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Monday, November 12, 2012

the 12 days of [simplifying] Christmas: cha-ching, it'$ a good thing.

 My experience has been, the key to a memorable holiday season, is doing those things that express what we value most.

There have been years I've spent way too much on "stuff" because that's what we (and everyone else) have always done, and I really like to shop, and there were SO many great deals. Whatever the reason, more often than not, when it was all over, I had a big, empty feeling.

There's nothing sweeter than a 2-year old's "pictures." :)
I still love getting new things and seeing the look on my kids' and grandkids' faces when they get something they really wanted. But now, the bigger focus of our celebration--and our funds--is on what's most important to us. That includes spending time with our family, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, and honestly, staying out of debt. The gift-giving has become a smaller part of our holiday celebration and we all enjoy it so much more. I'll admit, it's been a process to get there.

In the end, I've found it's all a matter of how we look at it. If we focus on a lack of funds or the desire to just "get more," instead of using our finances to express what we value most, we are not celebrating and creating happy memories. I am learning to carry my thoughts of gratitude from Thanksgiving into the Christmas holiday and continue to remember how blessed we are.   

JUST THROWIN' IT OUT THERE
a few more ideas for simplifying

Set a budget. 
We break down our budget into the following categories: Family members (me, Lynn, Ella and older kids + spouses), grandkids, teacher gift, extended family, activities, decor, service, and Christmas dinner. The largest amount goes to "activities."

Find a way to save.
This can take some time and rearranging of finances, but it's SO worth it when you can get there. We get two extra paychecks a year. That money is earmarked for certain things, one of them being Christmas. When I start shopping in November, the money is there--waiting. Our regular budget isn't affected by the holidays which makes things so much simpler.

Use one credit card for all your purchases. We call it our "Christmas card." This allows us to keep track of our spending and make returns simple when necessary. Then we just pay it off after Christmas and we're D-O-N-E.

We all need a special Barbie purse. ;)
Keep all the receipts in an envelope in your purse. This also simplifies returns and I can see how much I've spent in certain categories or on a certain family member if I forget.

Decide what your time is worth. Just like everyone else, I love saving money. But I've decided, I'm not willing to stand in a long, long line or run from store to store for a savings of five dollars. Ten dollars? Still no. Twenty, yes. When Ella is with me, none, none, and never. :) There are other ways to save money and I really don't enjoy spending my day waiting in lines or running around, draining my gas tank.

Limit shopping time. I get tempted by all the great deals when I'm in stores, so I try not to spend too much time "just shopping."  But I do shop to take advantage of the great deals this time of year for things I need--new towels, knives, etc. And yes, I do allow for a few "frivolous" finds.

We are huge fans of Amazon.com. If there's something I want or need, Lynn always asks, "Have you checked Amazon?" It's always less expensive, there's free shipping on orders over $25, and NO lines. How simple is that?

Here's to a $imple and merry holiday!

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