I love everything about this time of year!  The songs!  The lights!  The trees!  Even the super cheesy Christmas movies!  I love blankets and snuggles this time of year. 

Okay, maybe not everything.  I don't love the focus of spending, spending, spending this time of year.

Years ago, adults exchanged a gift and children were grateful for the one doll or truck they received. Cherished it. Took it everywhere. Now, the success of Christmas is determined by the size of the pile. I have friends already in debt, racking up more charges each year on credit cards so their kids can have a “great” Christmas.

Adults are just as bad. What if she spends more than you spend? Will she think you’re cheap? Should you buy your coworkers a gift? Friends? The postal worker? Teachers (or kids’ teachers)? Garbage men? Hairdresser? How much should you spend on your parents or boyfriend? Where does the list end?

Yet, research shows that experiences give us more joy than stuff.   We feel happier doing something versus getting something.  I’m not saying presents are a bad thing.  But, if I asked you to list 5 things you did as a kid at Christmas, could you?  Now, can you list 5 things you got for Christmas?  I'm willing to bet that was a bit harder.  So, instead of going overboard on Christmas this year, I offer this challenge for you to make Christmas more memorable and joyful without breaking the bank.

Look up events in your area and plan ahead each week.  There are so many things to do this time of year.  You can google “events in ____” or “free events” to see what’s happening in your area. Snuggle, look at lights, hold hands caroling, go sledding.  Churches have lots of free events during this season, such as live nativities and Christmas eve services. Create a new tradition.  

Limit your spending. Have a budget and a plan.  Make a list of everyone you plan to buy for and put an amount next to their name.  Once you have the list completed, add up all the amounts. Can you afford this?  Is there a way to be creative in your spending? Look up how to make homemade items like artwork, cookies in a tin and Christmas ornaments.

Stay away from the mall. I avoid the mall at Christmas. I know, this sounds terrible, but I’m just as guilty as anyone else in getting sucked into the commercialization of Christmas. It all looks so pretty and enticing. So, I avoid the mall. If you want to see Santa or want to take your kids to see Santa, find out if he’ll be available in another area. Here in Florida, he makes appearances in restaurants, zoos and libraries.

Limit the amount of television you watch, or stream shows without commercials. Why do we not realize we need something until we see it? The goal of commercials is to make you believe life will be easier or you will be happier if you buy this. This isn’t true and you’ll have a more enjoyable Christmas if you stop feeling like you have to buy so much.

Merry Christmas!  

How are you going to have more joy this season?  Share your thoughts below!

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About the Author


Kristen lives in Florida with her awesome husband and 3 energetic kids. She earned a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Michigan and is a psychology professor at a local university. In her free time, she hangs out with family and friends, volunteers at her church and laughs as much as possible. She has a passion for Jesus, helping others and anything chocolate. Follow her on instagram @kristen_hodges_cg