(THIS POST PROBABLY CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. OUR FULL DISCLOSURE POLICY IS REALLY BORING, BUT YOU CAN FIND IT HERE.)
This is a guest post from Nicole who blogs at Greatest Worth. If you are interested in getting to know more about her and her mission to have all women live intentionally (starting with their finances) please visit greatestworth.com.
Head to any department store and you’ll find the holiday decorations up and every store (online or brick and mortar) advertising about Black Friday or holiday sales in general.
Are you ready? Gah!
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the holidays. Seriously…I love them.
I love cozying up by the fire. I love a good snow day with sledding and snowman building. I really love the twinkle of a beautifully decorated Christmas tree at night. I also totally get on the cookie decorating and gingerbread house making bandwagon.
What I don’t love is how I’ve created little present monsters.
Our oldest child will be nine this Christmas. That means for eight, or so, years we’ve been buying way too many gifts for our kiddos. We get up on Christmas morning to a total frenzy of paper tearing and screaming of “where are MY presents? I don’t have anymore presents?!” The kids open a ‘gift’ (a lego kit that they’ve been asking to get for months, mind you) and then quickly throw it aside, just because there’s more, more, more.
According to Money, as of 2015, the average American spends anywhere from $333-495 PER CHILD during the holiday season. Yikes. I just went through our budget for last year and we spent a whopping $935 on Christmas alone.
As is true for other parts of my life, this awareness – not just the dollars and cents spent, but also the naming and owning of the emotional chaos that’s become part of Christmas morning in our house – is inspiring change in my life.
This year, Christmas morning will be different.
I’ve had it with the status quo. I’m done spending $1000 (or sometimes more – gasp!) just so that my kids have “plenty” on Christmas morning.
Generally, we’re very intentional with our purchases, rarely buying our kids things for the sake of things, taking the time and investing the energy to explore with our kids the many layers of purchases, big and small. I often wonder if these conversations are providing something beyond future topics for their adult therapy sessions, but it’s important to us that we at least try to help our kids have clear eyes in the clouded American consumer world. This, I think, has always been my excuse for overindulging during Christmas time. I see now that I’m sending a terribly mixed message, and I’m exhausted and overwhelmed by all the noise from the disconnection.
Irony of ironies, I feel like my life is least integrated – my values and my finances are least connected – during Christmas.
Our kids understand (in their heads at least) the meaning of Christmas. They can throw out the right answers to the questions. Our church community is a place of Jesus’ love and grace and abundant welcome all year, but never so clearly as during Advent and Christmas
But, the truth is, no matter how much we give to our neighbor, retell ancient stories, connect with family, invite friends over for a meal or think about and give to those whose need is much greater than ours – presents win. Every time. At least as long as the promise of Advent is the Christmas shopping list fulfilled.
Oh, the magic of unwrapping a present. I remember those days. I really do. I swear I’m not a scrooge.
All I’m saying is, there must be another way. There must be a way to give to our children without encouraging blind consumption. Because that’s what we’re doing.
Every Christmas morning that our children wake up to a tree unable to contain the mass of gifts underneath it, is another day we’re telling our children that to be happy you need lots of stuff.
Well, I’m making an oath. Right here. In front of all of you. I’m not doing it anymore.
For the past 4+ years, my husband and I have had long discussions about what we value most in life. When our values are stated and defined, it’s much easier for us to make hard decisions, such as cancelling Christmas. Just kidding. Not cancelling, but creating a huge disturbance in our normal, status quo routine of Christmas.
A few of OUR values that we’ve used to make this shift this year are: Love, intention and simplicity.
I want Advent, the anticipation of light and love in the weeks leading up to Christmas, to be the root of how my kids remember Christmas. We practice hope and anticipation in a time of darkness – fully understanding that at the end of the waiting there is light and love and joy – NOT consumption!
Love, for us, is fully embracing our humanity and the humanity of others and giving freely to those in need around us. Meeting emotional as well as physical needs.
Intention is choosing to find a different way, a way that works for and with our family rather than perpetuating a cycle that leaves me frustrated and remorseful, and promotes greed in my children.
Simplicity. Ahhh. Even that word promotes calm in my body. Simplicity doesn’t mean boring or sparse. It doesn’t mean ascetic or aesthetic sacrifice. For us, it means saying ‘yes please’ to what is really important for our family, and saying ‘no thanks’ to the rest. Saying ‘no thanks’ to invites if we don’t want to go. Saying ‘no thanks’ to excess gifts. Saying ‘no thanks’ to excess sweets. Living simply but living fully.
Related: How to Have a Fun FRUGAL Christmas.
Here are just a few ways I’ve used our values to figure out options for an alternative Christmas this year:
No gifts from us, (they get plenty of gifts from extended family) and instead taking a 3 or 4 day trip somewhere. We could keep costs down by doing a home-exchange.
One gift from us – something they really, really want.
Following the four gift rule: Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read.
Having extended family help out with the four gifts – being really intentional about how much stuff is being consumed.
Having discussions about what the kids really want from the holiday season. Figuring out what they love the most about Christmas.
The functionally beautiful part of this commitment (remaining integrated and aligning our finances with our values) is that I regain control of my money. Instead of feeding the beast of consumption, obeying the voice of comparison and scarcity, I get to put my money where I want it to go, and I get to do it in a way that doesn’t bend (or break) me or my budget. It’s an approach to living that gives me a voice and space to be true to who I am.
I know… I’m likely going to have some disappointed kids this year. But that’s my fault and I totally plan to own up to it. We’ll need to have a good talk with them about how and why we’re changing the game; why were opting out of the game altogether. And, I owe them an apology for not being able to resist the pull of consumption!
That discussion will likely need to happen multiple times over the next couple of months, because, honestly, whose kids listen and totally get it the first time around. Not mine. Mostly it’s wiggle time and “can I go to the bathroom” over and over and OVER. #amiright?!
Will you take this oath with me today? Right now?
Living from your values and being true to what is best for your family, even if it goes against the traditional American Christmas celebration, is going to lead to a holiday focused on love, generosity and light. And, it will also keep you from going deeply into debt and then having serious regret come January.
Let’s do this together! I’d love to have some friends on this journey! If you’d like to get my FREE “Defining Your Values” Workbook to start figuring out how to make this holiday season specific to you and your family – click HERE!
P.S. Here are a few journal prompts to get the discussion going with yourself about beginning to question your money habits with the holiday season:
1 – How much did you spend last Christmas? – If you have access to your bank or credit card statements I’d encourage you to look back and really calculate that number.
2 -What did you and your family receive – really RECEIVE – from all that spending?
3 -Does that number feel good? Do you want to spend that much again?
4 -What is the maximum amount you can afford for this holiday season?
5 -What would your ideal holiday include?
6 -What are some action steps to working towards your ideal holiday season and keeping it within YOUR budget?