Many families put a lot of pressure on themselves during the holidays; often forgetting what Christmas time is all about. We are all obsessed with pretty decorations, we can’t resist the urge to impulse buy and we overfill our fridge “in case someone shows up unannounced.” And that’s not even including about the stress related to buying presents and getting ready for the two most hectic weeks of the year.
And then one day, because of losing a job, going through harder times or being on maternity leave, our budget is tighter... just like our heart is towards the idea of not being able to be as extravagant as the previous years. How can we keep our children from being affected by our precarious financial situation and let them experience a wonderful Christmas?
Keep the Christmas spirit no matter what!
We have to stop thinking that the best Christmases are the most expensive ones. A tighter budget could force us to think about the way we see Christmas and the values we associate with it. It could even encourage us to create new rituals.
Here are a few exercises to help you identify what you really want for Christmas.
- What is your most precious childhood Christmas memory? It’s often not a gift, but rather an atmosphere, a smell, a gathering or special permission that you keep a precious memory of. Focus on that to pass the holiday spirit on to your kids.
- Make two lists. On the first one, write down what you really like to do during the holidays, from watching the illuminated tree on a quiet evening to shopping for presents. On the second list, write down what you do but don’t really enjoy, whether you feel obligated to do it or because it’s been like that for years and no one ever had the guts to change things (eating your aunt’s disgusting meat pie, giving a present to your sister, hosting four Christmas parties, etc.). Be honest. You don’t have to show the list to anyone.
- Try to figure out how you can change things. By having all the information under your eyes, it will be easier to find solutions.
Less money? Don't panic!
Even if your budget is tighter, it’s still possible to have a magical Christmas because the Christmas spirit is a lot more than spending money and having a million gifts beneath the tree. Your children don’t have to know about your financial difficulties, but they’re also capable of understanding that things will be done differently this year. Without telling them that money is tight, you can simply let them know that you will transform Christmas this year! Involve them in the family decisions regarding how you will all spend Christmas. If you decide to cut on the number of gifts or the amount spent on each gift, it can be a good idea to talk about it right now to avoid unrealistic expectations and bitter disappointments on Christmas Eve.
Great ideas to cut on spending but not on fun!
- Determine a specific amount to spend on gifts and stick to it. To treat your loved ones, try to “save” elsewhere by offering home-made treats to teachers, for example. No saving is too small.
- Reduce the number of people to whom you offer gifts. If you used to give a present to your brother and sister-in-law, make them the suggestion to stop exchanging gifts, or replace it with an outing amongst adults during the year.
- You still want to offer something or you’re embarrassed to go somewhere empty handed? Prepare treats that cost next to nothing but make an immediate impact, such as apple butter or jelly. Place in glass jars with a nice card.
- Offering time is probably the nicest gift you can give someone. Offer your tired cousin to babysit the kids for an entire weekend and offer your in-laws to be their personal driver for a day. With your kids, special coupons such as “You don’t have to make your bed for a full week” or “Go to bed an hour later” will be a huge hit!
- Some couples choose not to buy each other presents to focus on the kids. You could still take the time to write each other a nice letter, to exchange over a nice bottle of wine once the kids are in bed.
- Start shopping early in the year to avoid getting all the bills at the same time.
- Say no to gift exchanges. They’re quite popular at work or with extended families but you don’t have to take part in the tradition. Don’t feel bad about refusing to participate. Make choices and stick with them.
- Use the Air Miles or other points you accumulated during the year to make last minute purchases.
- Make gifts yourself. Get your creative side out to lower your credit card bill! You can make a calendar via the Jean Coutu website. It’s quick and easy and is guaranteed to make an impact. Ask your kids to help you with little arts and crafts projects.
- Edible gifts are always a big hit. It’s easy to find recipes for sweet nothings and salty treats.