Thursday, November 30, 2017

My Fancy Christmas Anxiety

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Oh how Christmas makes me crazy. Like so crazy that I actually apologize to C for being a crazy person (which means super duper extra crazy.) As we all know, money gives me totally irrational anxiety (see Operation Don't Be Idiots). So I combat that, in crazy fashion, by overspending. I know this, I'm working on it, insight is the key to change, blah blah blah. BUT. I also LOVE Christmas. I love all the things, and I really love buying gifts and spoiling my kids. So you can see how this can become a dangerous spiral. I buy things, then I freak out about the money I'm spending, so then I illogically buy more things, and so on and so on. And THEN, I get even more crazy pants because I look around at my over-cluttered house, have a panic attack, and buy more shit. It's the most wonderful time of the year...

Every year I tell myself that I'm going to be planful about my gift giving. I've tried homemade Christmas (LOVED it but it took a ton of time and less nosy children), one big gift Christmas (don't bother, not worth it), all out Christmas (still paying that one off) and Don't Be Stupid Christmas (no fun and didn't work.) This year I glommed onto the Facebook/mommy blog idea floating around about the four gifts. Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. Now as I write this I am realizing that I already fucked up because I shopped as if it were four categories, not four gifts. So I'm starting from behind. SMH. But I am trying to limit the kids' gifts to those four categories.

So I've already established that this isn't really helping keep the number of gifts down since I bought multiple "something to wear's" for example. BUT, what it is doing is keeping me from buying all the things. Each category for each of the kids is pretty specific. So Eli's getting a new phone. That means that I'm not also buying him all the WWE stuff he's asking for. So maybe it's still a win? If nothing else its helping AND it's made it abundantly clear that my kids don't really need anything since that's been the hardest category to fill. So first world problems...

The other thing that's helping is that I've completely abandoned any intention of fairness. In the past I've tried to match dollar amounts across kids in an effort to internally assure fairness. This year I'm acknowledging that they have no concept of what a dollar's worth and they aren't counting each other's presents, so they won't care if I spend $50 on one and $150 on the other if both get a really cool gift that they love. This is keeping me from scrambling for all the filler stuff to make everyone even. I feel pretty strongly that my kids need to know that the world isn't "fair" and that they shouldn't expect everything to be even all the time so this fits in nicely. It's also freed me up to think about what each one would really want (in all four categories) versus what they would want in a certain price range. So Averson might get two awesome $3 animal books and Syd might get a really great $25 hardback. In previous years I would have felt the need to get Avery six more books, even if I didn't think she'd love them. Please refer back to the crazy mentioned above...

So so far it's working. I have the girls almost completely done and I'm finishing up on Eli. I need to buy them their Santa gifts though and I can't really decide which direction to go there. I'm thinking one more of the "want" gifts? In our house, Santa does stockings and one or two not-the-awesomest gifts (because I'm selfish and want credit for the good stuff.) I'm not ridiculously out of money, I'm excited about what each kid is getting, and it's not even December and I'm half done with my shopping. Then I can focus on my house angst and stressing out over New Year's Resolutions like a normal person!

I'm curious how you all handle the Christmas crazy? Do you have a strategy for your shopping? Does Santa bring the good stuff? Also, I still need to fill stockings and shop for the adults so if you have any ideas, toss them my way!


  1. For me, I don't find Christmastime to be stressful or crazy and I think that boils down to a few things.

    (1) My Christmas Spreadsheet. I have a feeling the whole idea of a spreadsheet would MAKE Christmas stressful for some, but for me, it is where I jot down gift ideas for each kid and all the other people I buy for, and then fill in the amount and a check mark when I've made the purchase. I start it sometime in the fall- whenever I have my first gift idea, and check it pretty regularly starting sometime in early November and just muse over it for a few minutes - do I still like that idea for Claire? Do I want to replace one of my items for Landon with a thing he saw in a magazine last night? I jot down whatever changes or new ideas I want to add to the list and then close the doc. I don't think about it again until I open it back up a day or two later. It contains all my Christmas gift-buying thoughts. And then as I add check marks and solidify the list, I don't keep looking for other ideas because the check marks tell me that person is done. It's Dec. 1 and my list is done/closed and I just have boxes in my closet with presents I need to wrap. It's a system that just works for me.

    (2) The other thing is picking the holiday-type-things that matter to me. Decorating the house early so I can enjoy it matters. Making my great-great-grandma's sugar cookies matters. Little things like new pj's for the Christmas tree decorating and watching Christmas movies during cozy nights matter. Elf on the Shelf does not. Going to every Christmas special/display in town does not. Getting out my Christmas cards by mid-December does. Pick a few things you genuinely enjoy doing (or genuinely enjoy the results of) and stick with them. They'll become your traditions and your kids will crave and love them too and ignore or say no to the rest.

    I don't at all mean this to sound preachy (I just read it and it sounds like I'm ordering you around), this is just how it's worked out for me!

    (Oh as for gift-buying, the kids get one moderately priced (~$30) thing from us to open Christmas Eve (which is when we open ALL Christmas presents that aren't from Santa; I try to make it something practical but also cool because while they're still believers, it's the only one I get credit for!), one "big" Santa gift for Christmas morning (~$50, but sometimes more if it's the year they need a new bike or something), and stocking stuffers (that no matter how hard I try always add up to around $50: books, a new journal, pens, sunglasses, card games, chap stick, fun socks, tiny plastic princess, etc.). It's enough to be substantive but it feels under control.)

    Happiest holidays to you! I hope you find what works for you!

  2. I don't know how I a just seeing this post, but I totally blame Feedly.

    I am going to try to get Ben on board with the 4 categories next year. I did not interpret them like that and got hung up at the idea of only 4 things.

    TOTALLY agree on the money thing-- it's all about NUMBER of gifts to open in my book. I also do a spreadsheet which is super handy because either of us can shop the highlighted items and then mark them as purchased and then about a week before we haul out all the shit and make sure the piles look roughly even. Next year, I am going to keep track of what each item costs on the spreadsheet so in 2019 I will have a workable Christmas budget.

    This year, I am only buying nice stuff for stockings. It might cost more, but I am sick of the JUNK.