a simple christmas.
Christmas at our home has always been frugal. We didn't have a choice in the matter. My childhood was the same. I remember being astonished when I would go to a friends and see all the gifts they received. I wasn't jealous but I do remember wondering if we were doing Christmas right. My family that is. Was there an expected number or type of gift you were suppose to give or receive? Christmas at our home was so low-key and humble. I look back now and see the good. Not that I didn't then but I was apprehensive about whether we were normal or not. haha.
Now here I am with my own family of four. Kinda hard to believe. Marc and I still haven't set down and officially decided on traditions (like my type-a self wants) but we have been talking about them over the last couple of weeks. All the refocusing we did earlier in the year has helped us get a good grasp on what we value. So basically, we want things to be simple. We want the focus to be on this time of year, not a specific day. I also don't want Christmas to become a check-list. For the sake of the perfectionist in me. I stress myself every year thinking that I will throw a fantastic Christmas party and then I get overwhelmed thinking about the cost and everything else I "need" to do and end up shutting down and not wanting to do any of it. I am sure I am not alone in this. I think embracing a simple take on Christmas is essential to enjoying it and for me, party throwing is not my thing. A potluck is more up my alley.
So, getting back to the theme here. I just thought I would share some basic things we have adopted for Christmas.
We do most (95%) of our shopping second hand. Thrift stores, used book stores, antique malls, consignment, etc. If I have enough funds I like to buy local or handmade. Christmas 2010 wasn't as tight financially and I really enjoyed getting the majority of our gifts on Etsy. This year our biggest splurge is getting chocolate bars from Whole Foods to gift alongside books and other unique finds.
We set a budget every year and we stick to it. This year we are spending less than $125. Aiming to get thoughtful yet inexpensive gifts. I finished shopping for one of my sisters and spent $5.35 on her collective gift thanks to the thrift store. We went shopping tonight and found a book for 0.10 that I am convinced my Dad will thoroughly appreciate. You can always find something wonderful or useful at a thrift store and its so fun. A treasure hunt. Marc and I always have the best time doing this together.
I am aiming to wrap things beautifully. I have never put much effort into wrapping gifts. I have always rushed through that part. I think beautiful packaging is a gift in of itself. I think of all the times I was given a gift that was tastefully and thoughtfully wrapped, it was always special.
We focus on giving thoughtfully, not just giving. I think this is something important I learned this year. Because we are on the tightest budget we have ever been I have had to really examine what I am purchasing and honestly, sometimes I find I am stressing just to find something, anything to give. I am trying to step back and remember that in this context, less is definitely more. A good book and food are some of the best gifts. For example, I would love to receive these gifts. Simple, free and truly giving.
Decorating our home is important to me. It always has been. I think it is an important part of embracing the season. Much like spring cleaning or getting ready for Summer. There are things that bond us during these times and nesting together is definitely one for me. When we got our tree in 2011 Marc and I bought and decorated our tree while Ocean was at her Mimi's. It was so sweet to see the excitement and surprise on her face when she walked in and saw the lights. It will always be a good memory for me.
A car ride and lights. A very simple tradition we decided on earlier today. After dinner one evening, we will bundle up in our PJ's with hot chocolate and ride around neighborhoods and enjoy the lights. Christmas music too, obviously. :)
Pajamas on Christmas Eve. We have been faithfully observing this tradition since Ocean's first Christmas. I hunt down some new(to us!) pajamas for the girls and they get to open them on Christmas Eve. I always look for footed pajamas because they feel more winter season to me. We plan on watching a Christmas movie together that night as well.
An ornament every year. This is a tradition carried over from Marc's family. Every year she would buy each of the boys an ornament and present them on Christmas Eve. She always has a story as to why she chose that particular ornament. It means a lot to her and the boys. I was enthusiastic about continuing this tradition in our family. Every year since our first Christmas together we have bought an ornament for each other and for the girls. Some of my favorites are a dinosaur for 2010 when Ocean was particularly enthralled with Dinosaurs. Also, a hamburger from Marc to me...because we started eating meat again that year. haha.
"Giving" our gifts. Another tradition carried over, Marc's mom always made the boys wait patiently and take turns handing gifts to each other. Basically, whoever started would give their gift to the recipient and after opening the recipient would chose one of their gifts to give and so on. It is simple and focused on giving and not so much getting.
We have a few other things we are planning on, bread dough ornaments being one. In searching for inspiration I found this list of 81 Christmas Traditions.
I'll be back by Monday with a list of D.I.Y gifts and other inspiration for all you other last minute people out there.
What do you guys do? How do you keep cost down? What do you choose to focus on?