Saturday, December 9, 2006

Simplifying Christmas

I'm one of those people who has always loved Christmas. I remember when I was about 7 or 8 saving up the lollies my grandma used to give me (we saw her every second weekend) and then dividing them up so that I could give my older cousins a Christmas present. They thought it was "cute". LOL. When I got into my teenage years and had a little bit of pocket money I'd always buy gifts for my family and friends. Nothing very big. I didn't have a lot of money. I just love giving people gifts.

This is one of those "good traits" that can turn into a "not so good" trait. I have a tendency to go overboard when it comes to buying gifts, particularly for my children. We have had years where the kids haven't even "discovered" all of their new things until weeks after Christmas.

Gifts aren't the only part of Christmas I love. I love the Christmas music and decorating and cooking. My mum was never really into buying and giving gifts but one thing she was into at Christmas time was FOOD. To her you can't have Christmas without 6 or 7 different types of meat and about 15 salads. Add onto that about 4 choices of dessert and numerous nibbles and drinks and you have a feast fit for a king. :-) I think I've inherited her ability to "overcater". If we have Christmas here it's always a big affair taking heaps of time to prepare for and then days of "headache" trying to use it all up without too much wastage. In fact this year we were still using up snacky type stuff I had bought in October. Admittedly that was because some of it got "lost" in the back of the top shelf of the pantry cupboard.

In the past few years we've been trying to gradually simplify our lives. It's been a very slow and sometimes frustrating process. I think it's one of those "ongoing" things we'll always be striving for. Especially when it comes to "stuff". I've been doing better at not "overdoing" things on the present front when it comes to our kids but other than that I haven't really tried to "simplify Christmas".

So this is the year we're working on "simplifying Christmas". I started by not buying too much too early in the year. I already had some things in the cupboard but I made it somewhat of a "rule" that I wouldn't buy toys in the mid-year sale unless they were more heavily discounted that the usual 20% off. That wasn't an easy decision to make as we live a long way from department stores so we don't always have access to those kind of sales. My problem was that I'd buy too much too early and then the kids would ask for something else so I'd end up buying extra and in the end we'd have way too much stuff. Stocking fillers were even worse. I'd pick up things throughout the year and end up with enough to fill at least 2 stockings per child (and our stockings aren't small). They especially get left until late in the year and that's cut down dramatically on my overbuying. We've also tried to include a lot more "practical" and "consumable" type gifts to cut down on clutter but still have a number of packages for them to open come Christmas morning.

The next part of our simplification of Christmas has taken the form of cutting down on gifts bought for extended family. While this does cut down on costs, it wasn't the motivating factor in us making this change. I do enjoy buying gifts for people but being a perfectionist, I'd put a lot of time and stress into trying to find the "perfect" gift for each person. That gets harder as you all get older and really have more "stuff" than you need. I like the idea of homemade gifts and do do this a bit, especially for anyone we're going to be seeing Christmas Day. Most of our family members don't really appreciate "homemade" gifts if they've bought you something so we figured it was time to just make the break from the whole gift thing. We still buy for both sets of parents but there is no real "expectation" thing happening there which makes it easier. We also buy for my grandparents and also our nieces and nephews. I do love kids gifts because you can spend a small amount or a large amount and the kids still love it (at the age my nieces and nephews are anyway). I've gone for charity style gifts for the parents and grandparents this year with just a smaller thing for them to unwrap. Hopefully they like the idea.

Probably the biggest step we've made in simplifying Christmas this year though will be our plans for Christmas Day. Every year we go through the "which family will we be with this Christmas". There's 1000km between them so doing them both is mostly impossible (unless they both come to us which we've sometimes done). This year we're going camping and avoiding the whole "big family Christmas" thing. It'll be just the 5 of us (DH, me and the 3 kids). I'm really looking forward to it. Camping lends itself to a more simplistic style of Christmas food too. DH and I discussed it today and we're going to have 3 meats (corned beef, turkey roll and bought shaved ham) and 3 salads (potato, noodle and tossed). Preparation should be easy and because we have to pack it all up to take with us I won't be making huge amounts of anything. Christmas morning there should be very little for me to do other than the tossed salad.

I've even given the baking I usually do the flick this year and have just bought a small box of shortbread (I usually make shortbread which is a lot cheaper than buying it but fairly time consuming). The kids want to make peppermint creams but that's the only baking I plan to do this year unless the fancy takes me to do something else between now and then. The main thing is I'm not putting pressure on myself to achieve a "to do" list a mile long.

So, I've always been a big fan of Christmas but this year I feel like I'm looking forward to it even more than usual. :-)

1 comment:

ozi_girl06 said...

Hi Lightning,

I know this is a bit late just discovered your blog via a link in one of your emails to frugal aussies I thinK!

anyway I too decided that I had enough of christmas and all the do that went with it last year (2006) so I didn't do much at all we packed a quick picnic lunch at 10.30 am consiting of a few sandwiches and some chips and a drink and we headed out no particular place in mind, we ended up taking a scenic route to Teterfeild from our home and we loved it stopped on the way swam in the river and ate our sandwiches, we had fun and the kids are still talking about it christmas dinner consisted of a stop at the garage and meat pies and sausage rolls can't get more aussie then that total cost for the day $70.00 mainly fuel no other presents for anyoen except the kids and hubby. Which we spent about $200 including stockings.

I did spend $34.00 on christmas cards from RSPCA but in the cards I wrote "This little thought of a card has helped to save a life"

My sister inlaw did not appreciate it and complained, that we didn't get them something (nothign from them in two christmases) my aunty thought it was a lovley idea and sent me a thank you note, Now this is a christamas I won't forget!