The end of the year can be a time when our financial plans go out the window. We end up spending like a drunken sailor, only to wake up in the new year feeling hungover when we look at our credit card balance.
I used to experience this every year. I love giving gifts and I used to spend way more on them than was prudent. And I wasn’t alone in this — everyone in my family sort of overdid it, and our Christmas celebrations eventually became day-long present-opening marathons.
There were so many gifts we sometimes had to take a break out of sheer overwhelm. I remember a few years actually getting a little nauseous from the whole ordeal on Christmas Day.
A few years back, my mom, my sister, and I decided to stop giving each other Christmas presents. Instead of the commercial frenzy and late-night wrapping, we decided to give one another our presence.
Now, we fill the stockings with pieces of paper on which we write favorite moments with one another from the year. (We call them Favorite Frames, a term we learned at Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts.)
Wrapped in our PJ’s, coffees in hand, we snuggle up and read our Favorite Frames to each other and digest the beauty of the past year. I make a slideshow of photos from the year set to music, too.
Then, we get all dressed up and go out to a really beautiful meal supplied by local, organic farmers, and at the end of the day we see a movie.
This new Christmas ritual has made it so easy to not overspend during the holidays. I still do a little holiday shopping for my dad, stepmom, little sister, and a few friends, but overall, the frenzy has stopped.
This year we’re going to visit Mike’s family for a few days after Christmas. When we first made the plan to go, I could feel my stomach tightening, thinking of the shopping we’d need to do and remembering my old habit of overdoing it. I didn’t want to stress out about buying the perfect gifts for my soon-to-be in-laws.
But the Watts are a smart bunch (that’s why I’m marrying one of them) and instead, they decided to simplify as well. We all chose a name out of a hat on Thanksgiving (via Facetime since we weren’t all together). We each have one person to buy for, with a $50 limit.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, the Solstice, or some other festivity around the end of the year, here are some ways to practice simplicity, sanity, and #moneylove this holiday season:
1. Frame it. Decide to make your presence the gift this year. Perhaps only purchase presents for the little ones and then share favorite moments from the year with your adult family members. Unwrapping our Favorite Frames has become one of the most precious times of the year. I think you’ll love it too.
2. Swap it. Instead of buying gifts for everyone, assign each person someone to get a gift for, like the Watts family does. Or, do what my childhood girlfriends and I have done for nearly 20 years running: have a Yankee Swap! Set a spending limit, everyone buys a wrapped gift, and then you do a fun swap. Everyone goes home with something unexpected! Full instructions can be found HERE.
3. Make it. If you find yourself with time on your hands but not that much money, spend a little time making handmade gifts. One year my sister gave me a composition notebook that she’d covered with a handmade collage of images she thought I’d like. She also scattered some images throughout the pages as inspiration for writing. I loved it and I still treasure it.
4. Release it. Mike and I are having a Winter Solstice party this year. We’ll have little cards by the fireplace on which people can write down what they’d like to release and leave in the darkness of the shortest day of the year. Then we’ll have other cards where they can write down what they’d like to welcome in with the light as the days grow longer starting on Dec. 22nd. The end of the year is a beautiful time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not, and let go of what’s not. Spend some time letting go instead of accumulating and you’ll fee more free.
Remember: we do not need to show our loved ones how much we care by spending exorbitant amounts on them.
What holiday traditions do you have that you love?
How can you simplify this holiday season?
Leave a comment below!
My new book, Money: A Love Story, is the perfect gift for anyone who wants to get their financial duckies in order in 2014. Plus if you grab a copy by January 1st, you’ll get the online event called “A Course in Having Enough” that I co-taught with Marianne Williamson, Barbara Stanny, and Amanda Steinberg, CEO of DailyWorth, for free. That, my friend, is a gift that keeps on giving. Get the book and the details on the course HERE.