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I tell myself this frequently. Breathe.
Hold your tongue, and just breathe.
Don’t tell that lady at the store what you really think of her cutting in front of you. Don’t cry to your husband (too late) that his two-week-in-a-row business trips during this crazy, chaotic time of year have just about done you in (Note: said husband would choose not to go if that were an option; he’s sweet and supportive and listened to my cry that I never wanted to cry patiently and kindly). Don’t scroll, eyes glazed over, through your online check register and mumble your true thoughts on the monetary cost of Christmas.
Instead, just breathe.
December does not have to be a stressful time. Really, it doesn’t. It’s a joyful time, full of love and celebration and God’s incredible grace – His gift to us, such a blessing.
So breathe, and remember these things so that you can de-stress instead of feeling distressed:
1. Make a Christmas budget and stick to it. Be sure to include not only presents but also food and travel. I frequently forget about the travel and lodging which adds additional worry as I try to figure out how we can afford everything. Additional worry for me means extra crankiness. And no one want to be around cranky me, not even me!
I realize it’s December already, and if you haven’t planned for the financial aspect of Christmas, prices may be daunting. However, see where you are right now. What do you have to spend? Whatever it is, no matter how big or small, budget that amount only. Stick to it. The internet is full of ideas for ways to not only make but also buy frugal, desirable gifts. Keep the focus on celebrating Christ’s birth and on your own relationships. Fill time with activities and not just stuff.
To learn more about 0 based budgeting, planning for Christmas spending, and becoming debt free, be sure to read The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. My husband and I did, and it changed our lives.
2. Stay out of the stores. I know, I know. How in the world can we stay out of the stores during Christmas? Maybe we can’t completely, but as much as possible we should try. I first decided that the stores created a large part of my holiday distress the Black Friday a few years ago when I stood in line at a department store and when the doors opened people pushed ahead like maniacs. They rammed into people with carts, not even acknowledging anyone, all self-absorbed with getting their own stuff. Just stuff. I stood back and watched and realized I never wanted to be a part of that again. It overwhelmed me. Why do we put ourselves in those situations just to save a few dollars? I’m not doing it anymore.
As much as possible, I shop online now. Avoiding the stores has made my Christmas season so much more peaceful.
3. Plan, Plan, Plan. I’ve never been the best at organization. In January, I always plan to budget a specific amount each month so that when the holidays come around at the end of the year, I’m ready and money won’t be a worry. Dave Ramsey says Christmas is not an emergency. It comes at the same time every year. I know he’s right. But all of a sudden it’s the week before Thanksgiving, and I realize that not only do I have to figure out how to buy a turkey and pecans for pies, but I’ll soon have to shop for Christmas. I look in my holiday budget category, and…nothing. Sigh. I’ve made Christmas into an ‘emergency’ once again.
And then there are the Christmas lists. One kid emails his, one tells me his and I write it on a sticky note which I promptly lose, and one writes hers and sticks it with a magnet on the fridge. My husband texts his. I intend to consolidate them in an Excel spreadsheet before they’re lost, methodically checking each off as it is purchased, changing font colors to indicate which I’ve decide to skip, which are from Santa, which are for the stockings. I intend that. It works for a few days, and then, I’m not sure why, it goes by the wayside. I need focus!
4. Take time for yourself. This is key! No martyrdom allowed. Christmas will go on whether we pack our schedule full every second of every day or not. Families will be happy, presents will appear under the tree, food will be ravaged, football will be played.
If we can’t take time to care for ourselves and to nourish our relationship with Christ, how can we truly feel the fullness, the magnitude of the beauty of this incredible time? Whether you follow my ideas in 7 Tips for Your Intentional Relationship with Christ or have your own routines, don’t let the time slide by. Take a bath, go for a walk away from the crowds, stare out a window and set your mind free, read a book just for fun. Whatever the activity, plan time for it, for you.
I wish everyone a joy filled, fun loving, sometimes reflective, safe, and Merry Christmas!