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?


  1. We don't have children yet, but try to focus on experiences rather than material goods, as well as locally made products over completely commercial things. I hope that we can raise our children with a good sense of what Christmas is all about. :)

  2. I am hoping that part of your outlook on life is a reflection on how I tried to get things across to you. You turned out pretty good, I think at least!

  3. Not many parent's believe in teaching there children the respect like you do!
    i believe Black Friday need's to be outlawed but we all know that won't happen

  4. I really admire what you're teaching your children. Even for the best of them, I can imagine that "no presents" or even "fewer/less presents" is a difficult concept to swallow for most seven year olds.

    In my immediate family, we've pretty much done away with excessive gift giving at Christmas and birthdays for the same reasons as you. But I find myself more hesitant to bring it up with my boyfriend's family, for whom presents is still a non-negotiable part of Christmas.

  5. We have a limit of $100 per child every year.Split up into buying over a 2 month period. Their gifts are not electrical devices or junk toys but more exploration. They do get a few regular toys like a remote controller 4 wheeler with rider for our son, but they have to have something for entertaining alone play time, especially since our home is Estrogen dominated.My son will play dolls with sisters but lets admit it...remote control vehichles are fun to ram over stick forts that take an hour to build in the woods. lol. We usually do things like Art supplies or other mind stimulating items. I always hand make holiday gifts for others. Like embroidering French style Jar covers with crotcheted trim, to go with our Blackberry jams & Red wine Pear preserves. I make/design labels to go on the Homemade wines & Hard cider. I have never been a fan of this holiday and get rather Grumpy when the season comes around. Making the gifts does give me a better feeling about the holiday. The commercialsim bothers me greatly and even though we do not volunteer at soup kitchens or such, our children are raised to understand it is better to give then recieve. I have shared plenty of stories with them about my upbringing. Christmas mornings with nothing under a tree or special meals. Not to guilt them but when asked what is favorite childhood Christmas, I honestly answer I do not have one.
    I could go on & on with this comment, but already it is apearing as a post to your post. ;)
    Happy Holidays!

  6. Hello,

    I would love to talk to you about an issue that I feel is a hot topic in environmental news. I have written an article that I think your readers would be interested in seeing on your blog.

    I'm looking to promote that idea that by encouraging grocery shoppers to branch out from their usual selections and to join the local food movement, they can help create a more sustainable agricultural system.


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