Christmas is the time of year that is both Joyous and Stressful. Ideally, we would like to focus on spending time with our families, enjoying great food, playing in the snow, listening to Christmas music, and watching all the wonderful Hallmark movies designed to pull at the heart strings in just the right way. Instead, there are some who are stressed by what gifts to buy, having the money to cover it all, and fearing that our loved ones won’t like it. What I have found is that the most stress comes from picking out the gifts for my children. In the past I would wait till the last minute, buy way too much, spend like I didn’t have a budget, and then watch them as they opened gifts that they played with for all of 5 minutes and not think about for several months. Let’s be honest, most of the gift buying was me trying to prove that I wasn’t a bad mom. That sounds totally insane to think that buying a gift could determine your worth as a mother and yet, it happens.
Think about it, when your kids tell you that there is something they really want, we want to do what we can to make it happen. Even if you have to work a ridiculous amount of overtime to make it happen. Then on top of that, we (meaning I) would buy a bunch of crap “we think” they would like. When all is said and done, you look at the stuff, the bills, and embrace the regret. So, to manage all of this unnecessary stress, two years ago I decided to Organize Christmas. Let me be clear, organizing is not my strength and I like being whimsical when possible, so in the beginning this seemed like an impossible feat. Yet, I was willing to try and on the second year of putting this plan in action, I was completely done with shopping 3 weeks before Christmas and the gifts are all wrapped. So, I thought I would share with you some helpful tips.
Set a Budget
What do I mean by setting a budget? I mean, set an amount that realistically works for you and your family. Then, you get to share that amount with your family members. If they can add then there is no time like the present to teach our children how to set and keep reasonable limits. I let them know in October how much they have to work with. I remind them that they have the option to blow it all on 1 big item or to spread it out over several gifts. At first, they looked at me like I had grown a third eyeball, then they thought I was kidding, and once they explored all the stages of grief, they accepted their fate and rolled with it.
Remember that we started prepping for Christmas in mid October, so this provides you with an incredible opportunity to spend little bursts of money over the next two months versus blowing a lot at one time. This may also reduce the need to overuse the credit cards this season.
Break out the annual Toy Book
Remember when Toys R Us would send out the annual toy book? Now, we have Target, Kohls, and J.C.Penney sending out their version of a Toy Book. First, I told the kids to go through the book and circle whatever they wanted regardless of cost. Then, I had them go through their choices and eliminate items with their budget in mind. It makes sense that when all is said in done, the choices they have left will still be over their limit. No worries, that’s where step 3 comes in. Finally, I have them prioritize their choices so that we can do our best to make sure to get what they really want. This can also work for your children who still believe in Santa. Remind them that Santa has to take care of all the little girls and boys and he wants to make sure that everyone gets something and he LOVES lists so making a list for him might make his day.
Make the sales work for you
One of the major benefits to starting this process early (late October/early November) is that you are primed and ready for the Holiday deals. If you are a Black Friday person they go for it or you can play the waiting game for the Christmas sales. Remember there are sales and there are Rewards! Don’t forget about the Rewards, the Kohls Cash or the Target gift Cards can all be used towards gifts and it does not take away from their budget. For example, Target had a sale on Video games where you purchased 2 qualifying games and received a $50 gift card. So, that gift card you can now turn around and use for more gifts while keeping your budget intact. At some point it actually became a game for me, how much could I save and how much can I get back in rewards.
Make gift wrapping easy
Sometimes we like the rush of waiting till the last minute to do things and sometimes we want to kick ourselves in the butt. Last year, we spent 4 hours wrapping gifts. Well, a good amount of time was spent trying to remember where we hid them and then wrapping them. At some point I was getting frustrated and the wrapping got sloppy. So, this year I decided to wrap everything as I got it and some items I placed under the tree and others I stacked them in the large shipping box it came in and hid that. Added bonus for me was that everyone got the same brown butcher paper; but, we all have specific ribbon colors.
Share unpurchased items with friends and family
Now that you have stayed true to your word and left your budget intact, there will be items left on their lists and that is perfectly fine. Now, we get to share those items with Grandma and Grandpa or any other family members who asks about what little Timmy wants for Christmas. When all is said and done, it is possible that your child will receive a good number of gifts and you will have far less sleepless nights.
The One Exception
This year, both of my children stayed under their budget and we all had a pretty good year emotionally and behaviorally as a family so I decided to splurge. I’m not a fan of video games and admittedly it has been well over 11 years since I made my last purchase of the Wii Fit in 2008. So, I bought a game system that will be presented as a family gift. I used that Target sale to purchase a game that each would like and the $50 gift card towards extra controllers. With this being a family gift it can be used by individual members of the family; however, no one person can claim dominion over it and it will be kept in the family room for weekend use only. The weekend use only is something we do and of course you get to set your own limits.
Let go of Expectations
We tend to set impossible standards for ourselves when it comes to the Holidays. We want the best meal, place settings, decorations, experiences, and give gifts that will be remembered for a lifetime. The Holidays are tough enough for some without the added pressure. Our children learn how to manage stress by watching how we respond to stress. Whether you utilize tips provided here or create your own tips, anything you are able to do to relieve stress is worth doing. Then, without even realizing it, you are also modeling healthy coping strategies to our children and reminding them how to prioritize, set healthy boundaries, and reduce anxiety.