So, for those of you who do Christmas, did you have a good one?
For the last two years we've cut back a lot in what we've spent during the Christmas holidays and Christmas itself. This year was a little harder with a 10 year old and a 3 year old, but surprisingly I found they were perfectly happy with how little was spent (and they got). I focused on just getting the top two things that they wanted (which none of them were very expensive) and they were each thrilled Christmas morning. I filled up the tree (well, just added a few more presents under the tree) by purchasing inexpensive craft kits from a friend's store (so they got some extra stuff and I helped support a local business). A lot of my friends were doing similar things to keep within their own budgets. I'm sure some stuck to their budget while others ended up spending more than they intended. I have been one of the latter for the previous five Christmas', I think, it could have been even longer. Each year, I would make a commitment to spend less and always ended up doing the opposite. This is the first year that I really felt that I stuck to my plan (the past year, I did better than previous years, but still spent too much). My big worry about sticking to my plan, and why I failed so badly previous years, was that I'd have disappointed children on Christmas morning, but surprise, surprise, they weren't disappointed at all.
Something else I started this year, in previous years my daughter has wanted to buy presents for her friends. She spends some of her money, but I also ended up buying some stuff. This year, I encouraged her not to spend her money on her friends (yes, some of you will be horrified), but to think out of the box. We perused our bookshelf for presents for her cousins. I've given books as presents in years past so that wouldn't have been too much of a surprise, but this was the first time we gave very gently used books. For her other friends, we were at a toy swap, and she came across several small toys that she thought would be perfect for her friends and sister. She picked out those items and wrapped them and gave them to her friends. I also encouraged her to not feel she had to get a present for every one of her friends. She only gave something if it absolutely jumped out at her that this item would be "perfect" for this friend.
So, we did cut back a lot in the money spent this year, but I found that it didn't seem to make Christmas less at all. The girls were just as happy Christmas morning. I had many good conversations with friends with no pressure to exchange gifts. I spent a little bit of the money that I would have spent on my friends before buying toys and foods for some of the drives. I felt better about that, the toys and food will go to those a lot less fortunate than my friends and I. And who really needs another little nick nack or doodad sitting on the mantel.