As everyone knows, the holidays can be extremely draining on the budget. This is one of the main causes of stress during this season.
But those of us with kids also know that Christmas is a test on our children’s character development. With all the ads directed right at them, it is nearly impossible for children, especially young children, to fight their desire for more “stuff.” They get greedy for the new toys they see everywhere that they just have to add to their list. Which is already 10 pages long. They can’t stop the feeling of wanting from creeping into every outing. And they can get angry when you try to let them know, gently, that it would not be possible to get it all.
When You Can’t Take It Anymore
And this is where I found myself last year.
My husband and I have always had to live on a pretty strict budget. Ever since we decided that I would stay home with the kids, we have had to watch every penny. It is not easy for a family of 6 to live on one salary. Especially when it is a teacher’s salary. But it was doable. Except around Christmas. We had to get creative.
What we usually ended up doing was buying bunches of little, cheap gifts. This gave the illusion that they were being as spoiled as every other kid. We are pretty isolated with most of the family living in other countries and only one set of grandparents able to visit. And with the yearly move to another town for nearly 5 years, we didn’t have a lot of friends around either. So what they got from us was it.
Let’s face it. We all want to spoil our kids. We love the smiles and squeals of excitement. But it comes at a cost. And not just financially.
When starting the new year in debt became the norm with kids that were still just as cranky, we knew there needed to be a change. Not to mention, the piles of toys that were just gathering dust because they were lost amongst the rest. Or the toys that lasted only a month because they broke so easily. Our home was getting cluttered and dirty and we were all unhappy by the end of the season. It just didn’t seem worth it anymore.
Christ Shows Us the Way
But what really got me rethinking this consumerist tradition, was when I got back into the Word of God. It just didn’t seem right that we spent so much time and attention on something that had absolutely nothing to do with the real reason for Christmas. We let our children’s hearts be molded by a society that was blatantly unChristian. And we even helped it along!
So I started looking at beginning a new tradition. One that pointed to Christ and not to “stuff.”
And I came across a blog post that changed everything for me. It was from a blog called Blessed Beyond a Doubt. In this post, the author, Annette Breedlove, discussed her own struggles with the issue of greed. She offered a solution that just spoke to me.
Not only would it help us stay on budget financially but it would guide our children back to the true meaning of Christmas at the same time. She called it the $5 Christmas. Each member of the family would pick the name, anonymously, of another member and pick out a $5 gift for them. Then they would attach a personal letter letting them know how they felt about them.
This idea attracted me so much, I immediately called my husband at work to discuss doing the same thing.
He agreed. But we changed it to fit our family’s needs. Since our children only really received gifts from us each year, we decided to up the limit to $15 (or euros, in our case). This would be the sole gift for everyone. But the true brilliance was the letter. All the joy of the season and love for the family could truly shine when everyone was sharing their letters with each other.
We had so much fun picking out the perfect gift for our “person.” Since all our kids were under the age of 7, we decided that we would pick names anonymously but we would be able to share who we got with each other. The gift-buying was done privately so that it could stay a surprise. And all except the oldest needed our help to write their letters. But the time we spent together was more than we had spent previous years when I would have to sneak out of the house alone to try to get all the shopping done in one go.
And let me tell you, the shrieks were just as loud when they opened their one gift as when they opened their multitude. Plus we added in more laughter and hugs. And everyone felt happy when their letter was read and they got to hear how special they were to someone else in the family.
I look forward to doing it again this year.