Christmas is coming!
If that statement sends a bit of excitement up your spine and then is immediately followed by a brief shudder of anxiety, then read on.
Christmas is that unique time of year where Christian couples have an amazing opportunity—to fall into a trap.
One of the biggest traps of the enemy in the modern Christmas-era is distracting and stressing out Christians during the holidays. We can be so focused on getting our family Christmas stuff and getting our schedules right, that we miss this opportunity to minister to the unbelieving souls around us. Friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers seem to put their guards down just a little and are more open to talking about spiritual things around Christmastime.
Our prayer at MarriageRoots is that you and your spouse enjoy all that this Christmas season has to offer, but that you are able to do it with margin—margin in your time, money, and emotions.
Let’s be honest: if you’re maxed out on your time and money this season, you simply won’t have the emotional margin to slow down and invest in the hurting, inquiring people the Lord puts in your path this holiday season.
Now, can we mention how close the Christmas season actually is? If Thanksgiving is your marker, then we are only two months away!
The best way to avoid this all-too-common, impending Christmas stress trap is to start planning now for the things you know are coming up.
If you and your spouse discuss these 3 areas now, you’ll be setting yourselves up for a less-stressed Christmas:
- Christmas Gifts Budget
- Holiday Schedule
- The End Goal of Christmas
Budgeting and Saving for Christmas Gifts
One of our favorite rants of Dave Ramsey in his Financial Peace University class is when he makes fun of those of us who are “surprised” by Christmas every year. Dave screams, “It comes the same time every year!! Budget for it!!!”Hopefully, most of you started setting aside money each month since last Christmas, and you are ready to go for this season. For the rest, this is your 2-month notice. You have approximately 8 weeks until Thanksgiving.
It’s pretty straightforward advice here. We even have a free worksheet you can download to walk you and your spouse through these questions and the math:
- What amount are we comfortable spending on Christmas this year?
- Who are we going to buy for?
- What’s our budget for each person?
- What about money for other Christmas expenses? (e.g. Christmas cards, decorations, parties, etc.) If so, how much for each of these areas?
- Do we want to set aside a certain amount to bless others?
- Where is this money coming from?
- How much do we need to set aside each week so we can be ready by Thanksgiving?
Simply by agreeing on a Christmas budget with your spouse—and then protecting that budget at all costs—offers a huge opportunity for a less-stressed Christmas season (and post-Christmas season).
Protecting Your Holiday Schedule
Here are some questions you could discuss with your spouse:
- Was last year’s holiday schedule too hectic?
- If so, what are some commitments we could cut out?
- Were there any special events we regret not doing last year? What events need to be added?
- Do we want to schedule any special shopping trips?
- When are we traveling to see his family? Her family?
- Do we both agree this year’s Christmas schedule is balanced?
Again, every family needs to leave some margin in their time to serve and minister to others as the Holy Spirit leads. If our schedules are packed, we will be more focused on getting to the next thing, and we might miss the whisper of the Holy Spirit to stop and minister. Protect your schedule.
The Goal of Christmas: Start with a Proper Perspective
Discuss and Review Current Family Christmas Traditions
Whether we were intentional about creating them or not, we already have Christmas traditions in place. It’s wise for a couple to ask some intentional questions about the Christmas traditions you’ve let seep into your family and decide if you want to keep them or if they need replacing. Here are some questions to reflect on:
- What are some of our current family Christmas traditions?
- Did we choose these traditions or did they just kind of happen?
- Do our current traditions make more of Jesus or more of Santa?
- What do we want to teach our kids about Santa?
- How will we handle the “Is there a Santa?” conversation?
- Do we have traditions that offer our family an opportunity to give to others? (e.g., family volunteer opportunities, buying gifts for less fortunate, etc.)
- What can we add this year (a story book, Scripture reading, movie, video teaching, etc.) to help our family understand the meaning of Christmas more than they did last year?
Remembering It’s All About People
Can you remember the differences between Christmas 2009 and Christmas 2013? Probably not. And neither will your kids. That toy you stressed about getting for your kid last year…yeah, they don’t remember it.
If you’re going to stress about something, stress about saying “no” to busting your budget or adding that extra thing to your calendar.
Be intentional this Christmas season. Protect your budget and protect your schedule so that your family can have the time, money, and emotional margin to minister to others.
BONUS: After-Christmas Tips
1) How do I control myself on after Christmas sales?
As you do your budget for this Christmas, don’t forget to add some post-Christmas shopping money. This will be your best time to get 80% off Christmas decorations for next year. Set the money aside now, and you’ll have less stress when you see a good sale at Hobby Lobby on December 26th.
2) What do we do with all those Christmas cards after Christmas?
Here’s a great idea we heard from Jena Shockley, one of our MarriageRoots readers in Ruston, LA: “Take all the cards you received and put them in a box near your breakfast table. Each morning, take out the top card and have your family pray for that family at mealtime. The next morning, put that card in the back of the stack and grab the next one.Throughout the year, as you get wedding invitations, thank you cards, baby announcements, etc., add those into your stack of cards too.” This is a great habit to move your family to an others-centered attitude on a daily basis.
3) What do we do with these gifts we’ll never use?
Here’s what one MarriageRoots reader said she does…She invites a handful of friends over the week after Christmas, and they all bring a GOOD gift they received but just isn’t their style. They play one more round of Dirty Santa to end the season. Everyone goes home with hopefully a gift they can really use.