Spending Ourselves: Slowing Down the Holiday Spending Train

A few Christmases ago, we ate coconut, spaghetti, and pineapple for Christmas dinner. It was a mission trip to Costa Rica, so that should also explain the Christmas morning kayak trip through mangroves. (And the Christmas Eve trip to the turtle sanctuary.) We left Christmas gifts at home under the tree, with three cats wondering if perhaps they should do the job of unwrapping.
 
We also decided to do Christmas differently when we got home. In light of the fact that we were going to work with Nicaraguan immigrants who didn’t have the means to buy uniforms so their kids could go to school, we wondered how we would feel about coming home and opening a room full of gifts we didn’t need. Wisely, we figured we would not feel so great about that. So we planned an alternative.
 

For that year, we agreed that all presents had to be made, not bought. I

P1040753
Christmas Eve. I wasn’t kidding. Beats Chicago.

made photo albums for everyone. Found groupons for classes to take together. Even finished those T-shirt quilts I’d been saving T-shirts for for approximately twenty years. (OK, I did not technically finish them. Some of them may have actually been a wrapped up box of fabric squares that were going to be a quilt someday when they grew up. But at least I got started.)

 
You know what? Our kids loved them. They spent more time poring over those photo albums than they had ever spent fascinated by a new device or game. They appreciated the time and love that went into those gifts. Every year since then I’ve thought, maybe we should do that again. And maybe we will.
 
One of the biggest ways we can slow down our holidays is to slow down financially. Slow down by rethinking what needs to be bought and who needs to be impressed. I know, making gifts can take time. Feeling we have to make Pinterest-level gifts for everyone on our list does not induce feelings of peace but rather heart palpitations.
 
But we don’t have to. “Not bought” does not equal intricately hand crafted marvels. It means creativity on another level entirely.
 
Here are a few easy ideas to get that creativity flowing.

Cut the List

I’m not kidding on this. Who told you you had to give gifts to your mail carrier, the person three cubicles down at work, your great-niece, and your best friend’s dog? There are no rules here unless you make them. A sincere note of appreciation is enough. (Although the dog will probably eat a note, so maybe not.) 

 
A card mentioning something you’ve noticed about that person. A list of reasons you’re glad you know her. A Bible verse that makes you think of him.
Really, affirming words, if they’re sincere, last longer than any gift. (Except fruitcake and tacky knick-knacks. Those lasts forever.) 
 
Exchange names among family members rather than trying to buy for everyone. Agree to make a charitable donation instead of give gifts. Minimize your list and take it from there.

Mass Produce

Can fifteen people on your list all receive the same loaf of homemade bread and a jar of jam? Yes, they can. Done. Stop stressing over making each one different. No one will remember. Believe me on this. (And if you still have fifteen non-family members on your list, see tip #1.)

Go with Your Gifts

 

A handmade gift I greatly appreciated 🙂

I can scrapbook. Maybe the thought would give you a migraine. Maybe, though, you’d be a whiz at uploading those same photos to Walgreens and making a quick photo album. Totally counts as homemade. Go for it. Go with whatever God-given abilities and passions were assigned to you. What do you love to do or create? How can that translate into giving? God gave us passions and gifts so we could bless others. Yours included, whatever they are.

Gift Someone with Time

A lunch together. A class together. A road trip together. Anything that ends with together. T-I-M-E spells love in our culture. Gift it lavishly. It will be the most treasured thing under the tree.
 
So take this as a challenge. A Don’t-Step-Foot-in-a-Store challenge. Slow down financially this year by making gifts, creating memories, appreciating tangibly, and gifting with time. Forget Black Friday. Seriously, Black Friday is like an abusive relationship anyway. You know it’s bad for you, but you keep going back. Break it off now.
 

Black Friday is an abusive relationship anyway. Break it off now.

 
If you find you need to do something else with all the money you save, there are some good options listed below.* Buy something someone else desperately needs given in the name of someone who doesn’t really need anything. Because nothing says “I love you,” like “I bought a goat in your name.” I’m serious, actually. It’s true.
 
We’re celebrating the One who had everything and gave everything so we could have anything. He didn’t spend money to woo us–he spent himself. Want to slow down financially this Christmas and stop the spending crazy train? Give of yourself. Simply, not in a “I can make cuter and more personal handmade gifts than you can buy” sort of giving. Because we all know those people, and they are annoying.
 
In small steps or big ways, start spending yourself this year rather than your credit cards.
 
In what ways do you try to focus on people rather than presents? Do you have great go-to’s for simple gifts? Please share!
 
Prison Fellowship/Project Angel Tree
 

 

2 thoughts on “Spending Ourselves: Slowing Down the Holiday Spending Train

  1. A number of years ago we stopped buying gifts for extended family. Instead, we do a white elephant gift exchange that is one of the highlights of the day. (We will never forget the year our then-8-year-old tore off the paper to find a used, battered suitcase (complete with dog hair) and proceeded to FREAK OUT with excitement, proclaiming that it was just what he had ALWAYS WANTED.) Another holiday tradition is putting together some type of care package for an organization. Usually the kids do school kits and the adults do relief kits that are sent overseas. My mother-in-law hides the supplies for the school kits and the boys have to search the room to find them all.
    The only non-family I might buy a small gift for are friends who are single and alone, because I remember what Christmas was like when that was me, and how much receiving a small gift from a friend meant to me.

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    1. I love these ideas! If I get my family to come around, I think I’ll suggest the white elephant. We’re putting together a Welcome Kit for a refugee family as our project this year. So I love your project focus!

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