t know about you but I say the same thing every year….. “I want this Christmas to be simple, stress-free, more about family and less about gifts.” I always start out with good intentions of slowing down, buying less and just enjoying my loved ones. But then my bad habits start to creep in. Black Friday shopping. Stuffed schedules. Christmas card overload. My hopes for a simple Christmas quickly get set aside for the next year.
If you are determined to make this the year you find the true meaning of Christmas, let me share with you some ways to avoid the common holiday pitfalls we all know far too well.
Busting the Budget
Ever had that Christmas hangover? No, I am not talking about drinking too much spiked Eggnog. I am talking about the credit card bills that start piling up after all the fun is over. It is so easy to spend too much. My biggest downfall is Black Friday. There are so many great deals you can score at great prices. Why not buy this and this and that over there?
I also fall into the trap of trying to spend equal amounts on my children. The problem begins when I go a little over on one and then have to go over on the other two and before you know it I’ve spent an extra $100.
Another budget buster is forgetting all the extra expenses that occur during the holidays. These include things such as the Christmas tree, holiday decorations, cookie making supplies, even postage for mailing your Christmas cards. If you don’t factor in these incidentals you can soon see your bank account getting lower and lower.
A great way to keep your spending in check is by tracking it. My favorite way to stay in line is by using an app called Santa’s Bag. It’s free and super easy to use. At the beginning of the season, enter in all your gift recipients and other spending categories. For example: baking supplies, travel, decorations, even a category for entertainment such as tickets to a holiday concert or play. As you begin to make purchases, add them to the app. I love Santa’s Bag because it gives you an overall budget total as well as the ability to lock the program from curious little ones.
Overbooking Your Christmas Schedule
Another way the holiday season can become stressful is when we have too many places to be… all at the same time. Christmas parties, round robins, parades, charity events… the list never ends. When we over commit to doing too much, we are constantly in a hurry. This can make you stressed, tired and simply worn out.
The best solution to a booked calendar is to say “NO” to things you don’t want to do or don’t have time for. Yes, you may hurt someone’s feelings along the way but, trust me, they will get over it. I find it helpful to make a list of what things I want to do over the season. I then talk it over with my family and input the ones we agree on into our shared calendar.
Buying into Consumerism
This one is a toughie. I would like to think that I don’t get all googly-eyed at the newest gadgets and toys that come out each year but sometimes even I fall victim to wanting “things.” It is so easy buy all the gifts we know that our family will enjoy. If my daughter likes Barbies, I want to buy her everything Barbie-related: the outfits, the accessories, the convertible, the house. It never ends. And brands know how to play into our emotions making everything a “collectible” or a “special edition.”
To stop yourself from buying too many gifts make a list and stick to it. Some people do the three gift rule (for the three wisemen): a gift you need, a gift you can wear, a gift you want. That is too minimal for my taste, but I will question my purchases more this year than in the past. Here are some thoughts to consider:
Does the person need or want this item?
Do they already have something similar to it?
Am I buying this item just because it is a “good deal”?
Does this item fit within my budget?
Forgetting What’s Most Important
Want to know what the biggest crime against Christmas is? Forgetting how magical this time of year can be. This season offers so many opportunities to make lasting memories with those that matter most – our family and friends. Far too often, I have let other, less important things get in the way. I have wasted time researching the best prices on my son’s “must-have” gift, stressing over what food to bring for a party and worrying about getting the perfect picture with Santa. Man, have I missed out.
The best way to make the season magical is by remembering what is most important. What that is looks different for everyone. It may be enjoying a favorite hobby during your holiday vacation time. It could be seeing the smiles on your kiddo’s face as they decorate the tree. Or maybe it’s visiting with loved ones you only see once or twice a year. While I can’t tell you what your magic is, I can promise you it can’t be found in Target or Walmart or online.
Here are some ideas on how to make a simple Christmas the best ever:
Start a new tradition such as cutting down your own Christmas tree or making ornaments
Find an old family cookie recipe to use this year. One year I found these Goof Balls in a family cookbook and they have been a hit ever since.
Play board games. We just got Bananagrams and are loving it!
Volunteer to ring bells for the Salvation Army
Mail a Christmas card with a handwritten note to a relative or friend
Go caroling. We did this last year and, although we got a few weird looks, it brought joy to many homes in the neighborhood
Share with your kids some of your favorite Christmas movies. My son loved “Home Alone”.
I will still go shopping on Black Friday and it will be lot of fun. But I won’t be buying things I don’t need.
I will still go to a few Christmas parties. But I won’t stress about what to bring or what to wear.
I will still get a little frazzled this time of year. But I won’t forget what’s most important.
I will still enjoy Christmas this year. But I will keep the season simple.