In the past three years, I’ve learned a lot about what makes me happy in life.
I’ve learned that my happiness level has nothing to do with spending more money. That’s not the message I was taught in America, and you probably weren’t either. Corporations and Hollywood would have me believe the only path to happiness is to buy a bigger house, drive a better car and never wear the same dress twice. For me, the opposite is true – saving money and living simply is what makes me happiest, which is why we’ve downsized to live on one salary and follow a strict family budget.
As we come into the season of spending, it’s probably no surprise that I’m not planning to buy much stuff this Christmas. Why? Because I know too much about what matters to me. There’s nothing for sale that could ever replace the time I get to spend at home, the lower stress level or zero debt balance.
If you’re feeling the pressure to spend in order to make your family happy, I’m going to share 5 ideas that will help take the pressure off. Use these tips to replace some of the material things that pile up under the tree.
Have a season of experiences. Instead of buying the kids a pile of gifts they can’t possibly appreciate, spend a portion of their gift money on a holiday experience. Go to a garden of lights, enjoy a sleigh ride, get out and cut down a Christmas tree by hand. Take them to the symphony Christmas concert. There are so many ways to experience Christmas that will give them joyful, lasting memories. You simply can’t replace an experience with a plastic toy made in China.
Shop early. Start now while the stores are not completely overblown with Christmas. You’ll be able to get the gifts you want without as much fuss. Bonus – lots of time in December to focus on making awesome Christmas memories! In order to shop early, plan ahead. Create a Christmas list with columns for the person, dollar amount and idea. Total the dollar amount so you know exactly how much money is needed. Then hit the stores with cash in hand to avoid overspending.
Turn off your TV. Tis the season of advertising. Instead of letting these ads make you feel inadequate, choose to ignore their message. Put the TV on mute during commercial breaks or stop watching it all together. Rent your favorite Christmas flicks from the video store or on Netflix. Read meaningful stories to get your next year in a positive direction and leave the sales flyers to someone else.
Help others enjoy Christmas. Does your family volunteer during the holidays? This year, look into the multiple ways to give back during the season. Serve a meal at a homeless shelter, adopt a family, ring the bell for the Salvation Army or walk dogs at the animal shelter. If there is a busy mom that needs a break, watch her kids so she can get her shopping done. Make Christmas cookies while they’re visiting. Sing carols at the nursing home. This dark time of year needs people to brighten the world, not just lights.
Focus on the senses. Not senseless consumerism. The best parts of Christmas awaken my senses like no other time of the year. I love the smell of Christmas cookies wafting through the house. I love how the white lights on the porch glows beneath a layer of icy snow. I even love Christmas music.
Take it from someone that’s learned the hard way – don’t go over budget this Christmas. It’s a simple rule that will bring you a lot of joy. No matter what the advertisements say, Christmas isn’t about material things. Find other ways to feel rich instead. By your actions, you can make the holidays a truly memorable celebration of life and family.
Now it’s your turn. How do you enjoy a rich holiday season without spending more money?
Photo Credit: Federica Simoni