This week we begin the annual journey through the holiday season. We all love it . . . . and we all stress over it. We treasure the family memories of gathering around the table for Thanksgiving dinner, the frivolity of holiday parties and other events, and the magical moments of Christmas Eve and morning with our family, friends, children, and grandchildren. But as women, we also know that the holidays can be one of the most stressful times of the year.
Some of us just set out with determination, focused on doing it all: buy all the gifts and wrap them beautifully; decorate our homes in elegant style; send meaningful Christmas cards to people we love (and write a personal note in every single one!); bake stunningly-decorated Christmas cookies; cook meals just like the ones we see in the magazines on the rack at the grocery store . . . . while we are buying all the trimmings for that elusive “perfect” Christmas dinner. And more, so much more!
And in the midst of it all, somewhere along the line, we collapse in exhaustion. Because we really can’t do EVERYTHING and do it all perfectly. There just isn’t enough time or energy to do all that stuff and measure up to our unrealistic expectations of ourselves. All of this causes enough anxiety and stress, even if the question “How are we going to pay for all of this?” never needs to enter your mind. But for most of us, the financial anxiety just adds to the stress of the holiday season. We are sad, because we want Christmas to be the magical time for our children, just the way we remember it from when we were children. And that is one of our first clues to help us find our way along the Holiday Journey!
Of course, I have no way of knowing what YOUR Christmases were like when you were a child, but my memories of Christmas are filled with joy and wonder . . . . and when I look back at the photos, I realize that there was really nothing “perfect” about those times at all. We didn’t have much, and yet we were happy with a few small treasures that we found under the Christmas tree. Times with family (even though that wasn’t perfect, either!) are memories that are so much more significant that the “stuff” that was under the tree on Christmas morning. Here are a few ideas to help you “Keep It Simple, Silly” for your holiday celebrations:
1. Focus on Friends and Family: Plan activities that include the whole family. Large or small, plan times to be together. And never forget . . . . “family” is who chooses to be “family” together. Include friends from your neighborhood, church, school, or community, but create opportunities for people to be together.
Even though the holiday season can be a time of lots of extra activity for many families, you don’t need one more event to try to squeeze into your already overloaded schedule! But part of simplifying the holidays is knowing which of those “extra activities” you can politely decline. Get out your red pencil and X out a few of them that aren’t necessary. You’ll feel better getting that pressure off of your mind!
Then plan something simple, such as a family gathering to watch a holiday video, pop a huge bowl of popcorn, have some hot spiced apple cider, and gather around the fireplace. Simple, relaxing, and together! No stress, no huge meal to prepare, not very expensive. Don’t worry about making sure your house is perfect – no one’s house is perfect – just have fun decorating with what you have on hand and with the time you have available. The best part is being with friends and family.
2. Focus on Giving: Giving to others at the holidays isn’t always about material gifts. It is fun when we can give gifts that are wrapped in brightly colored paper and ribbon, but even that can be kept simple, frugal, and sometimes even free. Because the idea is to say “I love you,” not to prove how expensive and gorgeous your gifts can be. Even children and understand the difference between expensive “gadgets” and gifts that come from a heart of genuine love. We need to remember that we are the parents and we have a responsibility to teach our children gratitude, respect, and appreciation, even if they can’t have all of the latest toys on the market. (Image from www.frugal-living-now.com)
There are so many websites which feature frugal gift ideas for the holidays, but here are just a few that I have either made myself or hope to make in the future:
* Gifts in a Jar: These are fun because they are simple, inexpensive, don’t take much time, but look beautiful and give a family a gift that will bring them together. You can fill a clear glass jar (plain or decorated) that you can find at any dollar store with a variety of mixes for the family to make and share together. One idea that was great fun for our family was Candy Cane Hot Cocoa mix. All you do is layer the dry ingredients for hot chocolate mix in a jar with crushed candy canes ; add a tag with directions for making it (2 tbsp. in a cup, fill with boiling water) and a tablespoon measuring scoop tied around the jar with a festive ribbon, covered with a scrap of pretty fabric, and perhaps a label / sticker on one side with a holiday theme.
You can also put lots of other things in jars: soup mixes, cookie mixes, holiday candies, flavored or herbal tea bags, flavored coffees . . . . use your imagination, and then decorate the jar with festive ribbons and stickers, and you have a gift that is fun to make, inexpensive, and a sweet way to say “I Love You!” For more ideas on making “Gifts in a Jar,” visit Tip Junkie where you will find “48 Homemade Gift Ideas in a Jar.”
3. Focus on Fun: When we focus on the simple things in life, it actually does make everything so much more fun! On Thanksgiving Day, use decorated paper plates, cups, and napkins instead of your fine china so that you don’t have so much work to do for the clean up. Then, play some board games or put together a jig saw puzzle while the rest of the family is watching a football game. Go for a walk after dinner, then come back inside for a cup of hot cocoa and if anyone is hungry again, set out the leftover pumpkin pie. Relax! Watch a movie together, read a holiday story together, or even make a simple gingerbread house with graham crackers, confectioners’ sugar, and bags of candy. Keep it simple, silly!
4. Focus on Simplicity: From the holiday food, to gift giving, to decorating, to Christmas cards, focus on keeping things low-key. Decorate your home with simple, inexpensive holiday items. The ideal of having our homes picture-perfect is unrealistic. Of course, we all want our homes to reflect the joy of the season, but you can do that without spending more money than you have in your budget, and without becoming anxious, stressed, and exhausted. For more ideas on frugal, simple, festive holiday decorations, visit “Simple Holiday Ideas.”
5. Focus on Frugality: Probably one of the most stressful aspects of our Holiday Journey is the financial limitations that most families experience. This is the time of the year when we still have the same amount of time and energy, and the same (or perhaps a bit less!) income to work with, and yet we feel overwhelmed with our desire to do so much more. Financial anxiety can make Christmas very stressful for many of us, especially parents, who want their children to have the best Christmas ever. But the result of over-extending ourselves in this area causes even more anxiety when January rolls around.
Convincing the kids that Christmas is not the time for giving and receiving the latest gadget or toy on the market is something that you will have to work on all year long, if that is something that is important to you to teach your children. But when it comes to Christmas, it might be good to begin to show them the true meaning of the season . . . . and for many families that is the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. And even for those families who are not especially religious, it can still be a time to focus on family, friends, sharing, loving, and giving . . . . to others!
For the rest of your Christmas Journey, there are so many ways to enjoy the season without spending a lot of money. You can find my article, “Frugal Family Fun for the Holidays” on the new More from Ruby site, which offers guidelines for planning a frugal Holiday Journey.
There are lots of other websites out here where you can find specific frugal gift ideas, home decorating ideas, holiday cooking ideas and so much more. At Better Budgeting , you will find “39 Frugal Tips for Saving Money at Christmas” and at “My Dollar Plan” you can find “37 Homemade Frugal Gift Ideas Under $20.”
Don’t let the holiday rush run over you . . . . embrace simplicity, welcome the joy of frugal living, and you will truly find the Holiday Journey so much more fun!
I hope you will stop back often over the next few weeks as you travel you Holiday Journey. I will be posting more ideas for creative and frugal holiday gift giving, decorating, and celebrations to inspire your family to Keep It Simple, Silly! Have a blessed Thanksgiving, Nina