I am no expert on minimalism, I only know what I have discovered during my personal journey. As I have said before minimalism will look different to everyone. One common thing I hope is true for all who choose a more minimalist lifestyle is that we place a high value on people, experiences and making memories and a lower value on stuff, especially extra stuff. During a season of insane consumerism and people frequently saying, "I have to go holiday shopping" I am so grateful to have discovered minimalism. It has helped to to shift my view further and really have awesome experiences and make great memories with my kids. I also feel it's setting a great example for them during a season of too many toy commercials. They have come to appreciate spending time with friends and family more than getting this year's toy of the moment. They get more excited about holiday get togethers and playing with friends than they get about gifts. Now I'm not going to lie, we still have a bit of the 'I wants' here in our house, its not a minimalist paradise with my kids refusing gifts and donating their toys to charity. My son especially likes to tell me all the things he wants regularly, not just during the holidays. If we have conversations about what we REALLY want and need and he has time to reflect he usually changes his mind, at least to something that he really values and not some gimmick as seen on TV item.
I wanted to take the time to share what the holidays look in our family since we have embraced a more minimalist lifestyle. During our journey, which didn't happen overnight, we have also gotten real with money and our relationship to it. (Thank you Dave Ramsey!) We refuse to go into debt to give anyone gifts, we don't use credit cards for the holidays. That keeps us in a good place financially especially after the needles have fallen off the tree and all the eggnog is gone, we are not in debt. We also choose to make gifts for people, usually bake bread & cookies, make granola or soup mixes, or other fun homemade gifts. If we choose to buy gifts we try not to do it in the mindset of 'have to', I think when you get into that mindset you often end up not really thinking of the person at all. At least that is what I found for myself. If I am going to buy a gift I try to spend my money with good conscience, I enjoy Trades Of Hope, Ten Thousand Villages, and shopping locally at small businesses. You can also gift used items, I buy things from Craigslist or from Facebook yard sale all the time. Quite often you can get awesome deals and you are possibly helping another family afford their holidays that way. Another thing I have done during the holidays is be honest with people. Our families are really generous not only to our kids but to us. We have asked that they only give gifts to the kids and for those to be gifts of experiences. Not all the family is on board but over the past couple of years we have had amazing times at Adventure Aquarium in Camden with a year family membership from my parents and this past year they gifted us a family membership to The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. There was no gift to take up physical space but the memories we made going there many times over the course of the year were priceless. My son loves to receive movie gift cards and for anyone who has taken a family of 5 to the movies you know that really adds up, so we can definitely see more movies with gifts like that! My kids also love gift cards to other places so they can buy what they want, sometimes that does mean a toy but its something they really enjoy and they get to learn the value to money when they spend their gift card. We have had many conversations in the toy aisle about money and what they want to spend their money on and what they don't. For our family not on board with gifting experiences or gift cards they usually buy things the kids need like jammies and socks, usually with fun characters on them so I can't really complain about that.
Last year was the first year we decided to only give a few small gifts that fit into the kids' stockings and nothing under the tree. Wait, I know what your thinking, nothing under the tree! How can they do that to their children! Well, like I said some of our family gives gift that we put under the tree so its not empty and our kids are getting something else. We take the kids on a little vacation the week between Christmas and New Years. We discuss it as a family and decide what to do usually at least a month before and then I scour the internet for good deals. Last year we took them into Philadelphia for 2 nights, went to museums and fun restaurants and had an amazing hotel suite with a view of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They got to stay up late and jump on the beds and eat whatever they wanted at every meal. We use this time to really spoil them with our time and attention and a little ice cream and candy too. This year we are going to The Crayola Experience and staying in a awesome hotel. My kids think of this as their gift, they value the time with us when we are not distracted by the everyday. My husband and I put away our phones too during these times because its important for our kids to feel like they have us all to themselves. I know lots of families take vacations during that time of year in addition to packing the tree with gifts but unless we used credit cards I don't think we could do it all. That is us being real with our money. Children really don't want parents stressed out by finances and debt for the holidays. This is what we do, everyone needs to do what is best for their family. I feel that kids are way smarter than some give them credit and if you ask your kids if they would rather have a new toy or to spend time with you they will choose you almost every time.
As I've said, this did not happen overnight. We have had many lessons taught to us over the years that have lead us to now. Lessons about finance because of our own mistakes that have lead us to interact without money differently. We have learned from other families who had great ideas on quality ways to gift and celebrate the holidays. We have equally learned from families who overspend, go into debt, and spoil their children with stuff and spend little time together. We are still on this journey to enjoy life, our family, friends and the world. We try to learn as much from our experiences and others so we can live fully. Our lessons about finances work perfectly with minimalism and other things we value. Minimalism really isn't just about tossing all your stuff and living in an empty house. It's about subtracting all the things in your life that distract you from the things you love. You can apply that to anything, debt, consumerism, relationships, jobs, and of course stuff. During the holidays you can subtract all the things that make the holidays less joyful for you and do more of what you value. Doing that could make it the best holiday ever!
It feels awesome to me to start a new year, not in debt because of the holidays and just having had an amazing little vacation with my family. It sets the new year up with happiness and possibilities. Isn't that what we all want? A hopeful, happy, new year enjoying our families and friends and celebrating all the new things possible. Since we have changed the way we celebrate and have had some really great conversations with our kids about stuff and valuing time over gifts we are a happier family. Its not perfect over here, believe me, the kids still try to kill each other on a daily basis, we forget to feed the dogs, and no one, except me, puts the toilet paper on the holder but our actions line up with our values and that feels wonderful. I hope you have a terrific holiday season and you really enjoy all the time you can spend with those you love. The holiday season can be filled with so much joy and wonder if you don't get distracted by unimportant things.
What special things do you do during the holiday season to enjoy or celebrate the special people in your life?
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