This topic has been weighing heavily on my mind for quite some time, and every year it resurfaces during this season.
The holidays are stressful. You go into it knowing that it’ll be expensive and stressful. The pressure we put on ourselves to get the best gifts for those on our lists, yet not overspend our budgets. We put a lot of stock in “giving” during the holidays, getting our kids exactly what they asked Santa for, making sure they get everything they want so that they have a “perfect” Christmas.
I won’t lie, I feel that pressure. I feel that desire to get my kids and loved ones everything they want. But…how practical is that?
Matt and I have certainly faced our struggles in the past four years. Raising kids is expensive and hard, especially with only one person able to work. We tend to stick to a rigorous Christmas budget. I always stick to the four rules of shopping.
1) Something they need.
2) Something to read.
3) Something to wear.
4) Something they want.
Santa usually brings them the something they want (along with stocking goodies), and the needs and clothes are from Matt and I. They give each other books.
I also tend to buy second hand clothes and books. More bang for my buck. One year I got the boys 20 books total for 5 dollars. All in great shape, too! As for Santa, he does splurge on the gift that they want…but only one. My kids have more than enough toys, and receive even more from other family members, so toys aren’t a big concern for us.
My budget typically ranges from $200-250 for everyone on our list. That’s our boys, all four of the people we have for Secret Santa, our nephew up north and the exchange game we play with Matt’s dad’s side, and stocking stuffers. We search out deals and stretch it as far as it’ll go.
I also intend to donate. I’ll shop for everyone on my list with that budget, and I have a budget for donating as well. We always donate gently used toys and clothes but this year we are also donating whatever we can spare on a grocery card to families in need. Nolan’s school has a remarkable donating idea in place. Each class takes on an anonymous family in our community, we get a list of ages, genders and needs for our families. I think it’s so important to support members of our community that need it. It’s important to support everyone everywhere, yes, but we tend to forget about those suffering at home when we’re faced with tragedies from everywhere.
Matt and I are struggling like a lot of other families out there, but there is always someone out there struggling more. We have a roof over our heads and will undeniably have several Christmas dinners with our families. Our children will wake up to gifts under the tree, and they’ll also be spoiled by grandparents, aunts and uncles. I’m honestly taking a little out of their Christmas fund to buy new toys for the anonymous family…both boys will get to pick out a toy for one of the kids (there are two). I want to teach my sons that it’s better to give than to receive, even if you don’t have much to give.
I want them to learn early on that even if you can’t afford to give a lot, giving a little is just as good. Every bit helps a few more families eat this holiday, and a few more kids wake up to gifts. How sad is it to have children in our communities wake up to no presents from Santa, even something small? How heartbreaking. Those children learn sooner the harsh reality of our world, and they don’t get to experience the magic of Christmas in the way that every child should.
Another thing we’ll be participating in (if these little germ buckets kick the flu by then and I don’t get sick) is a fundraiser by Joey’s World for Thanksgiving till Christmas. On Monday, December 9th from 3:30-5:30, all admission proceedings will go towards the Thanksgiving till Christmas fund.
The Thanksgiving till Christmas is a local charity that raises money to buy wells to provide fresh water to entire villages in Africa. Check them out on Facebook.
Joey’s World is a great indoor play place we took the kids to last weekend. They LOVED it, and they’ll love it again on Monday. Best of all, we’ll be donating to a cause and helping bring fresh and safe water to villages. I couldn’t imagine not having safe water to drink.
What I ask of you, is that when you’re busy shopping for all those on your list and focusing on your family, try to think of someone else’s family. Toss in a grocery card or a gift card for Walmart, so that a struggling family can experience a bit of Christmas magic too.
Christmas is about giving, about helping those in need and about remembering to come together in peace, love and joy. It’s not about the gifts you open, or how many things you get. It’s about the feelings of happiness we can so easily create in others by being charitable. Not just around the holiday’s either, but frequently donating to food banks.
My goal for 2014 is to do just that. Once a month, buy a box of diapers, wipes or formula and donate some grocery cards to the food bank. It doesn’t have to be all of it at once, or a lot on the grocery card, but those will be my go-to donations. Even if we’re super strapped for cash, $5 on a grocery card is still $5 the food bank can use to buy food for struggling families.
I’m also going to be doing several Scentsy fundraisers myself, to raise money for local food banks.
Imagine if everybody continuously donated to food banks throughout the year? No kid would go to school or to bed hungry.