Make Your Christmas Decisions Now

We can all feel it coming. Walmart and K-mart are advertising their layaway plans. One aisle is already decorated for it at half the pharmacies in town, even though there’s another aisle exclusively devoted to Halloween costumes and candy. A friend or two on Facebook has already admitted to pulling out the music and movies.

Christmas is around the corner.

The inside cover of the November Issue of Southern Living has a beautiful close-up picture of a little girl hanging an ornament on an already heavily-laden Christmas tree. The photo is be-decked with the words:

You can never have too much Christmas!

(Christmas is in a ginormous font with a big happy exclamation point, of course.)

And the subscript: “Why stop with the halls? Deck the table, the tree, the bedrooms and everything in between. This Christmas at Belk.”


Call me Cindy Lou Who, but I wholeheartedly disagree with this idea. Because decorations, presents and Christmas are not synonyms that should be used interchangeably.

And I have a little suggestion to make. Well, maybe more than one. Because it seems by the time we’ve passed the 25th of December, we’re full of regret for what we’ve focused on and what we’ve let slide. For how our bank account looks and (sometimes) how our kids are behaving.

We spend a ton of money and then we return a ton of stuff we didn’t want to begin with, because other people have spent a ton of money, too.

So here’s the thing.

It seems like most people agree that the way we’re currently celebrating Christmas is, let’s say… less than ideal.

So before you walk out the door with “Christmas” in your mind or a list in your pocket, I’d like to suggest you do a few simple things.

1. Don’t let advertisers and good marketing call the shots: Decide ahead of time (like now) how you want your family to celebrate Christmas this year. And get specific. How can you make it more about what it’s actually supposed to be about? Want to bake Jesus a birthday cake? Maybe each kid gets three gifts because Baby Jesus got three?

2. Be A Blessing Without Cursing Your Wallet: Rethink relying on store-bought stuff for friends and family. Could you bake cookies with the wee ones or whip up some homemade salsa and put it in Coke bottles? What can you do with what you already have? What budget should you be sticking to? What is the budget per person?

3. How Big Does it Need to Be? If gifts are a must, think about drawing names in every possible scenario. Perhaps among the adult members of your immediate family? Among the brother/brother-in-laws and sisters/sister-in-laws in my family, we draw names and have a maximum spending amount. We ask each person to write down a list of a few things they’d really like to have, and then the person who draws their name can choose from that list, so that it’s still a surprise. But we’re not wasting money on stuff we don’t actually want. {Score!}

4. Change the Way You Spend the Day: Think about doing something special that has nothing to do with gifts or money, and more to do with Jesus this Christmas. Could your family help serve at a local soup kitchen? Could you find a family in need and bring them Christmas dinner?

5. Give the Giving New Purpose: Lots of charitable organizations offer catalogs (like this one at World Vision) so that you can give a tangible gift — an alpaca, a goat…a sack of rice — to a family in need. You’ll get a card to pass along the person you had in mind when you made the donation, and you can both smile that you’re meeting a special need instead. Some families let their children choose a gift to give on Christmas morning.

6. Bundle It Up, And Pass It Out: How much are you likely to spend on gifts this year? 500 bucks? Maybe more? Ya got no clue you’ll just do yer best? Last year the gallup poll reported that Americans estimated they’d spend $743 on Christmas gifts for the season. For about $450 you could sponsor a child with Compassion International for A YEAR. Which means a kid in poverty would be getting nutritious snacks or meals, educational opportunities, health and hygiene training and medical checkups, all in a caring, faith-based environment. FOR A YEAR. What if we looked around and said, “We got enough here…let’s give something away!”?

{And personal note: the more you get to know your child at Compassion, the more perspective you’ll have on how blessed you already are.}

7. Leave the Loot till New Year: Some families wait until after Christmas to give gifts (like waiting until New Year’s Day, for example). This means they save a lot on After-Christmas sales, and the 25th is reserved for doing something special together as a family, with Jesus in mind!

8. Whatever You Do, Make It Manageable: The one thing people seem likely to say about the Christmas season more than anything else? It’s stressful. We’ve got a party every night this week. The kids are in pageants at each of their schools and at church. We want a little tree with lights in every room of the house this year and I need extra lights and ornaments. I need to get a present for my second cousin’s third grade teacher’s wife. I can’t just send Christmas cards to close friends…I have to send them to everyone I ever met.

What if we decided for “Less Stuff More Love” to be the theme this Christmas?

In remembrance of the God who chose a peasant girl to bear His Son, in a barn. Who chose a trough horses and cattle eat from for a crib. Domesticated animals were probably the witnesses of the birth of our Savior. God announced the news not to the rich and famous city dwellers, but with angels, to shepherds out in the field.

For the incarnation of His only Son, God continuously invaded the ordinary with remarkable and miraculous. He brought the greatest gift ever to a world in need.

Got any suggestions for loving more with less at Christmas this year?



  1. Great post.
    I think I’ve only once spent loads at Christmas (my first year out of uni…I was so excited to have a flat, a car AND be paid to work full-time that I went a little bit more nuts than usual).

    Here’s some of the things I do.

    1. Christmas Cards – I buy them the year before in the sale. (ok, so you might not be able to do that NOW, but something to think of for 2012!!)

    2. Secret Santa – Something I’ve done with friends. £5 limit, pick names out a hat. save a TON of money.

    3. I have a limit on spending for all my friends and family members. My Mum is the only one I go over £20 with. My sister (who has a birthday on New Year’s Day) sometimes will ask if I can combine her Christmas & birthday for something she really wants that’s more expensive.

    4. Buying little things throughout the year that I spot that I think people might like (also useful for birthday presents).

    5. Wish lists. My family and I do wish lists every year for birthdays and Christmas. Some people don’t like this because ‘it’s not the same’ but it works for us because we get things we’re really wanting or needing. My pet hate is getting loads of lovely things that I can’t use, won’t use or have nowhere to put. Especially now that cash is much more tight so I can’t feed my american tv drama boxset habit, or replace my squeaky winter boots that I’ve had for 5 years now.

    6. One year my flatmate & I got little Christmas packs of food – apple juice, nuts, a satsuma, chocolate coins and drove around on Christmas morning giving them to people on the streets. I’d love to do something like that again.

  2. Well, we all know that I adore the holiday season–but not so much for the presents, but for the togetherness.

    Some things that we like to do together:

    1. Watch the good ol’ holiday movies together–especially Charlie Brown and Rudolph! Nothing like a fire, cocoa, and “Christmas timmmmeeee is hereeeeeeeeee!” That and sweet Linus asking for the lights so he can recite the Christmas story. Be still my heart!

    2. 3 gifts from Santa–just like the wise men brought baby Jesus.

    3. Our extended family has in years past (in lieu of adult gifts) pooled our money that we would normally spend on each other ($5.00 here and there for relatives who have everything they need and do not need one more trinket adds up after a while!) and instead blessed different families anonymously. We talk about different families who might need an unexpected monetary gift and deliver it right before Christmas. Such a fun blessing for the family and for us!

    4. I put up my decorations very early–Nov. 1-Jan. 2 is the holiday season at my house. I find that I can enjoy the decorating and prepping before the Black Friday crazies hit and work it out of my system to avoid overspending–and I can enjoy my home more during the season. I’m not trying to bake a turkey for Thanksgiving, and shop, and entertain, and decorate all for 3 short weeks!

    5. I have made many a present–salsa, cookies, ornaments, you name it.

    6. I stock up for next year on Dec. 26–there are many cute ornaments that will be just as cute next year for 50-75% off right after Christmas Day.

    7. Christmas is on a Sunday this year–we’ll spend the morning at home and then head to church and then spend more time with family. What a wonderful day to celebrate the Lord’s birth!

  3. Hubby and I have a tradition. Every Christmas we buy each other a Christmas tree ornament. We plan on doing this for our children too. That way, when they leave the nest and have a tree of their own, they will have ornaments to decorate their tree.
    Beyond the ornament, we set a price limit to give a gift(s) to each other. Last year, I think we spent $25 each.
    This year, with the Cricket coming, we plan to only buy each other the ornament and then to buy “each other” things the baby would need.
    It’s not the way to typically celebrate, but it works for our family.

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