Nope, your eyes aren’t deceiving you: it’s officially the beginning of our 6 Steps to a Relaxed Christmas series. Can you believe it? I seriously felt like I was just writing about summer vacation plans, and BOOM—here we are.
But yes, every year around this time, I write a short little series to help you start thinking of the Christmas season just a wee bit early—not so early that you brush it off or think I’m one of those crazies, but not so late that it’s really not that helpful.
I’ve found that with a little foresight, communication, and planning, Christmas is a lot more fun because then you can do the things you really want to do and ignore the rest. You can plan in advance those things that take a bit more time, and then thoroughly enjoy the process because you’re not rushed or doing a halfway job.
So, ready for the first step for a relaxed Christmas? It’s the same first step we do every year. And it’s not sexy, but it’s important.
Plan your Christmas budget
I know, you were hoping I’d say it’s time for the first gingerbread latte of the season or the first viewing of Elf. You’re welcome to do those alongside whipping up your budget, if that makes it more fun. But don’t ignore the money side of the holidays, because this one spot is where so many of us slip.
Money for Christmas doesn’t just come out of nowhere, but with a plan, you’ll have more than you might think. Hopefully you’ve been saving a little each month. But if you’re just now starting to panic about where the money’ll come, remember this feeling next January—and make the holidays a line-item in your regular monthly budget for the next season.
But here you are, thinking about now. I have a simple Christmas budgeting printable that may help you remember all those holiday details:
Pour yourself a cuppa and talk it over with your spouse. And as you do, keep this in mind:
1. You REALLY don’t have to spend a lot to have a great Christmas.
Think back to your favorite holiday memories as a kid. How many of them involve a high-priced toy or a luxe vacation? Not many, I’d wager. They’re probably that annual movie you’d watch with a tub of popcorn and everyone under the blankets, or baking cookies for your neighbors with your mom.
The holidays are so much more about relationships than about things. Be generous and enjoy giving the gifts, but don’t despair if you’ve got less to spend on gifts than you’d rather. It’ll still be a great Christmas.
2. Limit your gifts.
I know, easier said than done—but it’s really doesn’t have to be a big deal. Our kids only get three gifts, and since it’s all we’ve ever done, they don’t expect any more. Kyle and I discuss in advance each year what we”ll do with each other—some years, we’ve bought ourselves one larger gift; other times, we’ve given each other a few smaller things each. We’ve also skipped giving to each other all together a few times.
Love this simple wrapping idea from Allora Handmade.
I’m also grateful that both sides of our family don’t really expect gifts. There’s simply too many nieces and nephews and cousins and in-laws to make it reasonable or affordable.
If your extended family won’t budge on gift-giving, perhaps you can suggest only homemade gifts, draw names, or set a low price limit per gift. We also like to give from Compassion’s Gift Catalog and give a gift in honor of the recipient, like a safe playground or teaching a mama to read and write.
No matter how small, make giving part of your holiday budget. Most non-profits depend on end-of-the-year giving to float the rest of the year, and there are so many ways to creatively give that it’s fun to include your kids. Giving should be one of their most vibrant holiday memories.
All the SLM sites will share some of our favorite charities in a few weeks, but for now, it’s a great time to fill a shoebox with your kids for Operation Christmas Child. National collection week is November 12-19.
4. Find an extra job for the holidays.
One of my favorite Christmas traditions has been my gift-wrapping job at Williams-Sonoma. If I wasn’t running this blog network, I’d totally still be doing it—I absolutely loved it. I could wrap presents in the back wearing jeans while listening to Christmas music, and I got a killer discount. Plus, they paid me.
If you’d like a seasonal job, look NOW. Many positions have likely been taken, but you never know unless you ask.
Finally, as we enter this holiday prep season, you might be interested in my friend Jessica’s latest e-book, A Simpler Season. She has encouragement to think through your family’s priorities for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, space to jot down your ideas, and printable to help you stay organized for the season.
Photo by Rachel Sapp
I’ll add the links to all the steps here on this post, so bookmark this post (Pinterest, Tumblr, wherever) for all the links to the series as they go live.
- Step 1: Create a holiday budget (Here’s the printable again)
- Step 2: Order your Christmas cards
- Step 3: Prepare for your family holiday traditions
- Step 4: Decorate! …and keep it simple
- Step 5: Plan your food
- Step 6
So your assignment this week? Crack out your holiday budget. You’ll be glad you did, and you can get right on back to reveling in the early gingerbread latte season and watching Will Ferrell belch.
What’s the hardest part to budget for the holidays?