It’s hard to believe the holiday season is nearly here. Retails stores and malls are already beckoning with their holiday sales. Being thrifty takes on even more importance during the holidays when we all face unexpected expenses. And what can you do when your kids tell you about that new toy or game they just have to have and look at you with that pleading expression in their eyes and say, “Puh-leez”? It’s hard to say no. On the other hand, you don’t want to add a mountain of credit card debt to the balance you already have. What’s a parent to do?
In my family, our kids could choose one special (i.e., expensive) present, and everything else on their list had to be modestly priced. Sometimes we even gave our sons a budget and let them determine what they would spend it on. Don’t worry—we always managed to include a few surprises under the tree.
Of course, the holiday season is not just about receiving gifts. It’s also about giving them, too. Have a family discussion about how to handle gift-giving to/from other family members. My family solves this problem by drawing names, so that everyone gives one present each to someone in the family, instead of shopping and spending more than we can afford on little gifts that the recipients are probably not going to find useful.
To me, the key word is useful. I’m a big fan of giving gifts that can be used. Call me Practical Peg, but I think little knick-knacks that sit on shelves and need to be dusted once a week are for the birds. I’ll admit I have a few odds and ends on my shelves that I treasure: a tiny Leaning Tower of Pisa we bought on our family’s camping trip through Europe 20 years ago, a little model ship my brother gave me, and other sentimental items. But I’m pretty much done with accumulating odds and ends.
My favorite presents to give and receive are consumables. Cookies, cakes, salsas, herb-infused vinegars and oils, flowering plants, even fresh, new dishtowels make me happy. I always try to give my kids practical gifts every year—new socks and underwear, toothbrushes, PJs, and t-shirts. They grumble a bit when they open them—“Oh, great, just what I wanted”—but then I see them wearing or using their new things, and it makes me happy.
Schedule time in the kitchen this holiday season with your little ones and make some treats to share with teachers, friends, and loved ones. These gifts that come from the heart will matter the most—and who needs another knick-knack anyway!
And when you gather around the table at Thanksgiving, remember to talk with your kids about the many blessings you and your family enjoy. Sign up to do some volunteer work as a family, and your hearts will feel that holiday glow in a way no glittery wrapped present will ever match.
Most importantly, slow down and be in the moment this season. Stop and breathe and remember that what’s best about the holidays is being with your loved ones and enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Here’s to your happiness! Make it a priority.