Our First Minimalist Family Christmas

For weeks, I’ve been trying to write a blog post about Christmas, but continually got lost for words after the first paragraph. I kept thinking I should share how much it’s cost me this year ($500), what that money paid for (a few gifts, donations, cards and lots of postage) or how my family decided to do things differently this year… but it all felt trivial.

I don’t want to associate Christmas with money anymore. I know it’s typically the most expensive month of the year, but I still don’t want to associate Christmas with dollar signs; that’s not what it’s supposed to be about. For the first time, I’m going to make it through the holidays without an ounce of stress, because I’m not worried about what I need to buy or how much I should spend. Instead, the only thing that’s on my mind is relaxing and spending time with loved ones.

I suppose much of this does come back to the decision my family made about how to handle gifts this year. It only took one discussion for us to agree that we’re all adults, we all make our own money and buy whatever we want anyway, and we don’t want to be gifted anything we don’t actually need. So, rather than buy a bunch of gifts for the sake of exchanging them, we decided we’d all pitch in, each get a $100 stocking, and only ask for things that will fulfill a need or serve a purpose.

Dad asked us to replace his watch. Mom asked for an iPod to bring to the gym. Baby Sis asked for jeans. Baby Bro asked for more thermal shirts and socks (to survive in Edmonton). And I asked for a new pair of TOMS, because the only pair I have need to be thrown out (and yet I still wear them every day), and a bottle of nude nail polish, because I used the last of mine. (Also notice I only asked for things I’m not allowed to buy during the shopping ban.)

Could we have asked for more? Of course. But do we actually need anything more? No. No, no, no. A thousand times, no. Truthfully, we haven’t even all reached our $100 limits. My TOMS and nail polish only brought me up to $70, and I couldn’t think of anything else for my family to buy me… so that’s what I’m getting, and I am freaking ecstatic about it. Sure, there won’t be many surprises tomorrow morning, but again… that’s not what Christmas is about.

Christmas is about waking up and cooking a big breakfast together. Putting a turkey in the oven and waiting in anticipation all day. Sipping coffee and tea, while snacking on sweets and other treats. Taking the dogs for a walk. Visiting with extended family and friends. Reflecting, sharing and laughing. Making new memories. Finally filling up on turkey and Mom’s stuffing. Then sitting by the fire and watching Christmas movies until we all fall asleep. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

I think we’re onto something with this minimalist Christmas of ours. May it be the first of many.

Merry Christmas, friends. xo

Flickr: photographybyemmapointon

  • That sounds wonderful! I love that your entire family is all on the same page about gifts–that’s truly awesome. We’re having a low-key, low-spend Christmas as well and couldn’t be happier. Actually our day sounds pretty similar to yours… eating festive treats, walking frugal hound, and cuddling by the tree :). I hope you have a very merry Christmas!

  • Merry Christmas Cait, to you and your family. Many blessings and I wish for you all another important gift – the gift of health, peace and happiness. You’re right, Christmas (and life in general, the year round) shouldn’t be so materialistic and associated with dollar signs. There are other riches to discover.

    • Merry Christmas, Rob! Good health is definitely at the top of my wishes for all family and friends. Hope you guys have fun with all your kids and grandkids :)

  • I like the gift plan! Everyone is getting what they actually need. I often wonder why the gift thing has to be such a secret. I’d rather buy something I know the person wants and needs.
    I’m impressed that you actually ran out of nail polish. I’ve never done that!
    My family agreed to a no gift Christmas. I followed the rules, but I’m waiting to see if my family did as well.

    Merry Christmas Cait!

    • Truthfully, we’ve never been very good about buying secret gifts… at least not since we were all kids. As teenagers/adults, we’ve always asked for things we actually need, but sprinkled in a few more wants than this year. Somehow, though, 2014 feels like our richest year yet.

      Here’s hoping your whole family followed the rules! But don’t feel bad if your parents sneak in a gift. It’s hard for them not to ;)

      Merry Christmas, Kate!

  • I so agree. We have scaled down our Christmas this year as well. After visiting an orphanage in Kenya this summer, the whole Christmas spending spree seems just too much. I already got my Christmas present, both my sons are home for Christmas, and the orphans have moved to a new, safer location. Nothing else I need.

  • 1) Merry Christmas!

    2) Can you come and have a serious talk with my family about this? Honestly this is the first year since being in school that I’ve actually felt significantly stressed about Christmas and money. In the past I’ve had a very set list of who I had to buy for but this year it seems like there have been a bunch of last minute purchases that have popped up and ruined my budget, and most of them were a “well she got me something so I should get her something!” nature.

    On top of that, my sister suggested that next year we drop the Secret Santa format and each buy a $50 present for each sibling, which would triple my sibling budget. Her reasoning was that “we’re all adults and have jobs now.” to which I responded “Exactly, we’re all adults now, we shouldn’t be exchanging gifts at all”.

    Ugh. I’m worried I’m going to have to play the scrooge card next year and shut down all this Christmas ridiculousness.

    • I’m hoping our Christmases stay like this forever – or at least until my siblings and I have kids, and get to play Santa. That’ll be fun. But stockings-only for the adults sounds perfect.

      I wonder if you could bring it up earlier in the year? We had this chat back in early November, but maybe you could try to bring it up in Sept/Oct, to at least plant the seed?

      Anyway, don’t worry about it yet… what’s done is done this year, and tomorrow is the big day. I hope you guys have a wonderful holiday, Jordann – your last one living in NB!

      Merry Christmas :)

  • I love this idea! I know we’re looking at scaling back on the present overload as well. My mom suggested we start drawing names for the adults, and I think it makes a lot of sense. With the family expanding through marriage and children, the number of presents to purchase is exploding. I think I’m going to run your guys’ idea past the family as well :)

    I have to laugh about your brother’s request for thermals and socks. We’ve actually had a pretty mild winter so far ;)

    Merry Christmas Cait. I hope you have a wonderful time over the holidays. *hug*

    • I guess his room is drafty, gets cold quickly, etc. so he mostly wants them for when he’s in there. But yes, I complained about it being cold here last night and he laughed at me. I think it’s acclimatizing to your nonsense ;)

      And do run the idea by your family, or pull names from hats. We’ve promised we’re all abiding by the rules, so it’s going to be a really relaxed (and budget-friendly) holiday.

      Merry Christmas, Cassie! xo

  • Merry Christmas, and congratulations on taking the financial stress out of the holidays! It’s lovely that your family did this together, because it can definitely be hard when only a fraction of the family wants to a minimalist Christmas and the rest wants to spend, spend, spend!

    • Yes, it would’ve been tough if even one of us wasn’t into the idea… thank goodness we were all on board! Merry Christmas, Aleksandra.

  • Sounds like a wonderful Christmas! Good for your whole family for realizing what’s important and taking the stress out of one of the best days of the year.

  • Ours is very low key this year too and it’s been really nice to have less stress. We’ve been ramping down these last few years and it feels great. Now that family members are starting to have kids, I’m sure it’s about to turn so hopefully we’ll be able to manage to keep it low stress/less buying and rushing around with little ones in the mix too. I really enjoyed something I read on a blog about how to buy gifts for kids – Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. We tried to stick to that route with our nephew and hopefully whenever we decide to have kids we can encourage our families to minimize as well!

    Merry Christmas Cait!

    • Whoa, I really like that, Britt! I’ll have to remember that whenever I have kids. I bought my niece two puzzles + a book, and I bought my nephew some long-sleeved shirts + a toy truck. They’re the only kids I buy for, and we played with everything last night… so I’d say it was a job well done. (Plus shopping for them is fun, which always helps.) Merry Christmas!

  • What a wonderful idea. I plan on broaching the subject of this with my family next year (it is too late this year and with the first Christmas of my niece and the first Christmas all of my immediate family spent together in a decade it wasn’t the year).

    My favourite part of Christmas has always been my stocking. I love the new notebooks and pens and desk calendars and socks . . . All the little things I rarely by myself. That is what I want to keep if we need to keep anything. My 92 year old grandmother is very generous this time of year (she wants to know what we are spending our inheritance on) and that money I used to purchase some needed furniture. It is really these big things that I need and I can save for them. Although I do greatly appreciate it and know the pleasure my email with pictures (yes my 92 yr old grandmother emails) of my purchases bring her.

    My favourite part of Christmas is the food and playing board games. If we kept the cookies, turkey and games I would be happy! We will see what next year brings!

    Merry Christmas!

    • Board games! That’s something the Flanders have never really dived into… but maybe I’ll make that happen next year. ;)

      Enjoy that + the cookies and turkey! Merry Christmas, Kristen :)

  • This is something we’ve been coming up against with my family as well. We are all adults, with good jobs and can buy our own luxuries or necessities without being gifted them. I might need to breach the subject with my parents and brother and do the $100 limit each.

    Have a very Happy Holiday Cait :)

    • Definitely have that convo! Or set a different limit if $100 seems too restrictive, or pull names from hats, or whatever! I don’t see why we can’t get creative and try something new at Christmas. It’s certainly saved our sanity (and budget).

      Merry Christmas, Alicia!

  • this sounds wonderful! i love that you added in there walking the dog. I love taking Kea out on Christmas day, when you pass by people on the street or see families getting in and out of cars everyone is smiling, and they smile back at you. it’s a lovely feeling. Merry Christmas!!

  • I’m a little late in saying this… Merry Christmas Cait!

    Your Christmas sounds wonderful. Wish I could get my family on board with something like this. I hate to sound ungrateful but I got a number of things that I think were quite pricey that I have no use for and no storage for. No one seems to understand that I live in a small apartment and have to think very carefully about the items that I bring in to keep it from getting too cluttered.

    I got myself a cat on my birthday and I still haven’t figured out where all of her items (mainly litter and food) are going to be stored. I certainly didn’t need to bring another 4 boxes of new belongings in to my apartment.

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