Do you struggle with Christmas stress? I want you to know that having a less stressful, joy-filled holiday season IS possible!

A large part of changing the way the Christmas season turns out for you and your family is addressing some of the attitudes or pressures that we may feel around this time of year and changing them so that we can turn the page and get a better grasp on cherishing the beauty and joy of Christmastime (and its surrounding holidays).

There are, I believe, 5 attitude changes that can help take the stress out of Christmas. I’ll address each one and provide some spiritual and emotional encouragement as well as suggest some practical solutions that will give you the strength to make lasting change, especially when it comes to your budget!

5 attitude changes that can take the stress out of Christmas

Attitude That Must Go #1

The belief that the holiday season is nothing more than an obligatory period of time where you must spend large amounts of money on other people in order to make them happy.

This idea can refer to anything from spending money on your kids’ gifts to buying expensive ingredients for holiday meals to feeling obligated to participate in every gift giving occasion that arises this time of year.

A short time ago, I received an email regarding giving a group gift, “suggesting” that we eat contribute a fairly sizeable amount of money to buy said item for the recipient. The problem is, I have a particular struggle with group gifts. I feel that our family can provide thoughtful gifts without having to part with a large amount of money every time we are asked. Gifts do not have to cost a lot to be meaningful. We would rather contribute larger monetary amounts to charities that we support.

It can be difficult though to transcend that expectation, especially when it can be found everywhere: work, our children’s school, and family gift exchanges requiring a certain dollar amount.

How to Turn this Attitude Around

Remember that you can be thoughtful without spending a lot of money. Start brainstorming and praying about ideas to bless others with gifts that are meaningful and useful and can also fit into your budget. Keep in mind that it is not about skimping on other people’s gifts so you can buy more things for yourself, but rather managing the money you do have in order to stay on budget and give generously in the areas that are most important to you. Don’t let expectations steal your joy. People are always going to be happy to ask you to part with larger amounts of money than you are comfortable with, but it is YOUR money! You can’t change what other people think, but you can politely say no. 

**We’ll talk more later in the series about two things that relate to this attitude: “unspoiling” your kids and budgeting for Christmas gift giving.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5, NASB

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Attitude That Must Go #2

The idea that we can make this season not be busy.

Here’s the honest truth: the Christmas season will be busy. There are simply more events that happen around this time of year: concerts, community events, family gatherings, parties, you name it. Rather than hoping that someday November and December will, as a general rule, “slow down”, I think the question we need to ask ourselves is this:

What aspects of the busyness we will allow ourselves to participate in?

Believe it or not, being a part of Christmas season busyness does affect our spending. If we attend every party and costly event, we will likely need to fork over a decent amount of cash to do so. 

How to Turn this Attitude Around 

Grab your planner, or wall calendar or just a free printable Microsoft Word calendar template and start compiling and filling in all the events that you have the opportunity to be a part of this season. Take control of your family’s schedule so you don’t have to stress over so many things!

  • Talk as a family about some ways that you can enjoy this time without spending too much. There are so many free events that take place around the holidays. We like driving around, eating cookies from home and looking at Christmas lights, which only costs a small amount of gas money.
  • Decide which events are not to be missed (the Christmas program at church or Thanksgiving at Grandma’s) and which ones can be tabled for another time. 
  • See if you can simplify a particular event so that you can have fun and stay within your budget. Maybe instead of going out to eat with work friends or mommy friends, you can invite everyone to your house and each bring an appetizer–great fun and great fellowship!

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

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Attitude That Must Go #3

The idea that we can just “pay for it later”. This thought process has gotten me in trouble many times! I admit that even though we’ve been living debt free, I will still overspend on Christmas cards, gifts and other holiday expenses. We’d always pay off the credit card we put purchases on, so I thought we were good to go! But really I could have been a better steward with our money, searching for better deals on gifts or other items.

How to Turn this Attitude Around 

In the past I’ve made an Excel spreadsheet with a list of gifts that I needed to purchase. We are by nature pretty frugal and so I didn’t have super high amounts that I was willing to spend on presents and more, but I didn’t actually give myself a dollar limit, so I was stuck scrambling to take money out of other areas of our budget in January in order to pay for Christmas spending.

This year I’m making a budget sheet that will give specific breakdowns of costs and allow me to list the highest amount I will pay for various gifts. I’ll incorporate my family’s wish lists and list out some possible expenses so that hopefully things don’t sneak up on us too much! I’ll give you a copy of my own budget sheet to download for yourself in a later post!

One of the biggest struggles can be finding a way to adjust the manner in which you exchange gifts with family. Also in the budget post, I’ll share with you three strategies I have used to find common ground regarding expectations for gift giving!

Who would build a tower without first sitting down and estimating the cost to be sure he has enough money to complete it? Luke 14:28

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My Leah, at age 3 1/2, in the church Christmas play

Attitude That Must Go #4

That traditions must be perfectly executed or expensive in order to be meaningful. That we must do things the same way we’ve always done them. 

During the Christmas season, I find myself struggling with perfection, which gives me much stress and leaves a black cloud hanging over my head! I always want to have the cutest gift bags, the nicest presents and the best-tasting treats. How silly! Because I am often held captive by these unrealistic expectations, I feel that I don’t really take the time to create meaningful traditions with my family because I always feel that the moment isn’t perfect enough or that there isn’t any time to fit in the things that really matter. Anyone with me?

Sometimes we may also feel that we need to do things the way they’ve always been done. This is the first year in 10 years that we will not be living close to my family. The miles between us have made me reevaluate our family traditions and get-togethers. It won’t be the same as before, and in some ways it has freed us to incorporate our own ideas into the holidays so that we can make memories with our children.

How to Turn this Attitude Around 

I very much miss the big Christmas dinners, gift exchange and time of singing carols and performing the Christmas story that we used to do at my grandparents’ house as a child, and yet now we have the opportunity to do some of the same things (and new things!) with our kids.

This is a great time to sit down and think of some fun memories you’d like to create with your family. Can you pick one tradition that you’d like to begin as part of your Christmas celebration? One craft project that would be fun and yet not time-consuming? One service project that your family could participate in together to bless someone during this season? It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money! Don’t worry about perfection and trust that your children are not worried about things being perfect either!

…if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:12b

My sweet Lydia when she was 2 months old! Isn't she cute? :)
My sweet Lydia when she was 2 months old! Isn’t she cute? :)

Attitude That Must Go #5

The viewpoint that Christmas has to be stressful. Sometimes when we say this season is stressful, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The previous four attitudes I’ve addressed in such a way as to help you decrease your stress level. Slowly, we as a family have been making our way to cherishing the simplicity that can truly be part of the Christmas season when we ask God to free us from expectations about money-spending, gift-giving, event-attending and tradition-making. 

How to Turn this Attitude Around 

Oftentimes, we can fall into the trap of believing that we need to find a way to manufacture or “create” joy and excitement in order for our family to have an enjoyable Christmas. But here’s the good news! Christmas, for the virtue of what it is about, is already a joyful holiday! As a Christian, remembering again the Advent expectation of the coming of the Christ child and then celebrating His birth is the “main event” that we are given the privilege of delighting in each year!

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We don’t have to search for “good tidings of comfort and joy”–they are already present in the gift of grace and salvation that is Jesus! Rest in this beautiful truth and remind your children of this amazing event in history, so that they too can see Christmas for what it is honestly about and not worry or be stressed over details that will all eventually fall into place.

Glory to God in the highestAnd on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. Luke 2:14-20, NASB

Join me for the next post in the series, where I’ll talk about four ways you can “unspoil” your kids, especially when it comes to gift giving and the holiday season!

How do you find ways to reduce the stress of Christmas in your home?

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Jenn

Blogger/ Author at The Purposeful Mom
Hi, I'm Jenn! I'm an "unstuffy" pastor's wife and mom to four amazing and active children. My desire is to equip you with the resources, tools and encouragement you need to learn God’s Word and apply it to your life so you can teach the Word to your children in a way that has a lasting impact! I want to help you turn good ideas into good practices so that you feel confident, by the grace of God, in carrying out the many vocations you have been called to as a Christian woman. Read more on my about page!

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