It's a fact. Over the last few years, and not really by choice, I have forced myself to have a personal transformation into one frugal chick. Mostly by learning the hard way I have become ridiculously cheap. OK - not to the point that we are reusing toilet paper or rewashing plastic McDonald's cups but still far removed from the girl that used to drop $200+ at Target just because "it had been awhile and I deserved it". (That is an actual quote - what an idiot I was with money.)
We have a few loops holes in our quest for frugality. When it comes to Disney World we still go pretty big. We look for ways to save money every time - and I still get a buzz when I feel like I found a money corner to cut without sacrificing fun. But we spend money differently at Disney. More freely, more accepting of it. But we plan for it, and it is a special treat. A rare event. One week out of every year or so. A time to not count every penny but just spend the hard earned cash we have in our wallet. It is a group effort and takes serious planning.
But Christmas... Some how it always seems to sneak up on me. If you have worked with me in the last few years and you have children I have asked you about how you do Christmas. I am honestly really curious, I am doing a personal survey for my own thesis in my head. Do you buy each kid the same number of present? Spend the same amount of money? Just throw caution in to the wind and go shopping? Everybody has a different strategy figured out, it seems to depend on money + age of kids + age gaps of those kids + religion. My most religious friends seem to really dislike the gluttony of Christmas. They want their children to be more focused on the religious part of it all. I have even heard of each child only getting three presents - something about that Jesus only got three presents from the wise men. It's not a bad strategy. Keep it simple. I am here to tell you that you can always go bigger but it would be pretty hard to go smaller.
For us - I want our kids to have that full shock freak out moment when they come around the corner and see all the presents and just want to flip out with how many have their name on them. I want them to live like rich kids for the day and roll around like little gluttonous fools. It doesn't go along with the financially conservative person that I have become. It doesn't go along with the parent I strive to be - a person who says no when it needs to be said. No, you can't have candy in the check out line. No you can't eat cake for breakfast (FINE - that a lie, I said yes to that.) No you can't stuff your face or be mean or be selfish or be hurtful or be lazy. All my kids actually know the word - glutton. "Did you eat that whole bag of chips? Do not be gluttonous!" We talk about it. I warn them about it, usually I am talking about food but they know it in the context of material things too. We talk about that after a certain comfort and safety level money can not make you happy. So what about Christmas? What about over the top birthday parties? How can I justify that? I don't know. I guess some times you just need a little break from being good. A little break. A LITTLE one. It's like a pressure relief value. Does that make any sense or am I just being a big hypocrite? I have no background to base this on. I came from a family of emotional neglect and material gluttony (I had the best shoes, kind of miss them some times) and I know that wasn't the way my kids where going to grow up. Even if money wasn't the issue I still wouldn't give my kids all the stuff they wanted but not the attention they craved.
Now, back to the money part of it all. Our money situation gets better all the time. Both Josh and I have had great luck in the last few years with improvements in our earning abilities. It has been a major blessing, but our hard learned frugality has been our greatest weapon against the debt that still haunts us from our late twenties. Yet, every month we chip away at it. And minus stupid medical bills (Lily with a broken tooth and her broken arm), we are not taking on more debt. But then Christmas rolls around. We talk about a budget, we try to figure out how we can get to that point. And we never do. We are never ready. My intentions are always good. I will but a certain amount of money aside from each check into a Christmas account so by November first I have the money I will need. And then more important stuff rolls around and I am still hustling to work overtime to pay for Christmas. Which then leads back to the idea of gluttony. If we were not so excessive with Christmas, then it wouldn't be such a financial burden and we would be making even more forward progress on our debt.
I guess it all comes down to this - is Christmas one of those super fun pressure release times (like Disney or birthday parties) or does it cause the pressure to build? What is the solution? I couldn't deal with the idea of those kids seeing the presents and being disappointed. These little people being young and all home for Christmas is limited. You only have them to yourself for so long before they have their own families. Maybe my best solution is to really have more discipline about saving more ahead of time. A locked in, can not be touched Christmas cash envelope. Seems like financial stresses always have a way of being solved if I just go back to the basic idea of cash only and discipline. Sometimes I want to just go blow $200 a Target on nothing I really needed. Being a grow up can be so boring. Good thing it comes with so many bonuses.
I have a pretty good idea of peoples different strategies of how you buy presents. Now I need an idea of how you save for Christmas. How far out are you setting money aside? Do you put it all on a credit card and pay it off latter? What do you do?
|A totally unrelated picture of Max. Just to lighten the mood.|