The holidays are careening at us and you might feel like it’s a freight train barreling down the tracks. This season comes with so many extra gotchas and things to do – there are gifts for teachers, secretaries, team members at your work, that secret Santa for the office AND for your book club – there is the buying, coordinating delivery of, hiding and wrapping of gifts – not to mention the mental energy to try to get the best thing for each person on your list – not to mention remembering to shop small, local, sustainable, and with fair trade and responsibly sourced items.
I’m exhausted just thinking about it… and it’s only going to get busier and more frantic as we get into the last month of the year. On this episode I want to dive into some tangible tips that can help you to pump the brakes on the freight train that is the holiday season “the way you’ve always done it” and take a step back. This is an invitation to set down your preconceived notions, the traditions that aren’t serving you, and your own (typically super unreasonable) expectations about how, in this season, you have to be everything to everyone and oh-by-the-way still you and still sane…
REMEMBER THE REASON FOR THE SEASON
The first and arguably most important reminder is this: if you’ve already drifted away, you’re scrolling or corralling or washing dishes right now, come on back… I want you to remember the reason for the season. This is different for you depending on your beliefs and the way that you celebrate, but you’re likely doing something during this time that is out of the ordinary.
Instead of looking at what you are doing that is making you feel so stressed and frazzled, I want you to take one giant step back and remember the why. Whatever it is that you believe, whatever you are celebrating and whatever that looks like for you… that’s your why.
I’m willing to bet that the why is not: to acquire more stuff, to impress the other moms in your book club, or to get the biggest gift from your kid’s 1st grade teacher but rather that you love the feeling that you get when you are generous with your time, money, and talents.
The why – that core belief or value – that is at the root of the reason for the season – often gets burried underneath a stack of shiny wrapped gifts – parties – celebrations and such – those are the what. Dig through those to find your why – hold it up to be examined – re-evaluate if it’s what you still believe and each offer that comes through this season, hold it up against your why and your core values, those things that are most important to you – to determine if you’re going to say YES, PLEASE or NO, THANKS to the many offers, invites, tasks, hurdles and to do list items that are about to come your way.
REMEMBER THAT JUST BECAUSE IT’S THE WAY YOU’VE ALWAYS DONE IT, DOESN’T MEAN IT’S THE WAY YOU HAVE TO DO IT GOING FORWARD
Traditions are rich and wonderful. They can add value to our lives, create incredible memories for our families and make us re-live the moments that we celebrated them in years past.
Traditions can also be toxic, burdensome and something that you outgrow. The only thing about this life is that things are constantly changing. Here’s your friendly nudge and loving reminder to re-evaluate draining or toxic traditions and let them go. Release them and release yourself from the hold they’ve had on you. Politely say no thank you to hosting or the invitation and… do nothing. Or do something else that fills your cup. Or create a new family tradition. Or create an activity that reminds you and your family of your beliefs and the reason for the season more than that old and outdated way of gathering.
CREATE A NEW FRAMEWORK FOR GIFTING
I don’t know about you but I LOVE giving gifts. I don’t know if gift giving, or acts of service, is a love language when poured out over others. I love the anticipation of knowing what’s in the wrapped packages, each chosen with care, and waiting to see what my friends and family think of these carefully curated items that I sought out with them in mind.
The gifting feels awesome… but what doesn’t feel awesome is running down a list of 342 people that you “need” to buy for. A list that is as endless as the day is long of people that you feel a certain level of oblicgation to buy from.
Here’s what we do at our house – I go into this in detail back on Episode 14 – where I also breakdown a framework for evaluating if holiday traditions are still serving you.
For kids we do one gift from the following 4 categories: something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. This avoids the kids getting 8 toys from us.
We ask my parents, Dan’s parents, aunts, uncles, cousins – anyone who buys gifts for our children to limit the amount of gifts and the amount of money they spend. For me this looks like a complement sandwich of a text message to my Mom and MIL that says “thank you so much for XYZ, we are so looking forward to celebrating with you this holiday season. We have realized that we already have so much stuff and the kids truly have more than enough toys. Therefore we are requesting this year that you don’t buy any more than 2 gifts per member of our family. We can’t wait to see you!” Depending on the nature of your relationship, you may want to say something like… if you have extra in your Christmas budget that you’d like to contribute to the kids college funds, I can help you to do that.”
Trim your list of gift recipients – what if, this year, instead of spending more and buying just for the sake of buying (your kids’ teacher probably doesn’t need another mug with a pencil and an apple that say No. 1 teacher) – what if this year you set a goal to buy fewer, more important gifts for fewer, more important people in your life.
What we do for teachers: If you are crafty and like to create awesome gifts for your kids teachers, may the favor be upon you! That, is. Not. Me. I am not artsy and projects like that feel like a burden to me. Here’s what we do instead. We pick a dollar amount for the teachers in our elementary and day care aged kiddos classrooms. We have the kids make thank you cards and we write a handwritten note from us. We slip the crisp bills inside the envelope and we gift it to the teachers at Thanksgiving. This way it’s off the to do list before the season gets too crazy. The teachers can treat themselves, use it to defray the costs of their own Christmas shopping, or put it in that jar they’ve been saving to take that cruise of their dreams. No wrapping paper, no custom mug ordering on etsy, just cool cash with warm sentiments of thanks for our teachers!
CREATE A HOLIDAY BUDGET
If you’ve been here for more than 6 minutes you’ve heard me talk about my love affair with budgeting.
Just like you need a monthly budget each and every month, you need a holiday budget – an amount that you are planning to spend on things like gifts, secret Santa, holiday cards, ingredients for holiday baking, the extra electricity that comes along with the million watts of holiday decorations at your house, and more.
If this is the area you struggle with (raising my hand here, as early on in our marriage i got SO excited about Christmas I over spent the budget three years running) I have something that might help. The Merry Money Guid is a collection of money saving tips (30 of them), a printable sheet to build your holiday budget, and a gift list to keep all of your shopping plans, budget, and to be able to track your progress all in one place. The links in the show notes or you can go to Tracy-bingaman.my Kajabi.com/merry money to download your guide. It’s free – my gift to you to help create some more sanity and more organization in this season that can feel stuffed to the brim with cookies, hustle and bustle.
Thanks for tuning in today – I’m thankful for you and your listenership. Be sane and stay safe this holiday season, I hope yours is filled with smiles and blessings… and if it’s not, if this is a season of loss and grappling for you, know that you are in my thoughts.