Each year we look forward to certain family traditions, like baking Granny’s gingerbread cookies or watching It’s a Wonderful Life with the kids. But sometimes all those fun traditions can get overwhelming.
That’s why we’re giving you permission to choose what you want to do this year. Ignore the pressure to people-please, and instead pick the traditions that don’t stress you out.
It’s your holiday, after all. And it’s going to be awesome as long as you’re with the people you love — no matter how you celebrate. The key to deciding what stays and what goes is to ask yourself: Do I actually want to do this?, Can I actually afford this?, and Do I really have time for this?
Here are eight holiday traditions to get you started:
- Annual Christmas Bash
Some people love hosting Christmas parties. Cooking for 50? No problem! But if you’d rather not spend two precious weeks in December planning and prepping for your annual Christmas open house, then don’t. Forget the cheese ball, sherbet punch, and mini gherkins, and just get together with a few close pals at a local restaurant. Split the check and enjoy a simple, stress-free evening with your nearest and dearest.
Or, if you love throwing parties but hate the cost, invite less people. Make it a potluck, or ask someone else to co-host and share the responsibility. It’s your party — do what you want!
- Competitive Lights Display
Don’t let your Christmas-crazy neighbors guilt you into a lights display worthy of Rockefeller Center. If your family enjoys looking at lights, pack a thermos of hot chocolate and drive around town to admire the best of the over-the-top yards. It’s free, and you don’t have to freeze your tail off!
If you prefer decking out your house with lights but don’t have the time, start early and stop when your energy does. Make sure you’re decorating your house because you like it, not because you’re trying to match the neighborhood. Your time and money matter more than how many cars drive by.
- Elf on the Shelf
This one is a hot-button issue. So we won’t get into the pros and cons. We’ll just say this: If you’re pro-Elf, make it easier on yourself by not getting too elaborate. Sparkles doesn’t need to build a Rube Goldberg machine in the middle of the night. Keep it simple and keep it fun. And if you’re over Buddy, just tell your kids he went back to the North Pole this year — for good. They’ll be fine, we promise.
- The Shopping Frenzy
We like a deal as much as the next person, but if you’re shopping “for sport,” take a time-out. It’s okay to get a rush from the shopping season — buying stuff should be fun! But don’t let the pressure to spend destroy your budget.
Take control of your money by creating a Christmas-specific money plan and a detailed gift list. And stop shopping when your list is complete! If you have extra energy to burn, try a family game of flag football. It’s much less dangerous than the mall (well, maybe).
- Family Portrait Christmas Cards
Photo cards are a sweet tradition, but they aren’t a must. It’s okay if you didn’t have time or money to schedule a photographer, buy matching red-and-white outfits, and order hundreds of glossy prints this year. Cards are a meaningful gesture, but don’t make them more difficult or more expensive than they have to be. You can still have a great tradition by limiting your card list and having the kids help you craft some sweet letters with stickers and glitter — how fun is that?
- Price-Inflated Plane Tickets
Instead of heading home for the holidays, why not visit your family in January or February when the prices have come down? You could even start a new tradition, like meeting your folks in a fun city between your two towns. Imagine a calm, post-holiday vacation for half the price and half the crowd. Now that’s peace on earth.
Or if you’re looking forward to being with your parents and siblings over Christmas but need to save money, grab your tickets and skip the bulky presents. You’ll save on baggage fees and the stress of making sure your stuff doesn’t get crushed. Make it easy with gift cards, or going up a day early and having a fun shopping day with a family member you rarely get to see.
- A (Sort of) Freshly Cut Tree
Christmas trees are a must in most households, but if you dread the drama of picking the perfect, overpriced specimen from your local Boy Scouts, try something else. As in use the garage-sale special from your attic. (You know it’s in there.) Or buy one at your local hobby store with a coupon. A tree is just a base anyway. It’s how you decorate it (and who you decorate it with) that counts.
- Swanky Gift Wrap
For some, it’s fun to see how Pinterest-worthy you can wrap your presents. But it can take some pretty pennies to buy all those handcrafted bows, spray-painted twigs and gold leaf paper bags that will be trashed on Christmas morning.
Why not cover your presents in newspaper (which you can dye for a cool effect) or butcher paper instead? Then have your kids decorate the paper with stickers, stamps and crayon creations. Trim it with some bulk twine and you’re done!
Keep This in Mind
As you budget for the holidays, don’t break the bank in the name of tradition. Decide which customs are important to you and then see how they fit into your overall budget.
If anyone asks why you’re not doing something this year, simply explain you want to spend more time with them and less time doing stuff for them. We have a feeling they’ll understand and love you more for it!
—Used with permission from daveramsey.com