By Kristi De Rycke, Registered Assistant
The holidays can be a magical time of year. It can also be an exhausting and expensive season leaving us with a “holiday hangover” when the bills come in January. What can you do to have the same magical Christmas feeling and experience with less spending and hassle? Decide what things give you enough joy for the cost of your money and time. Choose only those things that add happiness and value to you and your loved ones. Last year I found myself begrudgingly writing down grocery list items for baking. I personally never enjoy time in my kitchen. Neither does fighting the grocery carts in busy aisles to get the ingredients. I decided that day to start trying to choose what we do around Christmas more wisely. Did I do the cut out cookies that I don’t even like to eat? I sure did. My daughter takes great joy in decorating cookies for Santa. My cheat: I bought a single small roll of premade cookie dough and frosting. We really only need 3 cookies for Santa anyways. Could I have made the dough and frosting for cheaper? Absolutely I chose saving time over money that day. Did I make the Oreo balls that somehow I manage to get more chocolate on the microwave, cupboards and my hair than in the candy? Yes, because there are people I love that really like the Oreo balls. My cheat: Did one less batch, made them smaller and still had plenty. Did I do Christmas cards? No. I felt very guilty every time I got a card in the mail but decided all of my favorite pictures went on Facebook anyways.
Somewhere along the way did you start doing “traditions” just because you have always done them? Are there things that don’t bring you enough joy for the money or time that you spend? I want you to think about the items on your holiday to do list that you always want to just cross off. Decide if your efforts are worth doing those things again this year. Here are some ideas to get you thinking.
The holidays truly become less about the gifts the older we get but due to tradition we continue to do gift exchanges. I understand that kids equate Christmas with presents so this could be tricky with different ages in the family. Consider setting a value limit on all gifts or cutting down on the gifts. There are no hard and fast rules on how to do this. Here are just a few ideas. You could limit gifts to the kids only or decide as a family to draw names so each person gets one gift. Other families may decide on a gift card exchange and each only buy one. You could come up with fun trade rules or tie it to a board game so that the first one across the finish line gets to pick the first gift card. Try musical gifts where you play the music or set a timer and pass the gift. When the music stops the person holding it opens it. Then that person is out and the next round starts with a new gift. Consider the oven mitts game. People bring one gift wrapped in creative ways. The person trying to open the gift wears oven mitts while trying to open the gift. The person ahead of them rolls 2 dice as fast as they can. As soon as they get doubles, the one trying to open the gift has to stop and hand the gift forward. The gift keeps going until someone has opened it. That person then sits out as they have received their gift. The next gift is brought out and the game starts again. You could add the twist to either of these last games that once you get the gift open you can either keep it or trade for one that has already been opened. The person you steal from is then back in the game. Do a holiday bingo with $10 gifts wrapped and in the middle. When a family member gets bingo, they open a gift, and they are the next ones to call the number. Continue until the last player has the last gift. Play the left, right and center game with the dice. Each person starts with a wrapped gift in front of them. Each take a turn to roll a dice for each gift in front of them. Then they pass to the person on their left or right or put the gift in the center. When there is only one gift left the person with the gift in front of them gets to open it and the game starts over with those that are left.
The white elephant gift exchange can be a totally free option. You find something in your house that you no longer need that another may have a use for or find humorous. You could add a small token like candy or a lottery ticket. Wrap it up. Hand out numbers. Number 1 goes first and picks a gift and opens it. Number 2 then can steal that gift or pick a new unwrapped gift and so on. Oftentimes, the laughter is worth not getting a new gift. You could do this with a $5 or $10 gift as an alternative.
Consider not adding to the clutter of things but give an experience. Instead of trying to find a gift for the person who has everything they need, think about planning a night out instead. Make a pact with the person you typically trade gifts with to have a fun night together. If you find this time of year already overwhelmingly busy, plan to do it in January when things slow down. Then when the magic of the holiday season is over and you are taking down all of the decorations, you will still have something to look forward to and there is no wrapping involved.
Decide to give a gift of service instead of buying an item. Tell your friend that you heard her talking about needing to clean out the storage room. Write an IOU that you will plan a Saturday to bring the coffee and help her dig in. Consider making up inexpensive meals for your friend who hates to cook. She can put them in her freezer for a busy day. ( Hint….hint… this non-cook would LOVE that idea).
Think about if you really want to take part in the secret Santa exchange you were invited to join. There were many years that I truly enjoyed a secret Santa gift exchange at work. It was fun to shop for, not very expensive and so fun to see surprises on my desk. Over time, I found myself doing it because I always have. That meant more money, more time shopping and more time wrapping. Time which was becoming more limited. Give your coworkers a simple explanation that you are too busy and trying to save money. It will not stop those around you from enjoying it.
Change can be hard for all of us. The people around us also aren’t used to seeing us change our habits. We need to decide what is most important and what the season means to us. Even though I heard the word “Grinch” thrown my way light heartedly a few times last December, it was worth it. I am hoping to start a new personal and family tradition: Feeling the PEACE of the season! Happy Holidays!
By Greg Johnson
I love the Holiday Season as much as the rest of you, but I would agree with Kristi that the older I get the more I enjoy spending time with my loved ones and the less I enjoy about gifts. Yes, there is nothing better than seeing a smile on a face of someone you love when they open a gift, but generating a smile can come in a lot of different ways just like Kristi shared above. Laughter, fun, and real conversations are the parts I enjoy most with my family and friends and I hope all of you can do the same with yours this Holiday Season.