Getting Through the Holidays without Going Crazy

The average American spends almost $900 on Christmas gifts each year. Whoa, can you repeat that? $900! That’s nuts. Talk about holiday stress!

I love presents. Getting presents. Giving presents. Opening presents. I don’t really love wrapping presents, but you get the idea.  Presents are fun.

When I was younger, I loved seeing presents under the tree on Christmas morning and trying to count how many presents were for me.  And because I was the youngest, I always had the most presents.

My love for presents hasn’t changed, but my idea of what a great Christmas looks like definitely has changed.

Now that I have children, I want to celebrate our family, our faith, time together, another year in the books, our health, and our love. And of course, I want my children to enjoy the magic of Christmas as well.

Here are some ways that I try to reduce holiday stress:

Create your own family traditions

One of the great things about forming a family is that you get to decide what family traditions you will pass on from each spouse’s family, what traditions you will not pass on, and what new traditions you will create.

Because my husband is from rural Guatemala, we had almost none of the same holiday traditions.  So, we are adapting each of our traditions and creating new ones as a family.

On December 1, we get out our small artificial Christmas tree, ornaments, and lights and decorate the house as a family.

A few days later, we take a picture in front of the tree for our holiday card to send to friends and family.

A couple of days before Christmas, I make holiday cookies and we pass them out to all of our neighbors. (This was a very strange tradition for my Guatemalan neighbors to understand, but now they love it!)

On Christmas Eve, we go to mass and then over to my in-laws’ house around 10:30 PM. We pray as a family and ring in Christmas Day with fireworks at 12 AM.

Then, we eat tamales, eat grapes, and drink a warm fruit punch.  Around 2 AM, we all go to sleep.

On Christmas Day, my husband and I give one small gift to each member of his family and to our children and everyone opens their gifts at the same time.

I’m sure my Christmas routine looks a lot different than yours, but what I want to get at here is that we all have to do what works for us — and our budgets.

Try to incorporate things into your holiday routines that don’t cost money. Some families watch the same movie every Christmas Eve or make a new ornament out of recycled materials every year.

These things are the special things that you and your children will remember.  They will forget nearly every gift that they’ve received on Christmas.

Budget for holiday spending in January

If you’re reading this in November or December, work this into your budget for next year!  Most of us get to November and start to get a knot in our stomachs wondering how we are going to pay for all of the expenses around the holidays.

If you know that you love to buy a lot of gifts or expensive gifts for Christmas (and you can afford to), create your holiday budget in January and set aside a monthly amount.

For example, if you are like the average American and spend $900 for Christmas gifts, divide that by 11 (you won’t have the money in December to set aside, I promise!) and save $82 a month so you are ready for Christmas.

You can even put it in a separate savings account, in an envelope in your house, or wherever you know you will not be tempted to grab it.

Think about what you want your children to remember about the holidays

I am not here to preach that you should buy fewer gifts or value one thing over another during the holidays.  We all have our own way of celebrating and none is better than the rest.

My suggestion is to really think about what you want to focus on during the holidays.  If you want your children to be able to open a lot of presents, go for it! Just budget accordingly and early so you can make it happen.

If you want to create an environment where the holidays are about being together as a family, try to think of activities you can do together like ice skating, making popcorn strings for the tree, making reindeer out of candy canes, or anything else that Pinterest has to offer.

If you want the holidays to be focused on your faith, create that kind of environment in your home.  Whether it is Christmas, Hanukkah, or another year-end religious holiday, begin to read your children religious stories, set up a nativity scene, go to religious services, and celebrate your God in your way.

Don’t let the “Joneses” give you holiday stress

Whatever you do, don’t try to keep up with anyone! Don’t compare your family to others. Or you will wish you had bought better presents or put up more Christmas lights. And no one wants to be that person!

That will leave you cranky and not let you enjoy the holiday time with the people you love. That, for me, is one of the most important things about the holidays.

So, try this holiday season to focus on what you want the holidays to look like for your family. Then, make it happen!

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