I remember baby’s first Christmas like it was yesterday. I raced around to find the perfect presents and wrapping paper; the perfect Christmas dress for my daughter to wear; set up my own photo shoot to capture the cutest Christmas picture for cards to send to friends and family… all so that it would be truly a holiday to remember.
And it was… but not for any of those reasons.
You see, I was so overwhelmed with needless tasks and expenditures that I just ended up more tired and worn out than before. I realized that the more pressure I put on myself to make Christmas perfect, the less it actually was.
So, in recent years, I’ve tried to tone things down a lot. Not only does it save me money, but time too. And one thing I’ve learned when I’m with my kids is that time is much more precious than money. It’s during the holidays when we make so many amazing memories and create lasting traditions… the stuff that “perfect” Christmases are made of.
So sit back, grab a cup of hot chocolate, and check out a few of my tips to have a fab, frugal Christmas!
- Go easy on the gifts – If you child is still a baby, don’t worry about getting them more than a keepsake ornament and a set of blocks. Really. They won’t remember and neither will you. (Heck, you’re still walking around in a sleep-deprived haze!)
For preschoolers and older children, set realistic expectations about gifts. At our house, we encourage our kids to make a wish list to send to Santa, but remind them that he only brings one or two presents per child, so ask wisely. They know they’ll receive a few small gifts from Mommy and Daddy too, but we help them make smart choices that they’ll love down the road, and steer them away from fleeting fads.
- Give meaningful gifts – Not all gifts need to be store-bought. In fact, some of the best gifts I’ve received have been homemade, like the picture frame my daughter made in preschool… so cute. Spend some time with your kids making presents for friends and family members, such as Fimo fingerprint key chains and bookmarks, works of art (like these cute fingerprint lights and baby feet Christmas trees) and pop-up cards, to name a few. They’re fun activities that the kids will feel proud to give away.
- Make new traditions – If you’re hosting Christmas dinner, feel free to let tradition fly out the window. Know why? Because there’s a lot of pressure that goes along with tradition, and nobody needs that. Decide what you’ll serve, on your terms. If the idea of a full turkey spread is freaking you out, don’t do it. It may sound crazy, but ask anyone what the true spirit of Christmas means and it’s not turkey and stuffing. If it’s important to others to keep up the traditions, then they can host Christmas. 😉 Another great option is to have a pot-luck and assign each family member a dish. It’s actually more fun that way… because everyone knows food tastes better when someone else makes it!
- Lower your expectations and stress – Letting go of huge expectations such as finding “the” perfect gift for my spouse, was a turning point for me. My husband and I don’t really need anything, so why torture ourselves buying expensive gifts when it’s unnecessary? Lowering expectations is a great way to show by example that Christmas isn’t just about material items. In turn, we decided last year that we would nix the big gifts and, instead, focus on more important things… we write each other thoughtful cards and go on fun family adventures together (visiting an outdoor winter market, tobogganing, getting hot chocolate at a café). We also came up with a new tradition the first year we were married – we gift each other (and now our children, too) with a special Christmas tree ornament every year. They range from precious (German blown glass) to goofy (a moose paddling a canoe) and we look forward to it each Christmas!
- Encourage your kid(s) to come up with their own traditions – Last year, my daughter decided she really wanted a small tree of her own in her room. We picked up a small inexpensive tree and she decorated it herself, with a mixture of homemade ornaments (she’s very artistic and crafty!) and beautiful paper gift tags that I had saved from previous Christmases. And, you know what? That $17 tree was probably the highlight of her holiday! It’s something special that is hers alone, and she adores decorating it just the way she wants, without any input from her younger sibling! It’s amazing how children blossom when we find ways to let their individuality shine, so have some fun helping your child create his or her own tradition this year!
While my family celebrates Christmas, I realize many others may celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. These tips can be applied to either holiday, as they involve the giving of gifts and sharing of festive meals with family and friends.
Wishing you and your families a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Kwanzaa!