1. The 6P Principle: Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
This year I am dreaming of a debt free Christmas. How about you? Good planning is the key to heading off any personal or budget stress. If you haven't planned well, make it your New Year Resolution. You can put an amount of cash aside each week or if you don't trust yourself with cash you could buy gift vouchers throughout the year from your favourite store or start a fee free Christmas Club account. Don't forget to become the lay-by queen and spread your purchases out through the year.
2. Make It About More Than Just Presents:
Do you have other tradition beside gift giving at Christmas ? If not, invent some! Make Christmas a collection of ideas and experiences, not just about the presents. I have had to do some serious tradition inventing over the years. Our traditional activities started this past weekend. We put up the Christmas decorations whilst playing old crooners from a free CD that come with the newspaper. Hubbie sings into a hair brush pretending to be Elvis while I dance around wearing flashing antlers. As the children get older I hope they will recall how embarrassed they were when their parents did this year after year - but hey, something to look forward to each year!
My children are still young, so I guess these will change as the years go by, but we make reindeer with rolled oats and glitter in a brown paper bag - nice idea, but gee those reindeers are messy eaters!
The year before last we had Christmas at our house and had a big brunch and smaller lunch. We started the day with pancakes, strawberries, bacon and eggs and then had a smaller Christmas lunch. For the first time we didn't feel awful! We took the boat down to the river and spent the rest of the day water skiing, tubing and had the best Christmas day ever!
Why not make it a fun Christmas and find your inner child. You can have the backyard cricket game, some beach volleyball, same handball comps on the driveway or get out the water pistols and have a full on war. Dads especially love a few water pistol fights after a little Christmas cheer!
By making Christmas a variety of experience, the actual gift giving becomes only one part of the day, not the whole focus.
3. Secret Santa
As families grow and siblings get married and have children you find that your Christmas gift list just grows and grows. A couple of years ago we opted for the Secret Santa concept where all the adults' names are put into a hat and you draw one out and buy JUST for that person and sign the card ''Santa" and put it under the tree. It works wonderfully!
4. Give "Non- Gifts".
In the past I have used charity groups like Tear Australia to make donations in people's names to poorer overseas communities. You can buy school books for children, sink a well in a village or buy medicines. The year before last I wrote my brother in law a really funny poem that ended with a line about a goat in Bangladesh. Attached to the poem was a voucher that showed that I had donated a goat to this particular village in his name. It was absolutely hilarious and far better than the after shave and car polish that I had been buying him for the ten years previous. LOL
Other ideas for "non gifts" might be CD messages from children to Grandparents, photo albums with photos and hand written stories, cookies in a jar, special letters. Kids are very good with coming up with ideas and the results are precious.
The thing about giving 'non-gifts' is that the perceived value is far greater than the actual cost. After all, the reason we give gifts is to show people that we love them. If we are low on funds then we just need to find creative ways to say I love you. How do you put a price on a home made, illustrated story made by a child for a grandparent - the cost is nothing yet the value is priceless... and will definitely last longer than that foot spa you thought you might get!
5. Tone Down the Gift Giving
If you have children, the best way to reduce gift expectations is to give little throughout the year. If kids expect a toy every time they go shopping, then trying to make Christmas special is very difficult. I like to know very early what my children are hoping for at Christmas time. It gives me time to plan and save or time to VETO. "honey I don't think Santa will be bringing you your own TV ". I learnt that discussing gift giving ideas as children get older can be very important. Last year number one son said on Christmas Day " why would Santa have left me an XBOX game when I don't have an X BOX" - it seems Santa wasn't really up on all the different sorts of game consoles and computer thingys. I have suggested he does better homework this year!
You can set Christmas guidelines throughout the year by continually reinforcing the rule you want to introduce ' we usually get four things for christmas in our house'.... etc. Kids are usually fine... once they know the expectation. LOL ( gosh I hope they are not reading this!!)
Another good way to lower expectations is to limit advertising exposure. We know that advertising works, so reduce yours and your children's exposure and you won't be left wanting so much 'stuff'.
Being frugal doesn't mean being cheap. It is better to get a couple of things of quality rather than a room fall of cheap plastic! Most importantly, refer to point number one. You can give gifts of quality as long as you are cashed up and ready for it. We want to avoid the January credit card hangover!
6. Forget Being The Perfect Hostess
If you are hosting Christmas at your house this year, people will ask you ' what would you like me to bring?' and we answer with the pride of a martyr " nothing - just bring yourselves" and then we work like slaves to get everything organised. This year why not introduce the co-operative Christmas rules and let everyone bring and do something. People feel valued when they are able to contribute something so - let them! It brings a spirit of togetherness and the work is shared around. Everyone has their signature dish , be it salad or dessert. Let them flaunt it. Nothing says ' I value you' more than asking someone for the recipe of their signature dish.
My friend ( who shall remain nameless) has been taking her signature potato salad to bbbqs for years. She admitted to me that it is actually two tins of homebrand in a fancy bowl! - she never did get around to passing out the recipe.
7. Make December A Month Of PEACE.
Peace, love, joy ..... you know those words on the front of Christmas cards ? They don't just happen. You have to try really hard. You can't have PEACE if you leave your gift shopping until 10pm on Christmas Eve, that creates stress. Bring peace into your household by being prepared. Finish your gift shopping and wrapping early. Plan your menus and think about simple meals. Don't over cater - we already through out so much food, I doubt anyone will go hungry.
Get ahead now by making cookie dough and putting it in the freezer. You can pull them out and have fresh baked goodies in about 12 minutes. You can make cakes and freeze them un-iced, or chop them into smaller pieces ready for a trifle you whip up on Christmas morning.
And... if you are having toxic relatives over for Christmas ( and you know what I mean....) it might be worthwhile to cut out those words off the front of Christmas cards and hang them all over your home to remind you to bite your tongue as your auntie tells everyone that she thought you looked four months pregnant at your wedding! LOL You just have to put this down to part of the fun of the day.... the one day of the year when you start the day off with a handful of peanuts and nap in the chair while there are visitors in your house still..... Oh, c'mon, there's gotta be a little joy in that !
Simple Christmas......... that's what I am aiming for this year....... Joy........ love........ and hopefully ( depending on the relatives!)..............PEACE.
What are you doing to focus on the true values of Christmas in your home ? I would love to hear from you.