Personal Finance » Spending

Simplifying the Christmas season

“Life is really simple but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

There’s a lot to be said for keeping things simple. Too often we make life far more complicated than it needs to be and often it’s because we get so caught up in the “have it all, do it all, be it all” philosophy that’s become so popular in our society. I’ve been on a mission for the past couple of years to simplify as many aspects of my life as possible: home, career, friendships, commitments, the amount of “stuff” I own; the list has been extensive and for the most part, I’ve been pretty successful in holding on to everything that’s really important and letting go of everything else. As this year draws to a close, my last simplifying project for 2013 is to identify what really matters to me about the Christmas season, to focus my energy on those things and to do my absolute best to let go of everything else. Here’s my game plan:

Set a budget (and stick to it!)

I’m not a gifts person in the sense that I don’t get excited about receiving gifts but I love to buy things for other people. The trouble is, I tend to get so caught up in the experience of wandering around stores looking for just the right thing that I always end up buying more (and spending more) than I intended to. This Christmas season I’m simplifying my gift list by dramatically reducing the number of people on it and committing to only spending a certain amount on each person. No extras! I’m also making sure that the people I’m taking off my list know that I am definitely not expecting a gift this year so I’m hoping that by simplifying my list I can help them cut theirs too!

Find creative gift alternatives

I learned a few years ago that gifts don’t have to be extravagant and expensive in order to be meaningful to the person who receives them. After reading the book “The Five Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman I realized that not everyone in my life had “receiving gifts” as one of their primary love languages and so I started to figure out other ways to show my appreciation for people that were important to me. This Christmas season I have a variety of seasonal “friend dates” planned including a trip to the theatre, a day at the spa and several dinners out at different local restaurants. (Given the fact that “Quality Time” is one of my primary love languages this works well for me too!) Last Christmas season I took my niece and nephew bowling and my sister and brother-in-law out for dinner instead of buying my usual pile of gifts. They didn’t seem to miss the gifts and we created some great memories that will last far longer than anything I could have wrapped in fancy paper.

Cut back on the trimmings

The first year that I had a house of my own I got totally caught up in a seasonal decorating frenzy; lights, decor, a decked-out tree and an abundance of glittery accents that seemed to cover every surface. Since I started my mission to “keep it simple” I’ve resisted the temptation to expand my collection of all things seasonal and instead I’ve switched my focus to keeping the pieces that mean something to me and letting go of everything else. With so many beautiful things filling the stores and the display windows it can be hard to resist but it’s amazing how much of a dent those sparkly accents (which spend most of the year in boxes) can put in your bank account.

Cutting back on the trimmings also applies to my grocery store (and liquor store) spending. I’m not sure what it is about Christmas but I love food and the holiday season has always been a great excuse to spend more on food for those few days than I would usually spend in a month. This Christmas season I’m spending Christmas with my boyfriend and I’m taking full advantage of the fact that it’s just the two of us to help me stick to a reasonable budget. I have a top-five list of my favorite foods and plan to enjoy indulging in them along with the traditional meals that make the season special.

The essence of the holiday season is spending time with the people who are important to us and enjoy the luxury of a few days away from work. I’m hoping that, by finding ways to simplify the build-up to the big day and to minimize the impact on my budget and my stress levels, I’ll be able to enjoy the true spirit of the season with the people who mean the most to me.

Do you have strategies for keeping it simple over the Christmas season? I’d love to hear them!

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