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How To Win The Holidays

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou

To win the holidays one should spend a lot of time with friends and family and spend zero dollars. Yeah, that's extreme. We’ve already lost, especially since most gatherings are going to include food (we've all felt the effects of higher food costs so no explanation is needed there). Secondly, the holidays are about giving. We give thanks on Thanksgiving for all the blessings we have received. On Christmas, we give thanks with the focus of honoring God giving us the greatest gift of all. For those people who can truly stop at giving love and thanks, you are strong and admired. However, some of us can't help giving monetary gifts as well. Nothing wrong with this. We love it. And since I think we can agree, that most of us probably aren't going to win the holidays by 0 dollars spent, can we consider winning as coming away from the holidays with a cheerful heart and not in debt? After all, monetary gifts can make people feel blessed as well, but finding the right balance for the giver and receiver is key. To honor this goal, we put together a list of things we have tried and will implement in our holiday budget lives.

Top Ten How To Win The Holidays List:

  1. Set a gift budget! If you have a yearly budget for the holidays, ask yourself if it needs to be adjusted. Creating budgets helps us to see what we can and can’t afford. They are the hard truths that can help remove the blinders when we want to splurge. Take the first step and create a budget, but the hardest part will be sticking to it. We use Excel for our budgets, but here are some great budget templates out there if you need them.

  2. Shop early to avoid big receipt shocks! A co-worker said she aims to buy a present each time she's out grocery shopping (starting months out) to avoid the big trips and lots of expenses at a time. This can also help space out the expense by paychecks.

  3. Don't be afraid or ashamed to ask not to exchange gifts! When you exchange with different friend groups, co-workers, and extended family, that all adds up quickly. Maybe opt for a friend night out or a cookie exchange. Yes, money may still be spent, but the friend night out could be in the future when you've built your savings back up. New traditions are always fun.

  4. Give out-of-season gifts! These items are usually on sale and that season will be here soon enough. For example, buy spring/summer clothes or water toys on sale for your grandkids in August. By the time December comes, they've only got 4-5 months before they are wearing them. If they're going somewhere warm for spring break it's only 3 months away. Or reverse it. Buy a discount sled in March and tuck it away. Now you bought out of season, but your gift will be in season when they get it.

  5. Acts of Service! If you have a special skill like cutting hair, doing nails, or changing the oil on a car these would make great gifts. I remember many times my mom would gift haircuts, perms, etc. to friends and family for the holidays.

  6. Homemade gifts! These especially come in handy if you have kiddos and need teacher gifts, bus driver gifts, afterschool childcare workers, coaches, etc. you want to make feel special without breaking your wallet. What makes creating special gifts fun for us is making them together along with our mom. We pick a day, get some carry-out, turn on a Christmas playlist, and get to work. It turns into a DIY party. Here are some of the homemade gifts we have had fun making: cookies, soap, fudge, eggnog, and pineapple lemonade “moonshine”.

  7. Home Adventure Coupons! If kids can gift homemade coupon books, so can we. These are great gifts to utilize for those 2+ weeks off from school during Christmas break.

    • Camping in the living room with the old school sheet tents. They even have small indoor flames for smores roasting. Of course, the microwave or your oven will also work great.

    • Movie night with a concession theme food menu

    • Game nights - not just board games, don't forget the games like hide and seek and flashlight tag

    • Social Media Night - Learn some family-friendly TikTok dances, and partake in some of the silly challenges out there. You don't have to post the videos, but they will surely be worth filming and keeping for your private memories.

8. Experiences! When my God goddaughters were younger, I quickly realized presents can easily get overshadowed, but memories last a lifetime. So I swapped out Christmas and Birthday gifts for experiences. Even now that they are 18 and soon to be 16, the prime gift card/money age, I still try to do experiences. Most of the time our Christmas outing includes ice-skating, the Nutcracker Ballet, and/or doing Christmas lights and dinner. Experiences are highly recommended not just for the memories, but because it’s something you can do around Christmas or months out when you have more time to recoup your expenses. This year, one experience we are doing is a Gingerbread house-building party with food and friends because teens can’t be without their friends for too long (wink, wink).

Other experience ideas we’ve done or are planning to do: new restaurants, movies, water parks this summer, museums ( even better if you go on the free days like MLK Day or other holidays that offer free admissions - time, gas, and feeding them still cost money)

9. Gift things you were already going to buy! If you normally go on a summer vacation wrap a picture of that. If you know your kid needs a new bat or softball glove, then that would be perfect.

10. Change the rules! Limit the amount of presents your kids get. This may be easier done when your kids are smaller, but no matter the age they'll fall in line. A friend of ours limits their kids to 5 gifts each. You could do this and figure out what the right number is for your kids. This is not to say your kids aren't getting expensive gifts that still add up, but we love this idea because it helps kids look at quality versus quantity. Our friend also heavily focuses on Jesus as the reason for the season. As He should be. Another idea comes from a social media family. They have their kids create a list with something they want, need, and can read. There are some fun traditions out there!

Bonus #11: Don’t buy Christmas decorations too early! We try not to buy any additional Christmas decorations until we’ve put our old decorations up. This helps us to only focus on purchasing items that we really want in rooms or areas that need a little more cheer.

If you can afford a no-spending limit Christmas and that's what makes you happy, go for it. This is for those of us who want to go big w/o gifters remorse. We are not specialists by far. However, these are just our thoughts on how we can help ourselves now and as we grow our families down the line. We would love to hear from anyone who practices any of these ideas or has any original ideas. If we get any, we'll share with the group in next week's email.

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