In just 40 days (yikes!), we’ll be celebrating the birth of our Savior. Gifts will be wrapped, food will be cooked, and our families will be gathered for the most anticipated holiday of the year.
Maybe, like me, the thought of Christmas Day sometimes fills you with dread and anxiety instead of joy and thankfulness. I realized several years ago that almost all of my holiday stress comes from the gifts – making lists, shopping, paying, wrapping, etc. How can I possibly get everything done in the next 40 days?? After a couple of stressful years, my husband and I came up with a few guidelines that help us keep our holiday shopping stress to a minimum.
- SAVE – With five kids, it’s absolutely critical that we save throughout the year for Christmas gifts. Our bank offers a Christmas Club program; money is deposited directly into a special savings account from our paycheck. In early October, we know exactly how much money we have to spend on Christmas. This completely eliminates the stress of trying to come up with several hundred dollars at once.
- BUDGET – In late October, we make a list of everyone that will be receiving gifts from us – our kids, our parents, teachers, etc. Next to each name, we write the amount of money we can spend on each person. We absolutely do not go over the amount that we’ve saved in our Christmas Club account. Trust me – it’s no fun to still be paying off Christmas gifts in July!
- SHOP – Once we have cash and know how much we can spend, it’s time to shop for gifts. My husband and I try to be frugal, thoughtful, and minimal in our shopping each year.
Thoughtful – We put a lot of thought into the gifts we buy for our kids, trying to only buy things that they really need and will use. It’s fun to shop in the toy aisle at Target, but experience has taught us that most of those toys will be discarded before next Christmas rolls around. Our kids are used to this and have learned to ask for things that they need. This year, they have items like books, shoes, and clothes on their lists.
Frugal – We really try to buy gifts on sale with free shipping. I don’t enjoy Black Friday shopping, but I definitely take advantage of Cyber Monday deals each year. We’ve also been known to buy used gifts. A few years ago, for example, we found a nice pool table on Craigslist. Our kids loved it, and it didn’t matter to them that it was used.
Minimal – My husband is a gift giver, and he loves to give good gifts to his children! He used to buy gifts for them without telling me, and I would be as surprised as the kids on Christmas morning! We do buy our kids nice, high-quality gifts, but we try not to overdo it. We want Christmas morning to leave us feeling thankful for the few nice things we were able to give each other, not guilty about extravagant piles of gifts scattered around the living room.
- GIVE BACK – If we’re not careful, the Christmas season can become more about our kids’ wants and needs instead of the mercy and compassion God showed us when he sent his Son as an infant savior. Each year, we try to provide several opportunities for our kids to experience the joy of giving (not just receiving). Over the years, they’ve packed shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, sent Christmas money to our Compassion kids, given donations to local charities, and spent their own money on gifts for others. We want them to see their own gifts as a fun extra, not the main reason to celebrate Christmas.
I’ve come a long way from the time when Christmas shopping used to completely stress me out! In fact, I can honestly say that I enjoy it now. Having cash, a budget, and a plan makes all the difference!