As there are really no sacred cows when you are rethinking your finances, let’s take a look at a few ways to rethink the most expensive time of year:
A change in mindset:
As alluded to in the previous post, getting away from the consumerism and clutter of the season requires a change in thinking. Deliberately choosing to set limits on spending, busyness, and clutter, and focusing on the meaning behind Christmas, time with those we love, and connecting with other humans takes some effort and discipline at this time of year. So, set it in your mind that you will do just that, and it can make this season much more meaningful and enjoyable.
A “different” Christmas tree:
When we moved into our current house, we noticed a tall, scraggly looking pine that was just out of place. Looking to cut costs, I made a passing joke to my lovely wife that we should just cut that down and use it as our Christmas tree. A few months later, we did just that. I kid you not- this tree was funky. It had a branch that literally grew at a 90-degree angle! It was sparse, to say the least in the branch and needle department. It was basically an overgrown Charlie-Brown Christmas tree. But it was endearing to us. When people came over and saw this funky looking tree it got nothing but praise. It also costs nothing and cleaned up our yard. Given it was fresh cut, it lasted a full month. It still stands as my favorite Christmas tree.
Then next year we opted for a more traditional, but adventurous route, after all, we can’t cut all the trees down in our lot. We got a permit from the Forest Service, and headed out to the wilds an hour out of town and cut down our own. It was a lot of fun for us. Knowing our very little kids at the time wouldn’t tolerate such an adventure, we dropped them off at Grandmas, got some coffee, and made a Saturday date out of it. It was great fun feeling like Clark Griswold throwing a tree (they always look smaller in the mountains) on top of our car and hauling down the highway. We plan on doing it again this year. These kinds of excursions make for much better memories than going to the parking lot down the street and finding the “perfect” tree- (though some years certainly call for that). Who needs perfect- we need memories and bonding time. The cost? It’s actually cheaper to do it this way than buying a fancy pre-cut at the Home Depot parking lot.
A limited Christmas Budget
Finally, setting a budget for gifts has been helpful. Before we felt obligated to buy every person in the extended family some form of a gift, we released ourselves from such obligations. We started drawing names for gifts with extended family. In another side of the family, we do a white elephant gift exchange which is actually much more fun than real gifts. For our nuclear family, we set a budget and don’t emphasize too much “what they want for Christmas,” though we certainly ask them what they want the most.
Our church sets aside a special time during Advent to donate money to a specific cause. This year its to send money to a sister church in Rwanda which needs money to have an actual church building. It’s a refreshing reminder of giving, not just getting and the bustle of the season. Pair that with the ever-present Salvation Army red buckets and bell ringers, family homeless shelters, or local jacket drive for kids in need- there are plenty of ways to give outside of your family and away from what is under your tree this year.