As promised here is part II – When less is more…

I’ve been composing a list of tips for those families pursuing (by choice or necessity) a more frugal lifestyle. Most of these suggestions would benefit any family, not just those seeking to economize. Tips are categorically divided and will be presented in a couple more posts. First on the list, and one of timely importance:

Christmas

Gifts are lovely. I love giving and receiving them. But a gift is so much more than a hastily purchased gift card, or a large ticket item that puts the family in debt for the next several months. When we begin to look past the boxes and bags, we see that more creativity than cash is required when one seeks to give a gift that is truly memorable. Here are a few suggestions that help us get past some the more material aspects of the gift-giving season:

#1 NO CATALOGS! Throw them out, or at least, keep them out of the hands of your children. Nothing fuels lust for the material like these “glossy seducers”.  Avoid TV commercials. If you can’t turn it off, at least mute every commercial. Don’t allow your children to become commercial casualties at Christmas.

#2 Embrace Advent. Try to find time for quiet reflection. Remind your children (and yourself) why we celebrate this Holy Season. As much as possible, keep the focus on the liturgical calendar, giving the children a dose of daily joy rather than hinging everything on Christmas day.

#3 Give the gift of time and self. This is the best we can do for family and friends. Teach you child a new skill, bake, sew and craft homemade gifts. If you wish to gift your friends, consider hosting a potluck dinner, or perhaps simply preparing a favorite dish, freezing and presenting it to that busy mom you love and give her a night off from cooking. Invite a bachelor to dinner, preparing his favorite meal. These things are more appreciated than you realize.

#4 Check Church and community calendars for free concerts and other events. Take the time to attend…these are the memory makers.

#5 If you want to give a large family a gift that keeps on giving, consider zoo and museum memberships. Most annual memberships cost less than a day’s admission for a large family. My parents give us these types of memberships…otherwise we’d never be able to afford them. We think of them throughout the year, everytime we return from a great day at the Columbus Zoo or COSI.

#6 Take a drive and look at the Christmas lights. Adults and children alike, still oooh and aaah over pretty lights. I know…we did this last night!

#7 Remember…children still love to receive gifts! I’m in no way suggesting or advocating a “no gift” Christmas. What we’re trying to accomplish is a shift of focus and establish a broader definition of “gift”.

#8  Remember…children still love to give gifts! Parents can get so caught up in giving, that they deny their children the same joy.  Encourage your little ones to make gifts.  Help to assemble materials, offer suggestions and let ’em go!  They’ll do the rest, and will have the joy that only comes when one gives…

#9 Read holiday and Holy Day favorites to your children. Let them choose a special book, everyday.  Watch your favorite Christmas movies…I highly recommend It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol.  Listen to inspiring music.  Light scented candles…

#10 After you set up your Christmas tree, invite the family to lie under the tree, in the dark, looking up at the lights.  It’s lovely…

#11 Visit a nursing home. Many of our elderly have no family or friends to visit.  The sight of a child lights up their face like nothing else.

#12 Attend Mass often. Don’t let this busy season rob you of the greatest gift our Lord has to give…His very self.

#13 Take a deep breath and relax… and remember:

Christmas is a season, not a day. We must help our young ones to embrace the entire season…we do this by living it.

Do forgive me if I sound a bit preachy.  I am preaching…to myself.  Like a lot of people, I’m still shedding the skin of a previous life of frivolity.  And while our current financial situation certainly dictates our present lifestyle, these suggestions are applicable, not just during the “dry times,” but all of the time!

Give what you can, receive with great joy and never forget to thank God for all.  He is the truest and best Giver of all gifts…may we all use this Holy Season to glorify and magnify Him!

Blessings,