Can you remember when you were a kid, and there was magic in the air around Christmas? Yes presents... but something else too, something special? My most favorite things about Christmas hardly cost a cent. We made hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. We cuddled in our fuzzy pajamas. We spent lots of time with family and friends. We made candy and cookies at grandma’s house. We visited Santa. A very, very small part was opening presents on Christmas morning, and the best part of that were the special little things in our stockings (that we opened last). The only presents that I remember were the experiential presents - the board games we played together. The crayons and the legos that we used to create our own worlds. The easy bake oven (and oh how I love to bake), the bike that I rode every day, the roller blades (remember those?!). Even the pogo stick (haha!) that I promptly fell off, and only lasted about a week.
But now. Fast forward to this year, or better yet, last Christmas. What was your favorite memory? Was the holiday just sort of a blur, full of stress, and money flying out the window? Did you put pressure on yourself with a huge list of presents and parties and specially designed cards with your photo and a stupid newsletter and mailed them to everyone you know? Did you have any fights? When Christmas was over, were you left with too much plastic stuff and a gigantic credit card bill?
I’ve been really intentional with my new frugal holidays. I’m not cheap. I’m not “skipping Christmas”. I’m just opting out of the things that do not make me happy. Like waking up at 4am (or 2a? Or now midnight?) on the day after Thanksgiving to fight through the bad weather and the crazy people and trying to “shop more to save more”. I honestly have family who went shopping on Thanksgiving day this year. “Dear God, we’re thankful for this food - oh CRAP WALMART JUST OPENED. LET’S GO.” Can we please not? There is no sense in it. If you really NEED that gigantic TV (and you don’t), just buy it online with a coupon code. No fuss. There was probably a sale in October that was better anyway. (Side note: if you can’t pay cash, you can’t afford it.)
What else? Fancy photo Christmas cards. No. Just stop. You DO NOT NEED to impress all the people with your matchy matchy outfits and props and expensive photo card and glitter calligraphy addressed envelopes. NO. Opt out of that shit and breathe a sigh of relief. Literally no one will miss it. You least of all. And you know what - if you do miss it, and its something you truly value - keep it up. No judgement.
As for gifts… there are very few plastic crap gifts that you give that people enjoy. If you find yourself at Bath & Body Works picking up miscellaneous lotions and candles on a buy 7 get 1 free sale for all the ladies in your life - just STOP. We don’t need that junk. We’re probably just going to rewrap it and give it to another friend next year.
Give instead - I’m not going to say “your time” because that's such a cliche. But seriously, do give your time. But also - cull your list down to the few people that are very important to you. Think really, really hard about them, preferably all year long. Make something at home that they would appreciate. Cookies are always a hit and anyone can pull off. Tins of three different kinds of cookies - no one will turn that down. Bonus - cheap, easy, and MUCH more fun than fighting crowds at the mall the week of Christmas desperately searching for the latest gizmo that all the stores are probably out of, or worse yet, looking for YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT. Trust me - cookie/candy tins go a long way. Or do you have a skill? Maybe you can knit, sew, or crochet - handmade scarves or throw pillows?
Or I have an even better idea. Want to just show up and spend time together, and skip the gift giving obligation? Odds are, so do they. 69% of Americans would skip gift giving at Christmas if their friends and family were on board. Just ask - they might be just as relieved as you to stop the consumer cycle of doom.
Also - opt out of the stupid Secret Santa and the million gift exchange games in your life. Do not sign up. No one will notice. Save yourself the time and money and just show up instead and laugh at all the stupid gifts people swap.
The last few years my extended family was basically just swapping gift cards on a far fetched guess of what each person wanted/needed. Thank you - but there’s no Speedway gas station anywhere near my house. Thank you - but a $25 gift card at William Sonoma will buy me one fancy spoon, and I’ll feel really bad when it gets stuck in the garbage disposal.
Seriously. I empower you this year to say NO to these ridiculous marketing schemes we’ve adopted as requirements. Save time, money, and your serenity this year by opting out of “Pinterest Christmas” and opting in for the very best and most important parts. After all, the reason for the season is love, not plastic stuff. YOU are in charge of how much you spend, and how stressed out you feel. Choose love instead of shopping and you will be much happier, I promise.