“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” or is it?
Written by: Jennifer Hare
The Christmas season is known all over the world as “The most wonderful time of the year”. It is a special time when we can connect or reconnect with friends and family, sharing a meal and laughter. Feelings of generosity pour out for many and we throw a few extra dollars into the Salvation Army kettles. Who doesn’t love everything about the Christmas season?
I will let you in a on a secret.
For many people, Christmas serves as a stark reminder of how difficult life is. It can be a reminder of how hard it is to put a big feast on the table. How little they can afford to spoil their well-deserving children with gifts. How it is nearly impossible to even think of buying a new outfit for a Christmas event. These difficulties are not just for those who have lost their job through the year or those who have struggled with a past that has left them unable to find gainful employment. The reality is that most of us struggle with not having enough money to make Christmas the magical experience we have been led to believe it is supposed to be.
So, let me challenge you with this question – what really makes Christmas magical? Is it really the lavish gifts, the big feast, and new outfits? I know many of you are shaking your heads telling me, “No, it isn’t these things.” But at the same time, you just can’t seem to shut off the desire to want to make Christmas the magical experience you see in commercials, billboards and movies.
The reality is that our world surrounds you with images of new shiny things that you “need” on a daily basis. If you are fortunate enough to have programmed yourself to ignore all of these images, please reach out and let me know how! For those of you that are still struggling like me, here are some practical tips that I have used in my family to make Christmas magical and affordable.
- 4 gift rule for immediate family
In our home, we now buy only 4 gifts per person. We buy a Want (something the person really wants within a reasonable money amount), a Need (something the person needs), a Wear (something the person can put on) and a Read (something the person can read like a book or a magazine).
This was really tough for me to move towards. I was so used to having a Christmas tree that looked like it was just bursting with gifts. Now our tree may not look like the TV Christmas tree with so many shiny presents underneath but we have gifts which we actually use. In the past our family would be spoiled with so many wonderful Christmas gifts. We felt like our kids needed to have that TV experience on Christmas morning. What we found over the years is that majority of the gifts were left unopened for many months. Often these unopened gifts were donated the following year. Now the gifts are no longer unopened. They are used and cherished WAY more.
- Gift of Experience
We live in a world where so many people are hard to buy for. People’s wants are sometimes very expensive or they simply buy the things when they want them. The thing I find lacking most of all is quality time. We are so occupied with stuff, we forget to connect with those who are most important to us. If we are all craving quality time, why not gift someone your time? The best gift I have received over the past several years was a dinner date with my mom. It wasn’t a big fancy dinner. We went to a small hole-in-the-wall diner and had the very best conversation. It was so nice to take the time to just connect. Honestly WAY better than any material gift she could have bought. If your budget doesn’t allow for a purchased meal why not try gifting someone another experience with you. Maybe a springtime walk through a local conversation area or an early morning coffee date in a local park.
- Second hand and homemade gifts are still gifts
We often forget that a great gift does not mean expensive or even new. Do you know someone who is the BEST gift giver? Have you ever thought about why he/she is? My guess is if you think about it, the gifts are thoughtful and exactly what you needed or wanted. In my experience, the best gift givers really know you and what makes you tick. They have invested the time figuring out what makes you, you. They have also put the effort in to find or make the perfect gift. It’s not easy crafting together a homemade gift or searching through swap and sell sites finding that perfect gift for someone. Don’t discredit how much it would mean to a loved one that you took the time to find the used book they were talking about reading all year or taking time out of your busy schedule to make a batch of cookies.
- Time with family and friends
We are all busy! When was the last night you spent time with your family making dinner or playing a game? I know our children are bombarded with so many different things. They are growing up in a world which is very different than the world many of us grew up in. Do you know the world we live in really is still the same? Yes, technology has advanced at an incredibly rapid pace and so many have a phone in their hands at all time. However, think back to your childhood memories. Do you remember the gifts you got each Christmas or do you remember the things you did at Christmas? For me there are certain gifts that I remember getting. My first stereo with a CD player tops the list. What I remember more is baking Christmas cookies with my mom, going sledding with my dad, and watching movies as a family. Those moments have stuck with me so much more than any of the gifts I ever received! I believe the children in this world truly do crave the same things we did growing up; to spend quality time with those who love us. The world may look a little different now but our hearts still work the same. We just want to feel loved and spend time with those who love us.
There are so many areas of our lives that are ruled by how much money we have or how big our salary is. Let’s take Christmas back and make it about the things that matter. This Christmas, take the time to bake a batch of cookies with your loved ones. Go out and search for or create the perfect gift. Watch the reaction of the person who gets to receive an experience with you. Give your family the gifts they really need. Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. I can’t wait to see how you make it magical!
From my family to yours, we wish you a magical Christmas season filled with nothing but joy and laughter,
Jennifer Hare is a Chartered Accountant who is passionate about helping people meet their financial goals. She enjoys making finances make cents.
For more information you can contact her [email protected]