Wondering how to spend (and stress) less this holiday season? Check out this practical holiday guide to giving without stressing. #selfcare #holidayguide #SelfCareSunday #gifts

Wondering how to spend (and stress) less this holiday season? Check out this practical holiday guide to giving without stressing.

The Holiday Season comes fraught with expectations (usually unrealistic), social functions (usually too many), and extended family (often stressful). The gift you need to give yourself this holiday season is self-care. Come back each Sunday this month for examples of self-care activities that will bring you peace in the season of chaos.

Wondering how to spend (and stress) less this holiday season? Check out this practical holiday guide to giving without stressing. #selfcare #holidayguide #SelfCareSunday #gifts

The Holiday Guide to Spending and Stressing Less

Once you decide to resist the lure of consumerism and bring the JOY back to Christmas, you’re ready for a different kind of holiday guide to gifts. These suggestions will fit any budget, and help you tame the beast of wild spending.

Remember that the more democratic the holidays, the more buy-in you’ll have from your family. You don’t have to orchestrate the entire season. In fact, you probably shouldn’t even try.

Check out these 9 practical tips for taking the stress out of gift-giving this holiday season. #Christmas #gifts #selfcare Click To Tweet

1. Try the Rule of Threes

For children and teenagers, you could try the rule of threes. Give something they need, something they want, and something to read. Some families like to follow the intent of three gifts the Wise Men brought Jesus. They give something of value (gold), something for worship (frankincense) such as a Bible or devotional book, and something to wear (myrrh).

2. Give only Homemade Gifts

I have fond memories of Christmases past where we didn’t buy anything pre-made from stores. Everyone knit, crocheted, sewed, woodworked, or needle-pointed gifts for everyone else.

This strategy requires planning well in advance. Younger children will probably need assistance creating gifts for family members, but let them take the lead and offer support and guidance.

3. Secret Santa with Spending Caps

If you’ll have a large group of your extended family present at Christmas, you may want to toss everyone’s name in the hat (along with a few suggestions of favorite colors, needs, and wants). Have each person draw a name. Decide as a group how much you’ll spend.

Have everyone keep the name they drew secret, and make a game out of trying to find the perfect gift without giving away the secret Santa connection. On Christmas day, do a big secret Santa reveal as you pass out gifts.

4. Pool Resources

Maybe you have someone saving up money for a specific big-ticket item such as a computer or other electronic device. If grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings ask about gift ideas, let them know about the savings project. Just make sure you never make them feel as if they have to contribute.

Wondering how to spend (and stress) less this holiday season? Check out this practical holiday guide to giving without stressing. #selfcare #holidayguide #SelfCareSunday #gifts

Long-term savings projects like this allow kids to learn the value of saving money and pooling resources.

5. Give Serial Gifts

When our daughters were young, I gave them something each Christmas for their American Girl doll collections. As they got older, we gave them each a nice toolbox one Christmas and gave them tools to stock it with during subsequent Christmases.

By the time they married, they each had a well-stocked toolbox that any man would admire (and the knowledge of how to use those tools).

6. Choose a Charity

Join Samaritan’s Purse and pack a shoebox for a child in need with your children. Allow your kids to spend their own money on the items that go into the box. Teach your kids about social justice and the gift of giving.

Or you could go local and join Prison Fellowship to give a gift to a child on behalf of their incarcerated parent.

The Marine Corp sponsors the Toys for Tots program, with a special program for Native American children. Other top-rated programs that help children in need include the Make-A-Wish Foundation, My Two Front Teeth, and the Salvation Army.

7. One Small Act

During my senior year in college, my roommate and I lived in a basement apartment off-campus. The family who lived in the house above us had two small children. We decided to become secret Santas for the kids upstairs that Christmas. Each day one of us would sneak up and leave a small gift on their front porch.

I have no idea what impact our gifts had (we never divulged our identity), and we did it for the sheer joy of giving. Our gifts didn’t cost much (neither one of us had a lot of money), but we had a blast.

You could adopt an elderly neighbor and perform one kind act each day in December, too. Shovel snow, rake leaves, clean the snow off their vehicle’s windows, leave some cookies on the front porch, etc.

8. Focus on Memories, Not Gifts

Growing up, we didn’t have a lot, but we always had each other. My grandma and mom would gather the troops in the kitchen to make lefse (potato and flour Norwegian tortillas).

Each of us had a job—forming the balls for the adults to roll out, scraping the browned flour off the griddle, flipping the lefse once the bubbles browned, or keeping the lefse pile wrapped tightly in dishtowels between additions.

My grandma always made date-filled cookies, too. She’d put on a Christmas record and direct us as we helped her create my grandpa’s favorite treat. To this day, lefse and date-filled cookies bring back warm memories of Christmas and family.

During our daughters’ growing up years, we made a tradition out of Christmas tree hunting in the nearby national forest. A Christmas-tree cutting permit only cost $5.00. We’d load up our 4Runner with hot chocolate, marshmallows, snow clothes, and a winter picnic. Invariably, we’d get a little stuck (my husband’s favorite part) and argue good-naturedly over which tree would fit perfectly in our home.

9. Take a Trip Instead of Exchanging Gifts

For years, we promised we’d take our girls to Disneyland. We couldn’t make it happen financially until the year we had two exchange students living with us and both of our girls had their drivers’ licenses.

We saved every penny throughout the year and consulted everyone involved in the adventure to find out what each person wanted the most from the trip. Our exchange student from China wanted a picture of herself with Minnie Mouse. Pedro wanted to visit his Cuban relatives who lived in the Orlando area. Laura and our exchange student from France wanted to see Epcot Center. I wanted to visit the Everglades.

We drove all the way from Montana to Florida and spent five days at Disney attractions, a day in the Everglades, two days down in the Keys, and plenty of time getting to know relatives. Along the way, we tried new things (boiled peanuts) and saw parts of the country we’d never seen before.

On Christmas day we exchanged small gifts (worth $10 or less), ate take out pizza, and played Uno for hours. We each have unforgettable memories worth far more than gifts we could stack under a tree.

A Different Kind of Self-Care

You might not think a holiday guide to spending less counts as self-care. But any plan that lessens our stress counts as healthy self-care.

Self-care means resisting the bill of goods advertisers try to sell us. People who love us will love us despite the gifts we give them. Ask, maybe all your kids really want for Christmas is a fun time with you.

What ways have you discovered to spend (and stress) less during the holidays?

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20 Comments

  1. Anita,
    What terrific ideas for stress-free giving!! I like the rule of threes. With friends, none of us needs any more “stuff” so giving the gift of doing something together and time spent is the gift of choice. My husband and I have been opting for planning a trip or weekend so we can enjoy time together. I guess your perspective changes as time passes.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

  2. I agree, Anita! We really need to think outside the “gift box” when it comes to giving this Christmas. I’m reposting an article with a similar theme. Thanks for sharing! I’ve tweeted and will be pinning for sure!

  3. we are using several of your suggestions this year, Anita. Our middle son and his wife wanted us to make a donation in their name, so we did, and hubby and I are giving each other a trip rather than a gift. It does make gift shopping less complicated, which decreases the holiday stress.
    Laurie recently posted…Ain’t It a Shame?My Profile

  4. Our extended family went to Dirty Santa gifts a few years back and it has been wonderful to only buy one gift instead of many for relatives (except kids). I’m ready to go to “choose a charity” and focus on memories for everyone. But getting everyone on board has been difficult. 🙁 Love these suggestions, Anita. Thanks for helping us have a more joy-filled Christmas.

  5. These are all great ideas. A few years ago, my husband & I stopped buying for one another choosing to focus on making memories for our family and giving to ministries. It is amazing the fullness it has brought to our lives.

  6. Great practical and optional ideas, Anita. I especailly like taking a trip versus exchanging gifts and the serial gifts. Gifting something that adds to a collection each year proves we can patiently wait for completeness.
    🙂

  7. Dear Anita, thank you for sharing such a great collection of ideas! The Wise Men gift ideas were new to me. I’ve learned over the years that many of the best-received gifts have been unexpected treats because somebody really listened (throughout the year) to the likes and interests of others. One year it was a basket of lavender-scented items for a niece; her expression was a gift in itself. These days with the granddaughters, we try to make a memorable experience together with the focus of giving, not gifts in wrappings. Thanks for helping us take a little extra care of ourselves!

  8. Great ideas. Less shopping does mean less stress for me. As for the tool box and tools, my dad got me my own tool box and some simple tools. Over the years he added to it. Battery powered drill. Stud finder. Etc. They have come in handy so many times. My husband and I have our joint tools, but my tools are just for me. This comes in handy as often the joint tools are used and not put away by him. But no worries, I have my own. No need to hunt for a hammer.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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