It’s that time of the year when the air smells of holidays.
Christmas decorations are popping up everywhere you look, and it feels like carols have been playing since Halloween.
Ok, maybe you’re just imagining the carols, but you can’t ignore the hopeful look on your children’s faces when they spot a new toy, a game, or the latest gadget they’d like to get their cute little hands on.
You know you’re tempted to buy it all and do it all, and who can blame you? This is especially true if the children’s father has a tendency to spoil them with extravagant presents.
Stop trying to make ‘the perfect Christmas’ happen!
That’s not a dream, it’s an obsession. Instead of letting yourself dragged into a mad race to exhaustion and bankruptcy, you can learn how to survive the holidays and still get everything your children want.
Make plans with their dad
Do this now and save yourselves a lot of trouble (and money!) down the road.
- Agree on a budget and a range of gifts you are both comfortable with
- Arrange visit times for both families
- Make travel plans and book transport if necessary, to avoid the extra charges that come with the holiday season
Possible link to the other article you mentioned, about putting children first
Do your shopping early
Nothing stifles the holiday spirit quite as easily as last minute shopping, ‘out of stock’ signs, ‘no return’ policies, and the always-dreaded “batteries not included”.
And wrapping paper! (Did you notice how it makes itself invisible right when you need it?)
Let’s see some of the benefits of shopping before the holiday season even begins:
- You can take the time to analyze and compare features, prices, size charts, labels – anything that will tell you what exactly it is you are purchasing and for how much
- That uber-fantastic-must-have toy will be in stock
- You avoid holiday-related price surges
- You have time to buy batteries, make sure everything works, and return what doesn’t (no sad faces on Christmas morning, no money wasted)
Have a staycation
Instead of splurging on a mountain ski resort getaway, or a Christmas on the beach, go out and experience your own hometown during the holidays. Create a Christmas-themed scavenger hunt, visit the local landmarks and see how many items you can find. Take lots of pictures and put them in a special album. The memories will be priceless!
Plan your holiday activities for the children ahead of time
Holiday crafts, baking, parties, decorating – you name it. Plan it now, buy what you need as soon as possible, enjoy the hassle-free activities later. Make a list of craft supplies, decorations, ingredients etc. and stock up your inventory.
If your kids participate to any group activities, talk to the other moms and agree on what each of you should bring. You won’t need to purchase EVERYTHING for a party.
Here are some other activities you can plan for:
- Organizing a ‘secret Santa’
Either between your children (if you have three or more), or within their peer group – it’s fun for the kids and easy on your wallet. Agree on a budget ahead of time, and let the children pick the presents (within reason).
- Crafting presents for friends and family members
Grandparents will love a heartfelt, handmade gift from their beloved grandchildren.
- Crafting decorations
You can do all sorts of things with the simplest of items. Little ones can do the ‘paperwork’, and older kids (young teenagers?) can try their hand at decorating glass ornaments. Supplies are cheap (snow globe in a jar, anyone?), and you can make it your own tradition.
Because no child will ever utter the words: “I don’t like cookies”.
You can even make a larger batch of dough ahead of time, freeze it, and use it as needed throughout the festive season. Look for a versatile recipe to which you can add toppings and you’ll have a quick and inexpensive holiday treat for the little ones!
Don’t crowd your schedule with too many activities
Even in the best of scenarios, you can’t do ‘Christmas stuff’ day in and day out through the holiday season. You need a break, the kids need a break – hey, even Santa needs a break!
Picture this: you spent the day with your children outside, in the snow, playing, taking pictures and freezing your noses off. On a scale of 1 to 10, how unlikely would it be for you to have the energy for an evening of baking? Or crafts? Or the cleanup that follows either of those?
About a 20? Agreed.
Alternate the periods of intense activity with periods of rest to rescue both your sanity and your budget.
Resting can still be holiday themed! Following the previous example, you could go for an evening of reading stories, or watching Christmas movies, while sipping hot chocolate. Mmm… I think we’re all looking forward to resting now!
Keep it simple
Ultimately, you have to remember that your children won’t care about how many parties they attended, how many relatives they visited, or even how many presents they received.
…Remember to take a break
As a single mother, trying to create an ideal Christmas experience will likely not allow you too much time to yourself. Let go of all the things you think you should still be doing.
Enjoy the time your children are away from home (with their father, grandparents, at parties or sleepovers etc.). How about creating traditions for yourself?
- Treat yourself to a glass of mulled wine (certainly an adults’ treat)
- Go to a party (for grown-ups) – or throw your own, if you so fancy
- Plan ahead for a present for yourself, wrap it up, and allow yourself the joy of rediscovering it at Christmas
- Go on a date – let the magic of the season do its thing
- Decorate your entire house and let the surprise strike your children when they return
- Finish wrapping presents – no more hiding from curious eyes!
How do you spend the holidays with your children? What do you do to stay within your budget?