Christmas is a hard time for many. Despite being a time of family and joy, it often can be a reminder of the stresses and problems in all our lives. If you are finding it hard to enjoy the holidays, or you know someone who is struggling, here are some suggestions to make the season brighter for everyone:
First, make sure you’re prepared. There’s nothing worse than getting excited about a gift and then realizing you forgot to buy it. If you’re worried about money, make a list of the top five things you want to get for each person on your list. If you have a limited budget, look at the prices of all the items on the list and see if you can’t trim it down by cutting down on some of the most expensive items. If there are some things that are a bit out of your price range, see if you can give an alternative gift or create a homemade gift instead. Your creativity can be just as appreciated as anything in a store.
If money is really tight, consider asking friends and family for non-cash gifts such as homemade cookies or dinner for your family or even coupons that would allow them to take care of chores around your house – clean your car, wash your windows or mow your yard. Coupons are especially easy to redeem and often people don’t mind doing them because they get to help someone they care about without spending any money!
If you are worried about a family member who is struggling financially, offer to help them with some of their Christmas shopping. You could ask them what they would like to buy for themselves or others and go shopping together or you could give them a gift certificate for a store (or even cash!) that they might not have the money for. If you have the time, you can always spend some of your own money on a couple of gifts that would help ease the stress of buying gifts.
Make sure you do something special at home for your family. This might be as simple as making hot cider or cocoa and putting candles on the table or as involved as having a big breakfast cooked by your relatives in the morning so everyone can relax and enjoy each other’s company instead of spending all day in the kitchen.
If you’ve already bought gifts for people on your list, but are worried that they will be too expensive for others on their own lists, don’t worry! Gift-exchange parties are very popular during this time of year (especially with young adults). You can plan one yourself – ask people who have plans with their friends or family over Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to bring an inexpensive gift for someone else in attendance. Or if there’s a neighborhood group in which everyone gets together regularly (such as book club), just ask them if they’d like to do a gift exchange during their next meeting instead… many people will be happy just knowing that someone cared enough to think about them even though they couldn’t afford much of anything!
Finally, volunteer at an organization that helps those in need during this holiday season. Many organizations like homeless shelters are struggling with high numbers of people looking for help right now and could use extra help around the holidays. Also, consider donating sports equipment or other toys and electronics so children can enjoy their childhood even though their parents can’t provide them with much. Even if everyone doesn’t get what they want this year, at least they’ll have more than many others in our world!