It’s far too easy to get caught up in the jubilation of the holiday season. No one wants to disappoint loved ones, but when times are tough economically, some creative thinking can save the season from being one that is riddled with debt.
If financial shortfalls and difficulties are plaguing you this year, here are some simple ideas that will change the season and make it more memorable than ever.
First, it may be necessary to explain to older children the financial facts at hand. Discuss this matter calmly. It isn’t necessary to delve into detail. The idea here is not to alarm children, but to apprise them in a calm, simple manner of the fact that there are financial difficulties, but that Christmas will still be very special.
For older children, buy one meaningful gift if you must. For younger children, smaller priced items often suffice quite well. Try to see that each child has one gift under the tree. One. Wrap it beautifully and then move on to planning a perfect Christmas Day.
New Activities for Christmas
Rather than trying to have the same type of Christmas you’ve always had in the past, now is the time to transcend the normal and expected. Trying to repeat a past year’s performance if one is financially strapped will only cause disappointment and stress for both parents and children. Rather than drawing attention to the fact that there may be far fewer gifts beneath the tree, plan activities that will draw the family closer together.
Begin with a warm breakfast. Pancakes and waffles are not expensive. Sit and eat together. Play Christmas music.
Any kind of outing that you do as a family will be remembered by your children as a special occasion. Most people’s fondest memories of Christmas are not about the gifts they received, but about the time they spent with dad or mom or close family members doing something together.
For those who live in the north, this may be a great day to take the kids sledding or tubing. Spending a day in the snow playing will be remembered forever by your children. For older children, snowshoeing and ice skating are fun and inexpensive activities. Take sandwiches and a thermos of hot chocolate for your outing.
For those who live in the south, or the southwest, plan a family hike. Study up on the area you’ll be visiting so you can point out interesting or historical items. This will make the hike more interesting for all. Keep a hike in mind that all members can do. The goal here is not mileage; the goal is togetherness and fun. Again, pack a lunch and take lots of water.
If you live in close proximity to the coast, a drive to the beach may be the ticket, particularly if the weather is accommodating.
Basically, any outing where the family can play together will be a wonderful experience.
Helping others this time of year is extremely beneficial for all concerned. If nothing else, your children will realize that there are others far less fortunate than they are. They will also derive a sense of altruism from lending a helping hand – even to total strangers. With this in mind, think about volunteering the family to help serve food at a local shelter or dining hall for less fortunate people. Perhaps you’ll even want to eat there.
You won’t need to give your children a lesson in homelessness or the disadvantaged. Children are quick to understand those who are less fortunate. It will help them appreciate even more what you’ve been able to provide them with.
Most communities have organizations that deliver food baskets to people during the holidays. Have your family volunteer to assemble and deliver baskets.
Games and Fun
After the outing and volunteering, spend the evening playing games with the children. You may personally be deeply disappointed that you weren’t able to provide more material goods for your children this year, but your family will truly appreciate and love the time and fun you have together. Smile and play all the silly games the kids want. Consider card games, board games, pick-up sticks, hide-and-seek, any games that your children enjoy. This could be a good time to teach them a few also.
Later, pop some popcorn and read or tell stories. This will be a Christmas your children will remember forever. You will have spent quality time with them, and that’s something that money just can’t buy, and fancy presents can’t replace.