One reason the holidays have become so stressful is the emphasis on the one-size fits all mentality we are all expected to live up to. We are all supposed to love doing the same holiday things – all supposed to have enough money to buy presents for everyone on our list.
To relieve some of the stress on you and your budget this year, spend your time doing things you enjoy instead of fighting for bargains at the mall. If it is baking cookies, making gifts or decorations with the kids, do; if it is not, don’t and, most importantly, don’t stress. No one is putting as much pressure on you as you are putting upon yourself. The guilt about “what is expected” that makes busy parents throw money at the problem when they can’t live up to their expectations.
If you do not have time or do not enjoy doing some of the expected Christmas activities yet you want your children to experience them, look for an alternative way to accomplish this. Possibly a grandmother, an aunt or even a babysitter that does this sort of thing all of the time is available. You might be surprised how willing an elderly neighbor or friend from church might be to spend time with you and your children teaching them the basics of baking. Visits to a nursing home to find someone to teach your child to crochet, knit, or make a birdhouse might end up bringing purpose to a person’s life and giving you the satisfaction of having brought a little holiday cheer to another person’s life.
Spend quality time with your children teaching them the importance of giving rather than receiving. Dedicate an hour to make cards or draw pictures for everyone on their list –especially those not expecting to receive many visitors. The holidays are one of the worst for people who suffer from depression, and it is surprising how much difference such a small gesture can make.
Also, ask yourself: is it really necessary to have every inch of your property covered in lights? If you find it fun to do, then do it. If it is eating into your budget or adding to your stress, don’t. There are plenty of free things to do at Christmas that don’t take as much time or cause as much stress. Spending one night looking at other people’s lighting is much less stressful – and far less expensive – than spending every weekend leading up to Christmas replacing fuses and strings that burn out.
Now back to the spending part. How many times have you said or heard someone else say that kids end up playing with things that don’t cost a lot leaving the expensive toys on the sideline? With younger children, this is often too true. There is absolutely no reason to overspend them. With older children, it’s a little harder but maybe it’s time they start learning one of life’s most important lessons: you don’t always get what you want.
As for the adults on your list? They’re adults that feel the same kind of pressures you are. They won’t miss the lame “Forever Lazy” gift of the season this year.
It time to own up to the fact that this is something you are doing to yourself. Take time to enjoy the holidays more this year by spending less money on things that’ll soon be forgotten and spending more time with the important people in your life.