Thursday, 13 April 2017

No one ever starts a holiday tradition to torture their family.

Gift exchanges, holiday meals, family portraits, annual parties—all these things start with the jolliest of intentions. But as families grow through marriages and the arrival of children and grandchildren, it's not uncommon for holiday merriment to start feeling like a forced march. Then there's all the spending that goes with each activity, which often doesn't truly get accounted for until the credit card bills come due in January.

Dealing with all the extra stuff that comes into the house during the holidays—especially a house with children—can be another January hangover. More families are looking for ways to enjoy the holidays more while doing and accumulating less. Here are some ideas:

Change up the exchange

If you don't change anything else about the holidays, reducing the number or price of gifts you have to buy is probably the most effective way to reduce holiday stress. The American Psychological Association reports that 72 percent of us are already stressed out about money, and research shows that gift recipients don't necessarily enjoy expensive presents more.

Why not give our loved ones the gift of less stress while also giving the same thing to ourselves? There are lots of ways to limit gift buying, and setting a price ceiling is a good start. Many families, as they grow, transition from buying for everyone to drawing names for secret gift exchanges. Other families agree to only buy gifts for the children, and limit the cost or number of gifts per child. The true minimalist may even arrange agreements with friends and family to not give each other gifts at all.

Try your potluck

Just because you've always cooked the family Christmas dinner from scratch doesn't mean you have to forever. A potluck meal puts much less pressure on the host, and can turn out every bit as festive with dishes from multiple cooks. Don't fear that going potluck is going to mean eating nothing but blah casseroles. As host, you could volunteer to provide the anchor dish—like a ham or turkey—and then assign guests to bring appetizers, a salad, or desserts.

Choose just one thing to give

Christmas can be a great time to remind people in your social circle just how much you care. But if you feel obligated to get customized holiday cards out to a long list of recipients, bake cookies for all your neighbors, and buy gifts to all your kids' teachers, the holidays become a part-time job.

Choose to send cards or distribute gifts to folks in your circle, but don't do both. If you go with cards, don't be afraid to trim folks off your list that you haven't spoken to in years, and don't feel obligated to create a custom photo card if you don't want to spend the money.

If you give gifts, make or buy the same simple item for everyone, since it's much easier to buy 20 ornaments than to hunt around for 20 individual mementos. You also have the option of not giving gifts or cards at all, and simply voice holiday greetings in person.

Just say no

You don't have to attend every event to which you're invited. Are you really honoring the wishes of those who asked by stopping by their holiday party to simply put in an appearance before moving on to the next one? Choose one event you really want to attend and enjoy it—or give your regrets so you can stay home with your family listening to Christmas music.

Ignore social media

This includes Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. If it bugs you to see that your cousin put together a themed Christmas tree for every room in the house while your one tree is still sitting unassembled in the box, then just look away. Social media pressure can be especially crushing for parents, who can get the feeling that every other parent is a Christmas hero, staying up late arranging Elf on the Shelf tableau, making handcrafted advent calendars, and organizing neighborhood caroling parties. Put down your phone and enjoy a sugar cookie instead.

Enjoy the holiday

Minimizing Christmas doesn't mean ignoring it entirely. It actually makes room for more enjoyment by clearing the have-to-do items off the to-do list. With your new free time, you may choose to sit on the couch and introduce the kids to your favorite holiday movies. You could divert some of the money you used to spend on mandatory family gifts to charity. Or you might do nothing but relax, and remember what it's like to feel the Christmas spirit. 

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