There has been a lot of talk about people cutting back on Christmas due to the economic downturn this year. A lot of people seem really stressed about how they are going to 'do it' this year. I almost feel guilty saying this, but this will probably be the least stressful Christmas season I have had in a LONG time. All the recent talk has me thinking about why.
First of all, we've been planning for this all year. Not only have we set aside 'extra funds' when we had them, but I've been a lot better about picking up gifts throughout the year intead of waiting until the last minute. By buying throughout the year, we're going to avoid a huge added expense in the last 2 months of the year. Next year, I would like to plan even more and designate a set amount from each bonus for a Christmas fund. It worked out this year, but it wasn't necessarily planned and it could easily have snuck up on us.
The other big factor is that we have less people to buy/plan for this year. This is the first year since I've been born that we're not going to my broher's god-parents for Christmas Eve. While we always enjoyed the company, it was also extremely stressful - gift buying for people you only see once a year, a yearly craft (a tradtion my mom and I started when I was young), and lots of baking. Money and stress I don't need to spend this year. In addition, Tim's family - his parents & brother - have decided we're going to buy for the kids only. This helps because I always have a hard time figuring out what to buy them. We're also traveling for Christmas, so it'll be less to carry. We're still buying for my side (they aren't very supportive of our Dave efforts and it easier to buy gifts then explain otherwise), but I have most of that figured out. We have the money set aside, I just need to get the gifts.
We are giving "gifts" to some of Tim's family. Last year my mom and I put together a collection of our favorite recipes. We typed up about 100-125 and put them in a cookbook that we took on Christmas Eve. This year, I'm doing some editing and adding. I'm going to make books for Tim's extended family. We'll take them with us at Thanksgiving to save on postage. I'm really excited about this idea and hope to do some better formatting this year since it's not as rushed. I have to order the binders and a few supplies, but in all they will be pretty inexpensive. I'm giving one to his brother and parents when we go to Florida after Christmas and plan on making a couple of the items in there with them. I think building memories is one of the best gifts.
As for our immediate family... Tim and I have decided not to buy each other gifts. We both recently got what we really wanted - new cell phones and a new digital camera. We've decided to focus our Christmas budget on the kids. With some planning ahead, purchasing through the year, and using our National City Points for a Toys-R-Us gift card, I think we're actually going to be able to give the kids a better Christmas that we had originally thought. My friend Kara introduced me to a neat idea - buying gifts based on the following priciple - "Some thing they want. Some thing they need. Some thing to wear. Some thing to read." I've been keeping a list for Santa and a general wish list here.
One of the nice things about the Christmas pressures this year is that most people are faced with the same challenges, so people won't be surprised if it's a little scaled back this year. Another great thing is that there are so many great ideas on the web these days for inexpensive home-made gifts. My goal for next year is to make more of the gifts from Santa. We'll see how that works out.
What are your plans for Christmas? Any creative ideas? Will you be joining the many and cutting back this year? What's your favorite tradition?