In the last year, Hubs and I have done some major soul searching and we've realized that we are more than a little disenchanted with society's view of the holidays. We find it disturbing that there is so much pressure to buy our kids everything they want and to never let them feel a shred of disappointment. Of course I love seeing my kids light up with excitement Christmas morning. Of course I want the holiday to feel magical, warm, and happy, but I don't think happiness, excitement, and gift giving should come with a MASSIVE price tag and months of playing catch up. In addition I think we've lost sight of what the season is truly about. Being the "I can find a solution to any problem in the whole wide world" kind of person that I am, I have devised a plan to save us all from the spending trap of the holidays and keep the focus on what it's really all about- love.
So here's my 3 step plan for the happiest, sweetest, CHEAPEST Christmas ever:
1. Take The Focus off of "ME": I think we unintentionally program our kids to think Christmas is about getting what we want. What's the first thing you ask a kid around the holidays? "Hey kiddo, what are you asking Santa for?" It's the go to question. I get it, we want to feel the excitement through them, but that one question over and over again reinforces the thought that it's all about them, when it is indeed NOT. Let's start asking them "Hey, have you thought of a special gift you'd like to make for mom and dad? I have a few hints if you need 'em!" When it comes to your own kids, sit them down all together near Thanksgiving and remind them that the season is about giving and loving. Encourage them to make a list of people they would like to make gifts for. Kids get just as excited about making and giving gifts as they do getting them. (Think about those eager grins on Mother's Day as they give you that pinch pot from art class and that handprint poem.)
Celebrate a Season of Giving: This can be gift related such as choosing a family in need off of the giving tree at church or delivering gifts to a local women's shelter, but you don't have to spend a lot to show your kids the magic of giving.
- donate books they no longer read to the library
- bring unused/unloved toys to a nearby daycare, preschool, or shelter
- donate food items to a shelter or food pantry
- donate old towels, sheets, and blankets to an animal shelter
You could go on a "giving mission" every weekend and let them choose where to go each time!
Practice Random Acts of Kindness: If you have never participated in a random act of kindness you are truly missing out- so hurry up and do one! The feeling of giving for no reason, knowing full well you will get nothing in return feels AMAZING and what better time to show this to your kids than the holiday season?! The best way to do a random act of kindness is quickly and anonymously. My favorite part is the confused but excited receipient wondering why a stranger would do something so nice for them and of course the reaction of the third party involved. It feels like you're restoring faith in humanity. Your kids will squeal with delight on the rare occasion when they get to see the recepient's reaction in secret! Here are a few good ones to try:
- "Ding-Dong Ditch" style- leave a handmade gift for a neighbor on their doorstep. Ring the bell then RUN. You can choose one person to do the ding-dong ditching while everyone else is hidden from sight with a good view of the action!
- Buy a dozen carnations and drive around to different parking lots leaving one on the car of their choosing with a nice little note wishing them a wonderful day. You can sign it with something silly, a beautiful quote, or "Pay it Forward." Feel free to hide out in your car near by to watch them find their flower.
- Pay for the person in line behind you at the tolls. Someone did this for me a few years ago and I will never forget it.
- Buy a few trinket toys before your next grocery shopping trip. While shopping let your kiddos reward the kids that are behaving well!
2. Focus on Spending Time not Money!: Instead of asking the kids what they want for Christmas this year, ask them what they want to DO. Pinterest is full of fun crafts, delicious recipes, and wonderful family activities to do during the holiday season. Between your kids' ideas and the ideas you scope out on the internet, make a Winter Bucket List! The chances of having a happy Christmas are slim to none when you have ONE day to get it right and that day revolves around getting your children every material possession known to man. When you pack the entire season with fun activities and focus on love and appreciation for one another, you're pretty much guaranteed to get it right!
Here are a few of our ideas:
- Christmas Movie Marathon
- Cookie Swap- Invite friends over to swap cookies (make sure everyone brings copies of their recipes to trade too!)
- Building a Snowman Family
- Finding a killer sledding hill and spending an entire day flying down it!
- Reading a nice long Christmas themed book
- Fostering a dog for Christmas break
- Having a wrapping party!
3. Less is more!: Keep the gift giving to a minimum. Seriously. One or two gifts from Santa and a few gifts from mom and dad are PLENTY! Keep the focus on the "real" gifts by making a big deal out of the gifts the kids have made for eachother and for mom and dad. Praise the kids for each gift they made and be sure they feel really proud of their hard work. In our house we open the gifts to each other one at a time so every one is watching and the person who made the gift can shine.
Looking for ways to give your kids awesome gifts without breaking the bank? Wishing for a way to thrill them without buying a whole bunch of crap they don't need? Stay tuned as I post more ideas for a happy, healthy and SANE holiday season ;)