Today I am so excited to share with you a guest post from my friend, Cherie Lowe. You may know her as the Queen of Free. Cherie’s been inspiring people to live within their means, to get their debt under control, and to focus on people rather than material things for about five years. She’s real-life inspiration, and I’m so glad she’s my friend.
Picture it with me. Christmas morning breakfast is over. Paper and ribbons are strewn around the tree. Toys are half opened. Stockings spill out with trinkets and candy. Your smallest of child is playing inside of a box. Your eldest is whining about being bored . . . already . . . before noon . . . on Christmas Day. You’re wishing you would have had a few spare moments to teach a few valuable lessons earlier in the month.
HOORAY, it’s not too late. It’s not Christmas day (yet) and you have plenty of time to instill the virtue of contentment into the hearts of your family this holiday season. Here are six easy ways to keep the Christmas gimmes at bay while tending a spirit of generosity and gratitude.
- Create a Thankful List FIRST. Before reeling out the wish list to Santa or Grandma, be sure to write down some blessings. Have kids list their favorite toys. Write down memories from the past year that you all treasure. Bonus points: make sure the thankful list is longer than the wish list. We really do have a lot.
- Talk About the Difference Between Needs & Wants. If you have ever shopped with a toddler before, you have probably experienced meltdown in aisle four as your sweet cherub morphs demonic in front of your terror-stricken eyes over a box of crackers. Your kids *might* be even better at identifying this than you are (i.e. Starbucks is never a need, friends). Make a game of it, having your kids identify if something is a “need” or a “want.” Use basics like toilet paper (certain to make them giggle) or exaggerations like a water park in the backyard to warm up. Then begin to drill down their list through that filter.
- Set a Boundary for Yourself. Each year, we only give three gifts – a really awesome toy, an article of clothing, and a book. I’ve also heard the adage, “Something you want. Something you need. Something to wear. Something to read.” Whatever your plan, get a specific number of gifts in mind and then stick to it. It’s a mark of the Divine on your soul that you want to give your children good gifts. But if you don’t limit yourself, you’ll end up wildly out of control which is good for n one.
- Ask for Experiences. Rather than having Grandma and Grandpa fill the space around their tree with boxes taller than your children, beg of them to give you a museum membership or a board game. Both will provide hours of family entertainment without a toy closet that looks like it vomited on your child’s bedroom floor. Don’t be demanding of your relatives, but do provide a guided wish list or make some “We would really love” suggestions.
- Serve Somewhere. Contentment is driven by getting outside ourselves and seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. You don’t have to serve the homeless community (but you could). You simply have to see that someone needs you to bring light into their life. Visit the lonely at the nursing home. Take cookies to unexpecting neighbors. Write thank you notes to those who have loved on you this year. As the parent, you must be a full participant in this process. Lead the way.
- Reflect What You Want to See. This one stings my soul and sometimes my eyes. Often, my kids are a unique mirror on the state of my being. They reflect both the best and worst of who I am back at me on a regular basis. From scolding their dolls in a tone that abhors me but also sounds familiar, to extending kindness to a stranger in a sing song voice I recognize, I am acutely reminded of who I am through their eyes. Your family’s journey to contentment begins with your own heart. The best investment of your time this Christmas season might be to sit down with a Bible and a notebook to reflect upon what’s within your being. Rather than the hurry and scurry, pause to be grateful and filled spiritually before you begin buying the material blessings of the season.
Giving good gifts to your children is a joy. But any good gift pushed beyond its limit becomes a weakness. These simple steps just might make your seasons a little more merry and bright this Christmas.
For more tips on Christmas, kids, gifts, & contentment, check out:
- Give Up the Dream for a Perfect Christmas
- Christmas Shopping Temptations to Avoid
- A Debt Free Christmas Promise & Plea
- The One Woman Who Wants to Ruin Your Marriage AND Your Christmas
Cherie Lowe, a.k.a. the Queen of Free, delights in sharing her family’s story of paying off over $127k in debt. Through speaking and the written word, more than anything, she longs for people to realize there is HOPE for their finances. Find her online at www.queenoffree.net and mark your calendar to pick up her new book Slaying the Debt Dragon, due to release Fall 2014.