no-spend Christmas + a two happy results from the experiment

This year I wanted to try something new as we prepare our home and hearts for Christmas. I've always loved an Advent reading plan (see here and here and here for past Advent examples) and steering our attentions away from gifts and Santa Claus and towards Christ (see here for why we don't do Santa), but there was one area I was still letting get away - our budget. 

This year I decided to spend nothing on Christmas-themed things and non-essentials. Brad and I have never given each other gifts for Christmas and we've always made sure that the gifts weren't our kid's favourite part about the holiday, but the over-spending in other areas needed to stop. 

Vowing not to spend anything beyond a modest gift budget this season I'm realizing how much I overspend every year on all things Christmas - new décor, ornaments, wrapping supplies, Christmas themed books, Advent-related materials, and more. All the things I spend money on during the holidays are good things. We are Christmas people! Of course we can justify another Advent book ($25), the tradition of giving the kids a new ornament every year ($30), some new decorations ($40), and supplies ($50) for all the festivities.  But do we need any of it? In fact, I wonder if sometimes these good things have distracted me.

It's not even about the money at the end of the day. Sure, this experiment has probably saved me $150 or more, but it's been more about stepping away from consuming at a time of year when my attentions so easily drift from the manger in Bethlehem towards materialism. The conscious decision to not allow for extra spending this year has reminded me that the joy of the season isn't because of a beautifully decorated house or the latest Advent book, or the sweetest new ornaments. Christmas joy comes from Christ, God who became man to come and save us. The rest - the traditions and decorations and goods that come together to create the background for this joy are meaningful, but they aren't the true source of our joy. 

Apart from our focus being off consuming this season, which is reason enough to celebrate, I've noticed two lovely results in this experiment - flourishing creativity and bolstered minimalism. I used to get a real thrill out of creating but over the years, and after three kids, I find I rarely have time to create with my hands. Sure, I exercise creativity on my Instagram account and in cooking or decorating my home, but actual DIY projects are hard to come by in our home these days. Well not having the ability to buy anything new, but still loving change, has lead to a few little DIY projects this year using only things we already have. The nativity set above is an example - it was the barn of another set which has really colourful plastic figurines, and the white ceramic set never had a barn. I love the white and wood pairing and would never have thought of it if I weren't stretching my creativity as a result of this spending freeze. 

A fresh resolve towards minimalism is another welcome change. As I've slowly been taking out all of our Christmas decor this week, I've actually come across various pieces that we don't need and given them to friends. I'm so tempted all the time to buy new things (even from thrift stores or Dollarama which cost next to nothing), when in reality I have too much and would do better to work with what I have and pare down. One purging trick I always use is to bring everything out of my closet and really examine it before putting it back in my closet. Looking at my closet I may think I wear everything, but in taking everything out, trying pieces on, taking a closer look, I almost always set aside a few pieces for charity before putting everything back. It's the same with Christmas decorations, I've learned! Even before looking through our Christmas stock I was finding myself tempted at the shops to buy a few more pieces to deck our halls, and instead we have fewer goods than before. 

I'm not saying I'll stick to the spending ban every Christmas, but this year it's been so refreshing and helpful. It's helped us break poor spending habits, organize and minimize our holiday goods, create meaningful decorations with what we have, save money, and mostly, not focus on our stuff but on Immanuel - God with us. Maybe our wallets will be a bit freer to open and give, our home will be less cluttered to invite others in, and our hearts will be more focused on what really matters. 


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