I think it is wild that Thanksgiving and Christmas are the most exciting times of year... but also the most stressful! The invites to Friendsgiving and Friendsmas start flooding in at the same time as our parents and grandparents start reaching out about who and where Thanksgiving or Christmas is going to be hosted. Who is bringing what food? Are we drawing names, doing white elephant, buying gifts for everyone, and what is the price limit? Of course we would like to keep as many family traditions as possible, but as our families grow and change, it becomes more stress to everyone to keep what once was when it isn't anymore.
Different seasons of life, ideas and traditions work well, whereas, other seasons of life they may not be practical or doable for some of the family.
I'd love to share an experience I have had with this year, being pregnant, and on a different budget than usual.
As my fiance and I have been preparing for our baby to come on NYE, we have been working very hard and intentionally to come up with a financial plan for while I am out of work, and to also accommodate the holidays. As soon as we turned the pages of our planners to November, we started discussing Christmas budgets, and holiday plans for our families. I am a firm believer in planning ahead. I explained to our family, regardless of traditions, that moving forward, some things have to change in order for us to continue to participate in family functions for the holidays. That it has to be practical, and affordable for everyone as our family is growing by the year. Thankfully, they were very understanding and had an open mind to this. Let's just be real, no one really has the money to just spend thousands of dollars on Christmas. I made the comment about how traditions should be more about games, movies, that one pecan pie from Gigi, the making of candy through the days leading up to Christmas, and the times and memories we get to spend together and enjoy. Traditions cannot be about the money spent as things are ever changing. We simply drew names this year, and set a budget. Ryan and I sat down and wrote out the total cost of what Christmas would be budgeted for, and asked each other if that was a realistic budget for us this year, and if not, what do we need to cut and where? Ryan picked up extra shifts at the fire house, which is a sacrifice for us both, but ultimately we realised if we wanted to buy Christmas within that budget, that we had to pick up shifts, or we had to cut. With us making new boundaries this year for Christmas, we had already cut so many gifts and money spending out. At this point we had felt like we had whittled it down as far as we could. We then made a list of what we were spending and on who, and then we wrote our exactly what we were going to buy within the budget set for each person. This has helped us have so much more peace and less stress about Christmas. We have been able to communicate, and plan ahead so that we are not digging into savings or charging money on a credit card. We have had a better understanding of traditions, and what Christmas is truly about. We have realized that spending so much money that we are having to pay ourselves or our credit cards back for the next 4-6 months is just simply not worth it, and that financial freedom from setting boundaries is where it is at for us! After speaking with a close friend on the phone about this, she agreed that SOMETHING HAD TO GIVE. The overwhelm and stress from trying to buy gifts for the family, plus work people, plus friends was way too much. We started trying to think of ways to eliminate some of this stress. We agreed that the receiving of gifts from friends was just as stressful as paying for them to give. That it would be a load off to just simply not receive something we more than likely didn't need, and the need to communicate that. to our friends. To just simply let them know that the relief of not having to get out and shop and spend the money on returning a gift would be a gift in itself! We then discussed that even shopping and spending money for people at work was an added stressor. That if it gave us joy, then by all means, participate. If it brought on more stress, then to politely lay out the boundary that you are not participating or you would not be able to participate unless the price limit was a certain amount.
This could totally be different from person to person. and you may have the funds or have great joy from gifting and participating in gift giving. personally, I think the best way to approach this is to write it down! Get flat with yourself about what you can afford, prioritize who you are shopping for, and come up with a plan on how you will execute. If you don't mind going into debt for Christmas, and stressing through the holidays is your thing, then this blog may not be for you, and that is ok.
As far as setting boundaries about traveling and who you choose to spend your time with for the holidays can be very tricky. I would suggest that you ask yourself if you want to travel or stay home. If you want to travel or don't mind, then unfortunately you have to decide who's house you are traveling too, which can be hard if you're splitting your time between your parents, or your partner's parents. For me, this is too overwhelming, so I would just rather host and dodge the arguments and hard feelings. If you can, maybe suggest or ask your family to have their meals at different times so that you have the opportunity to make it to everyones holiday dinner.
If you are hosting, always remember you get to say what goes on under your roof. Of course you don't want to be an ass hole, but ultimately, you get to decide who you allow in your home, who is around your family and children. You can continue old family traditions, or make new family traditions. You are not obligated to carry on things that no longer bring you joy. For instance, there is a special game your family used to play before your mom and dad got a divorce... you have the right to not play if your family is no longer together and it makes you sad. You do not have to have people over that you are not comfortable having over just because your mom or dad was friends with them and provided a place for the holidays for them when you were a kid.
It is really hard to navigate the holidays as we grow into adulthood, and start creating boundaries that protect our family, space, budgets, and more. We surely don't want to disappoint or hurt anyones feelings, especially people in our family, but there has to come a point where you choose YOUR joy, YOUR budget, YOUR time, and YOUR resources over anyone else. No one will watch out for you and these things for you as well as you do for yourself.
I hope that you feel encouraged to take a stand, and to choose the things and people that bring you joy throughout the holidays. My hope for you is that you have the courage to say "yes" and "no" when you want to, and to protect your boundaries and place your needs and wants at the top, because YOU ARE WORTH IT! It is wonderful to have an open mind and heart, and compromise from time to time, but it is time to enjoy the holidays on your terms too, especially if you are an adult.
Happy Holidays, my friends,