tip #1: save a little bit each month for Christmas

Christmas is not an emergency. You know it’s coming. DO NOT take money from your emergency fund to pay for Christmas gifts. Christmas is a season for love and sharing, not for damaging our financial futures. I can’t say this strongly enough. Your children will benefit much more from having their future planned for than that expensive toy that they will forget in a week or a month or maybe a year. Stick to your budget. Keep your emergency fund for true emergencies!!!

You don’t have an emergency fund? Here are 25 proven ways you can set one up no matter your income. 

Saving a little bit each month might sound crazy, but if you stop and think about it, I bet you are already doing this but in reverse. Do you put Christmas on credit cards and pay them off for the next 3 to 6 months? You could put those interest payments into your own pocket by paying a Christmas savings account each month. This also ensures that when you find exactly the right gift on sale, in September…you have cash on hand to snatch that up at a discount and save even more.

Just don’t do what I did one year, and hide the early gifts so well that you don’t find them until the following December!

Remember, use the budget you have and start saving after the new year for next Christmas. This shift may briefly feel uncomfortable this year, but that will pass and you will enjoy celebrating a little lighter!

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tip #2:  limit gifts

Last year as Christmas approached, I felt this impending doom. I have been laboring, striving to declutter and move towards a life of less possessions. Though not a true minimalist, in theory, I lean that way. Every time I thought about Christmas, a feeling of dread would enshroud me, and I would quickly “change the subject” in my mind and distract myself with something else. One day, I just couldn’t do it any longer. I burst out with, “I love the Christmas season! But the idea of filling our house back up with more stuff and junk we don’t need is stressing me out sooooo much.” I was almost in tears. We called a family meeting to hash this out. A self-proclaimed, “Ruiner-of-all-things,”

I really didn’t want to steal the beauty and magic of Christmas from my kids but on the other hand, I was so tired of carrying this “stuff burden.”  

After tossing around ideas, one of the kids said, “Hey, what if we all made a Christmas List of things we are interested in. Maybe bigger, nicer things.” I felt myself tensing as he spoke, but I let him continue.“Then, everyone else can look at each person’s list and choose One thing.”

“There are a lot of us, buddy. That would still be a ton of presents.”

“No, I mean, everybody would all chip in and buy each person only one present. That way maybe they could get something nicer that they’ve really been wanting.” I think my face visibly relaxed. I know the rest of me exhaled a mountain of stress in that moment. Looking around nervously, I tried to gauge the other responses. To my great surprise, they were all favorable.

So, for the first time last year, we created a family “Christmas Wishes” spreadsheet and everyone was responsible to complete their list by a specified date. A side bonus was that they were all also introduced to the versatility of one of my favorite tools: the spreadsheet.

Apparently it was such a hit, we are doing it again this year. Everyone got one nice present that they remember and have really enjoyed. The story surrounding some of the gifts is hilarious and fun. I’ll link it here as soon as I write it. (HINT: Don’t put joke items on your list unless you are perfectly happy getting only “a cookie with a picture of your brother’s face on it” as your only present.)

I will also confess that in addition to their one gift, I also bought everyone a book (we were homeschoolers after all) and a pair of matching pajamas.

It truly was a blessed and memorable Christmas and it didn’t set us back financially nor did it fill the places in our home which we had managed to recently clear out.


tip #3: giving gifts

Some of the gifts that my children talk about the most years later are the giving gifts. I started a practice the year after their dad died of giving each child an envelope of cash. Who doesn’t love cash?! The cash came with a strict stipulation. They could not spend it on themselves or in anyway that would benefit them or a family member. Each child was charged with the task of finding someone to bless with their giving gift.

The list of places they have used this money over the years warms our Christmas memories. And while there have been many recipients of these giving gifts, my children are truly the greatest recipients as they have grown compassion and understanding and a greater ability to look outside themselves rather than seeing Christmas as just a time to get some toys that will soon break or be forgotten.

some ways they have found to share the giving gifts:

  • Gloves and food for a homeless man
  • Blankets for a women’s shelter
  • Sponsoring a Compassion Child
  • Goat for a family in another country
  • Pooling their money to pay for a well in a village in Cambodia
  • Homeless packets to hand out
  • Food for a food bank

the “Best Christmas Ever” involves a shift in mindset 


By cutting back the spending, planning ahead for the season, and finding ways to give instead of get, you too can make each year “The Best Christmas Ever.”

Here is a copy of a simple Christmas Wishes spreadsheet. Make a copy to create your family spreadsheet and share it with each family member. This helps everyone collaborate and teaches your kids how to use and work together on a digital spreadsheet.

Merry Christmas!


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