It’s the most wonderful time of the year…Or is it? While many may spend the holidays full of good cheer, others seem to just spend. 

I would love to challenge you to do less this holiday season. 

Spend less, commit less and enjoy more. More time relaxing. More time at home and less money on things that no one needs. A stress-less holiday season is possible. And it all starts with a single word: 

No. 

Saying ‘no’ to what you don’t need and ‘hello‘ to what you actually deserve. After all, it’s supposed to be a happy holiday season, not a stress-fest that leaves you in debt come January. 

Save Your Money

While it may seem like a simple step, it is actually much harder than anyone wants to admit. After all, we all want to appear generous during the holidays, even if it means we end up in debt. 

Spending less is not as simple as buying less. It means not buying things to cross a name off your list. Or wasting your money on items that you know your kids will open and never touch again. 

Prepare your Family

It’s hard for kids to understand why they can’t ask for the world from a jolly fat man with an army of magical workers. In my family we have decided to explain to our children why they can’t, but still keep the spirit of Christmas alive. 

We explained that parents need to pay Santa for the gifts their children will receive. Santa needs to pay the elves to make the gifts. Parents give the money for the elves to be paid. 

This is the reason that some children do not get gifts from Santa and the reason we donate gifts during the holidays. It also explains why we will not be buying them outrageously expensive gifts each year. 

Santa has a budget. So do we. 

The Rule of Three

We also put into place the rule of three. My kids will get one gift from mom, one from dad and one from Santa. Lots of parents do the rule: something to wear, something to read, something you want, something you need. This is also a good rule but just not right for our family. 

The reason I like the rule of three is that I know I am buying my gift with intention. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to buy my kids because I am only buying one thing. I wait until the last minute to buy the Santa gift (because they change their minds a million times) but the gift from mom is always special.

My husband also gets to get in on the gift giving action. I often take over the entire Christmas list but the gift from dad is up to him. 

Inform the Ranks

If Christmases past have been a free-for all of spending but you want to rein it in this year, talk to your kids about it (age-dependent). Calming down the holidays can be a great experience for the whole family but no one wants to be surprised on Christmas morning. 

Getting the Right Stuff

My kids get a lot of stuff during the holidays. This stuff ends up all over my house and more often than not gets donated within the next calendar year. 

Sadly, this is probably true for most of us. So when the relatives start asking what the kids want for the holidays, it’s time to start giving better answers. 

  • They will always need underwear and socks, hats and mitts. It’s not glamorous, but it’s appreciated. 
  • Costco offers kids’ movie packages for about $11. That is the perfect gift for my kids and a great way for me to take them out once the snow flies and we become hermits. 
  • Many local recreation centers will offer cheap passes for swimming and skating. 
  • My kids love getting new books. Gift cards to bookstores always go over well. 

Are your relatives worried they won’t get the same reaction as a toy? Tell them to add in a candy bar and they are sure to get a few squeals when they open it. 

Gift Giving the Right Way

I am personally a big believer that the holidays are about kids and family. I love spending time with both my immediate and extended family during the holidays but I hate the expectation that I need to bring gifts. 

First of all, I am pretty sure that my aunts and grandparents have everything they need. They don’t need a gift card or a sweater that I picked up under pressure. These gifts are always purchased  in a too-crowded store before having a mini breakdown during holiday shopping. 

Instead, it is important to keep in mind that spending quality time with your family and friends is more important than stressing yourself out over picking out the perfect gift. 

Consider what they may need. Could your older relative use a frozen meal and a promise to come over and help them eat it? 

Would your parents enjoy some handmade arts and crafts from their grandkids or some recent photos? 

Do your children enjoy getting into the kitchen and baking some treats? Would they like to bring their culinary creations to the holiday gathering and hand out personally? 

If you feel that you absolutely need to bring something you purchased to a function, consider looking into your local maker’s groups on social media or handmade buy and sell groups. This way you are putting money right back into the local community while avoiding the huge holiday crowds. Win-win! 

White Elephant

Another fun option to consider is changing your normal gift giving to a game of white elephant. We started this tradition in my family last year and it was a huge success. 

In lieu of searching for a bunch of gifts for a bunch of relatives, we all brought one gift under a predetermined budget. These gifts were opened, exchanged and bargained during a fun family game. 

Instead of the tense, “Oh I love this (insert item you certainly don’t love here)” while opening presents in a crowd, we all had fun. We all saved money. 

For more information on how to play white elephant check out this link here

Wrap it Right

Less shopping also means less wrapping. A great way to save on wrapping is to consider alternative wrapping options to the classic holiday paper. Holiday paper is a beautiful but costly option that is also hard on the environment. 

Many local makers and stores offer “Santa sacks” or reusable bags that can save on wrapping. You can also consider putting items in reusable shopping bags (there are many beautiful designs available) that can become part of the gift as well. 

This year my family and I will be using brown paper (this can be found at the hardware store) to wrap our gifts. I will be letting the kids decorate the paper to add a personalized look at save me the cost of nametags. 

Save Your Sanity

Saving money during the holidays is great, but if you are run off your feet trying to enjoy the season, are you really enjoying it?

Buying less is important but it is just as important to do less. You do not have to attend every holiday party you are invited to. You do not have to do x,y, z every Christmas. You can enjoy the holidays. 

Weekends in December can fill up quickly. Kids are worked up and often eating badly as you run from invite to invite, trying to excuse bad behaviour from missed nap times and too late nights. 

Just say no. 

Consider how you would like to spend the holiday season. Would you enjoy taking an afternoon to watch your favourite movies in your pjs? Bake cookies all day long or make a snowman in the yard? Scratch out a holiday party and pencil those activities in instead. 

Make sure that for every holiday invite you attend you allow for a day of rest. If you are visiting relatives on Saturday, Sunday will be spent relaxing.

Once you calm down your schedule you will not only likely notice more money in your pockets, but a happier and mentally healthier holiday season. 

Start New Traditions

Buying less and saying no may make it feel less like the holidays. You may find yourself with more money and more time. So what can you do with your newfound freedom? It’s simple: start your own family traditions. 

Many people comment that they buy lots of gifts so it seems like ‘Christmas morning lasts longer’. Instead why not incorporate some fun traditions into your holiday that do not focus on gift giving. 

Winter Walk: Now I know this does not sound fun, but it IS actually a fun tradition in my home. Many people like to drive around and look at Christmas lights, but it can also be fun to bundle up, grab some hot chocolate to go and check out the local neighbourhood on foot. This is one my kids love – especially if they get to hold on to a flashlight and lead the way. 

Movie Marathon: Spend the day cuddled up on the couch watching your favourite holiday movies and eating way too much popcorn. You can even add a new movie to the collection just to watch Christmas day. 

Dashing through the Snow: Hit the local tobogganing hill for some fun that doesn’t cost a thing. 

Play together: Consider adding a new game to your collection and start a championship match. This is great for families that love board games or video games. 

Give back together: Visit the local senior’s home or homeless shelter for some feel good vibes better than any gift under the tree. 

You Can Do This

What is holding you back from a better holiday season this year? The fear of what people will think if you start saying no or doing less? Consider this, how much more enjoyment will your family have this holiday season if you do?

For many of us, the holidays have become just one more thing on our constant to-do list. Stop enduring the holidays and start enjoying them. You will find more than just extra money in your pocket. You may even find your missing holiday spirit. 


Melissa Robertson is a journalist with 15 years of experience as a professional writer. She is also a hot mess mom to three very energetic daughters, and loves to DIY, share design and upcycle projects and creating patterns. She shares it all on her blog, Keeping Up With The Robertsons and, luckily, has a husband who is a total softie and is usually willing to go along with her crazy plans!