Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holidays and living a frugal life...

First off, let me apologize for how long it has been since I have written anything here... sometimes life just gets in the way!

Today finds me thinking about the holiday season, and the very commercial way that it continues to evolve.  It amazed me that I could find Christmas things in the stores at the beginning of October this year.  Now, this is certainly not a new phenomenon, but it perplexes me nonetheless.  I am not a religious person, and Christmas to me signifies the time to remember and appreciate family, and anyone else that has put a bright spot in my life that year.  With two young children in the house, we do the tree and the gifts, of course, but I always try to show them that there is more to Christmas than those pretty packages hiding amongst the foliage. 

My son, who is turning 7 in a few weeks, always wants the latest "it" toy.  But half the time, he doesn't really even know what it is or what it does.  Am I bad mother because I sometimes say no, we are not buying it, you don't need it?  Quite the opposite, in my opinion.  I want my children to learn that things are simply material objects, and they usually won't make any difference in the grand scheme of things.

This week, a friend of mine put out a call to help a struggling family that she had met.  They had absolutely nothing.  A single mom, with 2 children close to the same age as my own, she is working long hours for little money, and couldn't hardly afford food for her children, let alone give them a "commercial-grade" Christmas like so many of us take for granted.  They had only a few cans of soup in the cupboard, and some blankets on the floor to sleep on.  I donated some things, including a crib for the little ones, and many others poured donations in as well.  Because these people understand the giving vs. receiving philosophy, this family is going to have an amazing Christmas, even though they don't know a single one of us!

My son and I had a long talk about this, about why we gave and what it means to both us, and this family.  He is learning that the reason I don't want Christmas gifts every year, and that I usually don't give many, is because I am content with what I have and don't think my relationships are based on what others can do for me, but how they make me feel about myself.  When I give a home-made gift, even if it cost very little, it is a personal thank you to the recipient, something that took thought and preparation.  I refuse to go spend money on "stuff".  We practiced "No Spending on Black Friday", like we do every year.  I am proud to say that my children are learning that money doesn't make things better, in the long run, and that they are going to grow up understanding that even though we don't have everything, they have so much more than most, simply because we choose to look at things a little differently.

What lessons do you try to teach your children this time of year?  Do you fall into the commercial Christmas trap, or are you trying to show them that there is a better way?