and ramblings on everything in between
Like a good many of you, I love this time of year. Spending more time with family, sitting by the wood stove at my parent’s house, opening one gift on Christmas Eve (a tradition we have kept from our childhood), preparing and eating delicious food with others, giving presents – all just a few things that warm my heart. And the fact that I actually like my family members is a huge bonus. J
But we’re at the start of the season, when the thought of it fills me with nostalgia. After trudging through snow, getting stuck in traffic everywhere you go even if it’s not in the direction of a mall, and receiving unexpected holiday invites that require more gifts, it’s easier to feel drained than jolly.
I’ve rounded up some resources to keep a minimalist mind frame around the next few weeks. The Minimalists cover a variety of topics in their blog, including why they don’t shop on Black Friday (every year my mom and sister and I say we won’t, and every year we almost always do). Zen Habits discusses the importance of being mindful when you spend time with your loved ones and de-cluttering your house before all the extra loot arrives.
All helpful information, and here are a few that are meaningful to me:
Gift experiences or your time. A few years ago I didn’t have a lot of extra cash around the holidays yet I wanted to do a little something more for my parents. I decided to purchase them a small gift to open on Christmas day and then also gave them each a coupon to be redeemed later on. My father received a coupon for a St. Louis Cardinal’s ticket and my mother received a coupon for a show at the Peabody Opera House. I printed off a schedule for both items and placed it with the coupon so they could pick which game/show they wanted to go see. This not only allowed me to purchase their gifts after all the holiday spending, but it allowed us to make memories together. My dad selected a game that all of my immediate family members could go to. It was his first time at the new Busch Stadium (which is so old now that to put new in front of it seems silly) and my nephew got to go to his first baseball game. My mom came down to visit me for a weekend when our show was playing at the opera house and we had a little Tour de St. Louis – tapas restaurant for dinner, drinks at the Westin, a walk through Ballpark Village, and dessert at a chocolate bar. I remember having these great experiences with my parents, and I have no idea what the small Christmas gifts I gave them that year were – proof that the experiences were more meaningful than the gifts.
Use cash to purchase Christmas gifts. I’m a Dave Ramsey nerd and use the cash system as part of my budget each month. The action of handing over cash for items makes the purchase more real to me, and it allows me to visually see how much money I have to spend on that item. When I’m constantly using a debit card, it’s too tempting to only see the total number of dollars that are in my checking account – which triggers, “Plenty of money!” to me – instead of remembering the exact amount I specified for that purchase. So I challenge you to figure out what you want to spend on Christmas gifts this year then place cash in envelopes, separating them by person or family. When the money is gone, the money is gone. I’m finished with my Christmas shopping (!!) and I know that this long stretch from the 1st to the 25th is going to bring a lot of temptation. I keep reminding myself that extra gifts are not going to make the day any more special for my family. A commitment to being engaged and present with my family during the day will mean more than extra $5 stocking stuffers.
Start a new tradition. Along the lines of gifting experiences or your time, starting a new tradition can be a great way to make memories this December. It doesn’t have to require money – maybe you stop by your neighbor’s house to Christmas carol or volunteer at a local soup kitchen to serve the needy. I know a family who goes hiking every Black Friday. Children, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles – everyone piles in cars together to spend a little time outside. One of our family traditions is to watch the 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story. The tube stays on TBS all day long and we stop to watch a little bit here and there throughout the day. We rarely sit down and watch the whole thing from start to finish in one sitting, but by the end of the day we’ve pretty much seen the whole movie through these snippets. Picking a new tradition might be a fun way for you and your family to shake up the ordinary this year.
I hope you are blessed with wonderful holiday experiences that fill your heart and don’t break the bank. Realizing what really matters in life will help you to do this. May the minimalist in you place a higher value on those things than the gifts under the tree.