An Inexpensive Family Christmas Activity

Christmas Competitions Post

Guest post from Carissa of Pretty/Hungry

The most magical Christmases in my memory have been the ones where the people, the conversations, the laughter, and the love stand out above any of the gifts I gave or got.

It’s for this reason that I believe having a budget can truly enhance our Christmas spirit and our appreciation for special Holidays with those we love. The budget forces us to get creative… and oftentimes, it results in more “together” time because we’re choosing to play a game at home rather than go out to a movie theater or shopping mall.

One year in particular, I organized a Cookie Decorating contest. I had found a huge Christmas tree cookie cutter at a thrift store (for FREE!) and it became the centerpiece of our (now annual) Christmas tree decorating contest!

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I baked up a big batch of cutout sugar cookies ahead of time (1 tree per person), and everyone contributed decorations and icing. We then had a big decorating party!

The idea was simple. After everybody in the family (young & old) had decorated a tree cookie, we then took a picture of each tree and posted the photos in a public album on Facebook. We asked people to “Like” any/all of the trees they thought were good. And at the end of the voting period, the tree with the most “likes” was declared the winner!

My brother-in-law surprised us all by decorating the winning cookie! (The brown one with Santa Claus on it.)

winning cookie

We all loved looking at each other’s creative ideas, and it was nearly impossible to choose a favorite! But even better than the lovely finished cookies, was the time we all spent together working on a common activity.

Many of us have gotten married since that year, which means we’re rarely all together for the same holidays anymore. That makes the memory of decorating those cookies together all the more special. I will never forget the fun of that Christmas!

Carissa is a wife and mother of a sweet 1-year old girl. She loves the Lord, her family, and cooking! In recent years her family has made drastic cuts to their budget in order to start saving to build a home. Carissa blogs at Pretty/Hungry about all her kitchen creations!

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Less Holiday Stress, More Memories

How to Overcome Holiday Stress and Make More Memories

During the month of October, I’m following along with Edie & Ruth on their 31 Days of Less & More journey. I’d love for you to join in by reading the posts and completing the projects, or just sit back and read along each day.

Less Holiday Overkill

I love the Christmas season. I love the sights, smells, tastes, sounds… all of it. But you know what I don’t love? That so many people feel rushed, hurried, and frazzled during Christmas.

The heart of Christmas is not about impressing people or running around at a crazy, frantic speed. And making either of those things your focus is certainly not going to help you celebrate and savor the season!

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Here are three ways you can simplify the busy holiday season:

1. Pare down the gift-giving.

Evaluate your gift list: Do you really need to give a gift to your uncle’s neighbor’s dog? I’m pretty sure Fido will survive just fine without another fancy chew toy, so save your money and use it to buy gifts for those you really care about or want to bless.

Creating limits for how many gifts you buy helps to simplify things. I know some families who give their children three gifts in three different categories (such as: something to wear, something to read, and something fun).

Our family doesn’t have specific limits or categories for what we give our children, but we’ve opted to just keep it to a few really meaningful gifts for each child. This allows us to really savor each gift as it’s opened, instead of being overwhelmed by a massive pile of presents.

2. Prioritize.

If you want to have a stress-free and simple season, you aren’t going to be able to do everything. Take 15 minutes sometime in the next few days to sit down and write out what the important things are for you and your family this Christmas season. Each person’s list is going to look different—and that’s perfectly okay.

Maybe you love to make homemade gifts but you really couldn’t care less about sending out cards. Perhaps you want to volunteer your time to bless those who are less fortunate but you really don’t have any desire to attend a lot of parties with people don’t know very well. Or, you really want to do fun and meaningful activities with your children but you really don’t enjoy baking at all. Know what you want to invest your time and effort into this holiday season, then say no to opportunities and invitations that aren’t in line with your priorities.

Free Holiday Planning Workbook

Download free Holiday Planning Worksheets from LivingWellSpendingLess.com

3. Plan ahead.

After you’ve decided upon your priorities for this holiday season, it’s time to make a game plan. Look at your calendar and commitments for the next eight weeks and think of everything you can do to prepare ahead of time so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.

Make sugar cookie dough ahead of time and freeze it so it’s ready for that cookie-decorating party or to give to your neighbors. Go ahead and buy all of the necessary items to make the goody baskets for the homeless shelter. Buy or make hostess gifts to have on hand for last-minute party invitations. Check your closet to make sure you have outfits for the holiday parties you’ll be attending. Finish your shopping early and avoid the mad rush of crowds and traffic the final few days before Christmas.

The more you pare down, prioritize, and plan ahead, the more you’ll be able to relax and soak in all the memories and moments of the holidays — and focus on celebrating the reason for the season. And that’s what will really matter long after the elaborate decorations, fancy parties, and expensive gifts are forgotten.

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More Memories

One thing that has helped us to slow down and just enjoy December is to create a Christmas Bucket List. We all sit down as a family and choose a few things that each of us really wants to do for Christmas.

Last year, the girls wanted to build a snowman, play in the snow as a family, decorate Christmas cookies, and go ice-skating. I wanted to do an Advent project and take the girls to the Nutcracker, Jesse wanted to go look at Christmas lights as a family and watch one of our favorite Christmas movies together.

By the time we’re done discussing our Bucket List, we’ve come up with a great list of memorable activities to do together and since everyone gave their input, there’s something (or more than one thing) on the list that each person will really enjoy.

We spread these activities out during the whole month of December, doing a few items each week. Because our list is not long and overwhelming and because we have four weeks to do it, we’re able to really take time to enjoy each thing and create beautiful memories.

This tradition has been one of the best things we’ve ever implemented to help us stay focused, calm, and intentional during the Christmas season. And it also helps us to say “no” to most of the other ideas and opportunities that come up that aren’t already on our list.

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For more on this topic, check out Ruth’s post on Less Holiday Overkill and Edie’s post on More Memories. I promise you’ll be inspired and blessed!

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