Saturday, December 05, 2009

Tightening Our Belts

It's been a tough year, financially speaking, for most Americans, and our family is no exception. Thankfully, Christopher is employed and we haven't faced home loss or any other monumental financial tragedy, but money's tight to say the least, especially making do on one income. We always keep Christmas small, but this holiday season, our family is tightening its belt even further, in the following ways:
  • We're using our artificial tree again, despite the fact that we'd much prefer a live tree. You can't argue with saving anywhere from $20-50 by using the tree we already have in a box in the garage.
  • We're cutting our holiday-card list down by 1/3 or more, sending mainly to relatives and long-lost friends who aren't blog-readers or Facebook friends and who therefore aren't in touch with us during the year. (Everyone else: please know this is no reflection on how much we love you, but merely a reflection on our checking account balance.)
  • We're not giving baked goods and treats to all our neighbors, co-workers, and playgroup friends this year. I love doing this--I really do--but the grocery budget doesn't lie. Ingredients are expensive.
  • We're--as always--limiting present-buying, recycling gifts when we can, and focusing more on holiday experiences than the number of objects under the tree. The other evening we enjoyed our town's quaint annual "Winter Walk," and I plan to take the girls ice-skating and sledding this month. We'll also be attending a preschool-benefit "Pancake Breakfast with Santa" and our town's youth choirs' Christmas concert next weekend with visiting grandparents. And, of course, there are always the drives around the neighborhood after dark to see the Christmas lights, walks in the falling snow, and singing carols at home. Experiences make better memories than toys, anyway, and they're often free.
  • I'm shamelessly using some of the grandparents' gift/toy money to pay for my daughters' little-kid gymnastics classes this winter. It's the one activity they do besides school, it gives them exercise when we can't get outside to play, and it challenges them in important ways. It's also hard to afford on our household income alone. Thanks, grandmas and grandpas! I promise you this experience is just as, if not more, enjoyable and important for your granddaughters than another toy.
So what about all of you? Are any of you tightening your belts this holiday season? If so, in what ways? Does it disappoint you, or are you taking it in stride?


Mary S. said...

With my kids almost grown (youngest is a senior in high school), I can't remember a single gift that caused the kind of joy they experienced with Winter Walk, singing at a nursing home (an annual event one of my friends sponsors), school and youth choir concerts, sledding with cousins on Christmas Eve day, making fresh lasagna noodles for our traditional Christmas supper, and believe it or not, decorating the fake tree we have had since 1990! Gifts are highly over-rated. What you have planned sounds like a wonderful holiday season. Enjoy!

Donna said...

I see nothing 'shameless' about using Christmas money to buy classes for the girls, especially if the girls love those classes. The girls will always remember those classes where they may or may not remember every physical gift they were given.

As for cutting the Christmas card list, would you be open to posting an e-copy of your card (I'm assuming you have a pic of the girls) online or sending it through email? Might be a nice compromise between printing and mailing the cards and still sharing your family with friends. (That being said, friends will understand not getting a physical card; it's the friendship that counts, not the card.)

Artificial tree? Less vacuuming, I say!

Consider going to a place where they sell Christmas trees and asking if you can have their branches for free. (Here, they are happy to give away the branches because then they don't have to deal with them.) You can use the branches to make a wreath. You'd get the fresh smell of a real tree and an activity to do with the girls!

We've told the kids they are only allowed one toy for Christmas. I'm proud they took it to heart because when we took them to see Santa, my son told him, "No gifts, please." Santa was floored.

Shan said...

To Donna,

To be clear, both my in-laws have indicated in the recent past that they do not want to contribute to the girls' classes, but expect their gifts to be strictly toys. Apparently this is because they do not think children appreciate a gift such as a tumbling class, and do not understand that it is from grandma and grandpa. Aside from the fact that this is simply not true, apparently in my in-laws' case the gift-giving is primarily about them and not what can benefit their granddaughters the most. Whatevs!

Mom and Kiddo said...

When I was a kid Santa brought us things that my parents would have to buy anyway, like toothbrushes and dental floss (Santa was a big fan of oral hygiene). We will be continuing this tradition and going even further... Kiddo is still unaware that some parents actually buy their kids gift in addition to Santa. As far as he knows, Santa brings one present and that is it. Lest you think we are depriving him, he gets plenty of stuff from other relatives!

Plus I also hated the idea of giving a kid so much stuff on one day.