First and foremost, I hope you enjoyed a relaxing holiday with your loved ones. Christmas really snuck up on me this year, likely because of the weather in South Dakota. Normally by now we would have had at least two or three accumulating snowfalls with bitterly cold temps starting to set in. It has been unseasonably warm the past few weeks, with highs even in the 50s. That is almost unheard of around here! This may be the first year in my nearly 20 years of living in South Dakota that we haven’t had a white Christmas. While I love the weather, the emergency manager in me is worried about the potential for a nasty drought next summer if we don’t start getting some moisture in the form of snow pack. I refuse to pay to water my lawn, and it can’t handle another drought!
December may be a profitable month for some who generally receive a nice bonus from their employer. I wish that was the case for me, but since I work in government, I don’t see that happening anytime soon! More often than not, this tends to be a stressful time of year, and I think a lot of it is centered around the cost. According to a Gallup poll, adults in the US estimate that they will spend an average of $885 on gifts this year, and 33% of people think they will spend more than $1000. That is a significant chunk of change! As an adult, I’ve never been a big fan of exchanging Christmas gifts or, honestly, this Christmas season as a whole. It probably stems from the fact that I am not terribly close with my family – I talk to my mom every day but aside from her, I don’t really interact with any of my other family members. There are a handful of other random relatives I may be friendly with, but overall, the family is pretty fractured and dysfunctional (I know, I know, everyone says their family is dysfunctional but seriously, I think mine takes the cake).
Christmas is supposed to be about gathering with loved ones, and sometimes I wish that’s how it was for me. I am envious of immediate families that are extremely close and loving. Mine just isn’t that way. I often find myself trying to ignore acknowledging the upcoming holiday for as long as possible and avoiding coworkers and acquaintances asking about holiday plans. I generally treat Christmas like any other day. I’m thankful to have the day off work and try to keep it as relaxing as possible.
This year, I decided not to buy any Christmas presents. I did end up buying an air fryer for my boyfriend, but that was more of a thank you gift than anything since he’s been such a major help with the home improvement projects we’ve been working on at my house. He’s used it several times already, so I know it was a practical gift. I made my decision clear to everyone who I thought may buy something for me. While I understand the thoughtful gesture behind gift giving, I just don’t find it necessary.
I have become much more experience-focused rather than tangible item-focused over the past couple of years. I would love to meet up and go for a walk, have dinner, or see a movie if someone wants to acknowledge our camaraderie in that way. Since this is a busy time of year as well, it doesn’t even need to happen around the holiday – it can be an IOU for whenever. With gift giving, however, I often find myself with an item I can’t or won’t use (but feel guilty about donating or re-gifting) or with an item that I will use but then I feel obligated to buy an item of similar value for them to reciprocate. Trying to find the perfect gift that’s as useful/thoughtful to them as theirs was for me can be incredibly stressful. That’s why I’ve decided to give up gift giving altogether. If someone still chooses to give me a present, that’s nice and I will appreciate it, but I didn’t want anyone to feel compelled to do so.
Christmastime has become a virtually stress-free event for me now. I don’t feel like I need to set aside a large sum of money to pay for gifts, and I don’t have to worry about giving some gifts and then receiving an unexpected one and needing to race to find one for them. I have made great strides in reducing the clutter around my home and being highly conscientious about what items I bring into it, so working to reduce the number of gifts I receive has been a huge help. I would rather pick something out on my own and fill my home with only items I truly love.
Side note – I am not, in any way, trying to shame people who love giving and receiving gifts around the holidays. If you’re one of those people, good for you! I wish I felt more joyous and in the Christmas spirit, but I just don’t. This is what works for me and I want to make it clear – regardless of which view you have, it is ok! It is completely your prerogative.
How have you reduced your spending and stress around Christmastime after starting your debt free/financial independence journey? Let me know in the comments!