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Holidays Stressing You Out? 5 Ways to Keep Christmas Simple

364 days away! I remember thinking that sad thought as a kid when I realized Christmas was over and that was the number of days left until we got to celebrate again. Think back to being a child on Christmas and how exciting that experience was.

I couldn’t sleep due to the anticipation. My siblings and I would cram in one room staying up all night. We would begin waking up our parents every hour starting at 4am until they finally gave in to our pestering to begin Christmas morning. The thing is, I remember those nights of cuddling up together in bed with my siblings waiting on Santa, eating my dad’s famous chocolate gravy he made every Christmas morning, and going to my grandmas house to play with my cousins, but I have a hard time recalling the actual gifts I received.

To me, that’s proof that Christmas was about the experiences and family time even though I didn’t realize that until I became an adult and recalled my memories. Christmas has slowly become more commercialized and many of us have forgotten what this holiday season is all about. It’s about faith, family, loved ones, and showing kindness to all. So why not simplify Christmas so we can focus on what is truly important and go back to the stress-free exciting Christmas we had as a kid?

So why not simplify Christmas so we can focus on what is truly important and go back to the stress-free exciting Christmas we had as a kid?

Trading out stuff for experiences this Christmas will give us less stress, less clutter (which we are tripping over as it is) and more memories. How can we simplify Christmas by trading experiences for stuff? Let’s look at a few ways together:

Sponsor a child – Christmas is the one holiday children look forward to all year! My husband and I decided that instead of buying gifts for each other (because lets face it we need something as adults we buy it for ourselves anyway) why not put our money towards sponsoring a child and help make memories for a family in need. We make a family shopping trip out of it together and it is the best way to spread holiday cheer while teaching your children its about giving and not receiving.

Make a trip out of it -In place of tons of gifts under the tree why not put your money towards a family outing or vacation. This is a great way to spend family time together and make holiday memories together. This can be a vacation to the beach or even a day trip to the zoo, aquarium, science museum, theme park, ball game, or anything your family enjoys doing together. I bet your kids will remember the memories you make on your trip long after they remember the memories they made on that new video game.

Volunteering is such a great way to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. It’s the gift that keeps on giving! (You know I had to throw a Christmas Vacation quote in here somewhere). It is a rewarding way to serve others especially as a family during the holiday season or anytime of the year. Creating a servants heart in our children or just showing the world our love for others is the best gift we can give.

Set up a fund – We decided when our daughter was born to set up a college fund for her instead of showering her every birthday and Christmas with a multitude of  gifts.

She still gets plenty of gifts from loved ones and we still buy for her, but a majority of what we budget for her occasions is committed to this fund.

My husband’s grandfather did this for him and he graduated college debt free! I also have a friend who’s grandparents did this for her, but she received a full scholarship for her education so that money was a nice down payment on her first house.

I was inspired by this idea and the tremendous blessing it was for them and I want to share that with our family as well. Our families are aware of this fund and in lieu of gifts some members will contribute as well. It’s one of those “you will thank me later” kinda gifts.

Draw names – Okay this isn’t technically an alternative to gift giving, but I felt this important enough to share what this step has done for my holiday sanity. I have 6 brothers and sisters so we’ve been drawing names for a few years now. It’s brought the joy back into Christmas by removing a tremendous amount of shopping stress and helping everyone stay within budget. Every person still receives a present and it actually allows for more thought and meaning to be put into your gift.

If your money isn’t so spread out over multiple small gifts to  your large shopping list of people, you are able to put more cash value into a gift as well. That doesn’t necessarily make it a “better” gift, but it doesn’t hurt….just saying. Its all about quality not quantity with this option of gift giving.

I'm going to be honest with you here. At first not getting a big pile of presents for Christmas made me feel well…. like a Grinch. Most of us grow up making a list to Santa asking for all our wants and Santa better make that happen or Christmas is ruined. What if we teach our kids early not to feel this way? What if from the beginning we show our children the true meaning of Christmas and focus more on helping others and that spending time with family is more important than stuff?

I hope these suggestions have sparked your imagination for ways to put memories and adventure on your Christmas list for years to come. Does your family have traditions that bring out memories? Are there ways you have exchanged gifts for experiences? Share them in the comments below!

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