What I want for Christmas…

I was standing in line at the bank the other day and listened in to the conversation between two ladies in front of me. They were talking about the holiday season and bemoaning that they haven’t gotten anything prepared yet. They were also talking about how they were getting their homes prepared for family coming to visit. Both of them declared that gift giving in their families are to be severely curtailed if not altogether eliminated this year. Everyone is having a tough time financially.

I, for one, was there to transfer money from my savings to checking so that I can pay a bill that has come due. Yeah, we’re all cutting it close.

Try as hard as I do to keep a balanced budget, it is still a constant struggle. Especially with kids, there’s always one expense after another cropping up. This week, the reason I came up short, I had to take my daughter shopping for clothes that she needed for her dance performance this week. It wasn’t a huge expense, but I have my budget down so tight that it threw it off. I don’t have a big allowance built in.

So that’s my goal next year, to try to work my budget so that I can make room for incidental expenditures. The little things that you hadn’t planned to spend on but crop up anyway.

With the holidays in mind, and with me already starting to worry about what to get the girls and how to get it, it’s good to be reminded about what’s really important. I subscribe to the Simple Dollar and it’s like getting daily inspiration and encouragement on keeping things real. Today, Trent emphasized the The four things children really want for Christmas:

1. A relaxed and loving time with the family. Children need relaxed attention. During the holidays, normal family routines are temporarily set aside for parties, shopping, and special events. It’s important to slow down and spend quality time with your kids.

2. Realistic expectations about gifts. Kids enjoy looking forward to gifts and then having their expectations met. The key is to manage their expectations. By educating them about what “Santa” can afford, and is willing to give, it’s possible to prevent disappointment on Christmas morning.

3. An evenly-paced holiday season. The modern Christmas season starts months before December 25th, when the first store displays go up. Things end with a bang on Christmas day. The authors suggest beginning the season late in the year instead. Get out the Christmas music on December 15th. Pick out a tree on the following weekend. Schedule some low-key family events during Christmas week. Stretch the season to New Years Day.

4. Reliable family traditions. When I talk to my friends about what Christmas was like when we were Children, it’s not the gifts that we remember. We recall the things we did as a family. I remember sleeping next to the tree every Christmas eve, but never being able to catch Santa in the act. I remember seeing the cousins. I remember decorating the trailer house. Your kids will remember the traditions, not the gifts.
That last point is so important: it’s the traditions that make this season special, not the gifts.

Consider some of the things above before you go and spend some outrageous amount that you can’t afford on something that will soon be forgotten before the new year even comes around.

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