Christmas is one of the most cherished times of year for a lot of people.  Yet, it is also one of the most stressful.  Between rushing around, creating shopping lists and cooking for all the gatherings, we begin to feel overwhelmed.  Another added stress is coming up with the cash needed to fund all of that!  It’s a lot!  And often leads us into credit card debt that lingers into the new year.

This year has had so many challenges due to the Pandemic, the loss of income related to shut-downs and the stress related to being stuck at home. We definitely don’t want to add to all of that by straining our finances.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmases from my childhood.  This has been a tough year for my family and memories of better days are super precious.

We never had extra money growing up, but I remember that mom always made Christmas a special time.  We always had a big, real tree with lots of homemade decorations.  We always made our favorite cookies and treats too.  

My mom was very religious and so there was never any real talk of Santa Claus in our home.  It was more about the nativity scene and Jesus being born.  She didn’t overtly say that there was no Santa Claus and when we were super young, there was a gift from Santa under the tree.  It wasn’t made a big deal of though.  The big deal was the birth of Jesus and celebrating that.

I remember one Christmas when I was 10 years old.  My mom was expecting my first baby brother and she wanted to make sure my sister and I had an extra special Christmas.  As usual money was tight, but mom was industrious and talented so she decided to make my sister and me homemade dolls.  She made them out of soft fabric and stuffed them with batting.  She painted their faces with her tempera paints.  Mine had blue eyes and my sister’s had brown.  They both had yarn hair as close as mom could get to our own.

She also hand made three outfits for them.  Each had a nightgown, a day dress with an apron and a fancy velvet dress for dress up.  She also made little shoes for them from black felt.  They were Mary Janes and so adorable.  

My sister and I knew mom was creating something for us.  But we didn’t have a clue what it was.  She kept it all pretty secret, but there were bits and pieces we did get to see.  Those bits and pieces had us convinced that it was going to be pretty nifty.

I remember seeing some velvet scraps of fabric that mom had gotten from her Aunt Annie.  There were two colors burgundy and white.  I remember feeling the velvet and thinking that it was the most luxurious thing in the world.  I knew my second cousin had a white velvet dress for her wedding and I thought how luxurious that was.  I can remember stroking that velvet until mom chased me off and told me to leave it alone!

The other element that mom let us catch a glimpse of were the black felt shoes.  I remember her sewing on them in the evenings.  I would ask her what she was making and she told me nose mittens.  I remember trying to put one on my nose and trying to figure out how it worked.

That Christmas morning when my sister and I opened our presents, we found those dolls in all their splendor.  And finally, the mystery of the nose mittens was revealed!  Shoes for our new dolls!  They were dressed in their day dresses, but other packages revealed that they actually had changes of clothes!  When I opened the velvet dress, I was so excited.  Mom had chosen the burgundy velvet for me and she made it as fancy as a girl could want with brick-a-brack and extra stitching.  

My sister and I still treasure those dolls decades later.  Which goes to show that sometimes the most important gifts aren’t bought with money.  

I know it is a different world today than it was in the early 80’s, but when it comes down to it, people are still people.  What any of us need and want the most is the time and attention of those that we love.  

Even during those angsty teen years, the time and attention you show them will have more weight than any gift that you buy.  I believe that time and attention are the things that build those deep connections that sustain us through difficult times.  

This Christmas, I encourage you to take a moment before you start spending money to just breathe.  Stop and think about how you can make 2020 Christmas a really good one for you and your family.  Explore how you might be able to make it special, without spending all your cash or worse, going into debt.   Here are a few suggestions.

Remember your favorite Christmas.  Spend some time exploring your favorite Christmas memories.  If you have kids, think back to when you were their age and what made those Christmases (or other days) special.  It might be a different world, but I just bet your kids are enough like you to love what you loved.

Ask the right questions.  One of the lessons I’ve learned as a coach is that there is always something under the want.  If you have someone in your life who really wants an expensive gift, chances are there is a deeper need underneath that.  Ask them what they want and then keep asking questions.  If you can figure out what that gift is going to give them, how they think they’ll feel or the need that they have, then you may be able to find a way to give them that feeling without spending much money.

Spend money when it counts.  One of the traps I’ve fallen into in the past is buying presents so that everything was equal.  I made sure I spent the same amount of money on each person.  Or made sure that each person had the same number of gifts.  

What if instead, we look for the gift that is going to make them feel the most special and spend our money on that?  Let go of how many, or how much money is spent and just create a feeling of absolute specialness for each person.  I bet you’ll find that it takes the stress off you, makes you more excited and is better for your bank account.  On top of that, you get the added bonus of giving the right gifts and creating that magic for the people you love.

Christmas in 2020 can be special regardless of what is going on in the world or even how much money you have available.  Just remember to spend what is right for you!  Wishing you a wonderful Holiday Season!  Cheers!

Sherry Parks, CPA, is a Money Mindset Coach who helps women escape feeling trapped by their finances.  She is passionate about helping women change mindset, emotions and actions regarding money, so that they learn to keep what they have and generate more.  

Check out her 5 Steps to a Better Money Story workbook or join her women-only Facebook group More Than Enough Money Sisterhood.