I don't have to tell any of you that 2020 has been a crap-shoot. We ALL know that! But the holidays are upon us and regardless of how your 2020 is going, we still have a lot to be thankful for.
For me, it's my health, my family, my friends, my clients...I'm just thankful to still be walking around on this earth and making a difference in the lives of the people I love.
This is the time of the year that many people find themselves stressed out. There are holiday gatherings (some still happening in 2020), parties (maybe?), gift exchanges, holiday baking, Angel Trees, ...there are a lot of things going on.
If you're anything like me, I want to do ALL the things. I want to adopt all the babies from the Angel tree, I want to bake everyone treats, I want to GIVE to everyone. I love giving WAY more than receiving.
Here are the things I do to keep my holiday spending in check.
#1 Sinking Fund for Expenses. We save a set amount each month for Christmas spending and stick to a budget. Say we save $200 a month for the entire year, this gives us $2,400 to spend at Christmas.
If you haven't done this for 2020, it's a little late to start now, but you can always plan ahead and make this change in 2021! How must stress would that relieve to have Christmas paid for BEFORE December next year?
#2 Make a Detailed List. List out every thing you want to do for Christmas from buying for kids, parents, friends, and teachers to extra baking and Christmas decor. Whatever budget you set aside for Christmas is what you have to spend on all those things.
Write down each person or group of peoples names and what amount you will spend on them. If the amount you have written down for each person is more than your overall budget, you need to do some trimming. Is there someone who would appreciate a small gesture like a gift card to the local coffee shop just as much as they would appreciate a $25 blanket or another beanie hat? Is there someone you're only buying for because they buy for you? That's not a reason to have to reciprocate. They gave to you because they wanted to, not because they expect something in return.
Whittle away at the list until you are at or below budget. It's a good idea to leave a little wiggle room in there. There's always something forgotten or something that pops up that is hard to say "no" to, like the Angel Tree sign up floating around the office that everyone is throwing in money for.
#3 Draw Names. My family and I started this a few years ago. For all of the adults, put their names in a hat at Thanksgiving and we draw who we will shop for at Christmas. There is a $50 limit per person and included is a list of possible gift ideas for that person. We add a little more to this and do not allow people living in the same house to purchase for each other. So, there is no way for my husband to draw my name for family Christmas.
We are all adults and none of us NEED anything. We just like the gift exchange and it's fun to guess who your secret santa was. We also aren't out a lot of money and everyone got something.
#4 Potluck. My family has always done a potluck for holiday dinners, but oftentimes I hear about one person doing most of the preparing and purchasing of items for family dinners. It saves so much stress and money for everyone to carry some of the load. We usually host the holiday dinners and I do prepare more than everyone else, but most of the sides are provided by others that are coming.
Besides that, we all have our own "specialties" that are requested: my mom makes broccoli rice casserole, my sister makes banana pudding and Granny's stuffing, my mother-in-law makes corn casserole. It's how we do it and it works for all of us!
#5 Spending on kids. My kids are still fairly young, 10 & 6. They don't know if we spend the same amount of money on each of them. They only know if they got the same amount of presents and if they got what they asked for. We do strive to teach them the meaning of Christmas, but it is so special to see them excited on Christmas morning.
That being said, if one child is asking for something that is a little more pricey, that doesn't mean I have to go spend the same amount on the other child who may be just as happy with a lower-price item. This is happening in my house this year. Money is not created equal to kids. It's more about quantity of presents to them--especially when they're counting presents under the tree before Christmas. It's kind of like a game for them to see who has the most.
#6 Don't Forget Stocking Stuffers! This is something I seem to overlook every year--hence why it's important to have a little wiggle room in your budget. If I don't forget them completely, then I severely underestimate how much I will spend on what I want to put in them.
One sneaky thing I do every year is reuse some of our Halloween candy to put in the stockings. As long as it's not wrapped in Halloween paper, I'll put it in the stocking! All of our candy goes in one community bucket anyway--they never know it was missing and they think they got more! I do purchase a few Christmas themed candies to throw in, like a candycane of Skittles or a chocolate Santa, but as for the other candy, that's what Halloween is for!
They don't only get candy in their stockings, they get little useful items as well. This is where I try to give them items they can use rather than items just to take up space in the stocking so it looks full on Christmas morning.
I love Christmas, and I love the decorations, candles, the magic of the season. All of these things are so special to me and I enjoy giving and sharing it with the people that mean the most to me. But I also love not having the stress of the holidays by planning.
I hope this gives you some great insight on how to make your Christmas less stressful and more enjoyable!