As much as I love Christmas, I must confess there are some things about the holiday season I dread. I dread the pull of the culture that tries to manipulate me and my family. I dread that heart-pounding feeling that my feet are in the starting blocks and any second I’ll hear the signal to start running as fast as I can to make it to the finish line before midnight on December 24.


It’s easy to let the busy-ness of Christmas get the best of us. We feel obligated to meet the expectations of everyone—kids, friends, relatives, communities, even our employers. It’s enough to strip away the joy leaving guilt, disappointment and anger in its place.

The good news is that you can rise above the over commercialization of Christmas. You can bring back the joy.

START EARLY.  The sooner you start the better the outcome. The sooner you start the less you’ll spend. The sooner you start the less likely you’ll be to create a pile of new debt.

CREATE LIMITS. There’s something to be said for setting limits on how many gifts to give the kids and others. Fewer gifts mean less shopping, less wrapping and of course less spending. You may discover that less is more than enough. 

GIVE RETAIL VALUE. Determine the amount you want to spend on each person on your list. Let’s say you designate $50 for your sister. To your utter amazement you find a gorgeous sweater at a high-end sample sale. It’s her size and favorite color, marked down to $30. It’s perfect. Don’t spend another $20 on your sister to satisfy a notion that you must meet the $50 allotted. Your mission is complete. You purchased a lovely gift and cut the cost by at least 75 percent (you know what cashmere goes for these days!) The actual cost is your secret—and a reasonable way to cut the cost.

GET CREATIVE. Not a talented artist or crafter? Don’t worry. You can still create your own gifts If you have the basics like a computer, printer, paper supplies, writable CDs and DVDs, you can creative unique gifts then duplication as needed—giving the same gift to many on your list.

CREATE FAMILY GIFTS. Rather than buying individual gifts for all the kids in one family, consider a single gift that everyone will enjoy like a board game or DVD. Start thinking and soon your creative juices will kick in.

Other ideas include a Family Calendar that you customize for your family that includes the names, dates and all pertinent infuriation of every person’s birthday, anniversaries and other significant dates. Search “printable calendar” online to find templates.

A Family Cookbook, another great idea, would be a compilation of your own recipes and family favorites that have, perhaps, been passed down from previous generations.

Share your Family Memories in stories, pictures or movies. Selected and transfer family photos and videos that capture the essence of your family’s life over the past year. Add captions and short stories and you will have created the equivalent of an electronic scrapbook that can be easily duplicated.

As we head into the holiday season, don’t concentrate so much on how much money you need to spend but rather on all that you have to give—your time and talents. Gifts that celebrate love and hope are what bring us together as friends, families and communities. We all have something to give.

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