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Trading Guilt for Joy

By December 10, 2014June 24th, 20192 Comments


Full blown, undeniable sticker shock. Yup, that’s what she feels as she pushes a cart full of all things Christmas-y with a few necessities crammed around the edges.

She drags into what she hopes is the quickest checkout line, and begins to unload her items at the cash register. As the cashier begins to ring things up, her mind struggles to figure out how to explain this bill to her husband.

The cheerful cashier gives her the total, takes her credit card payment, and wishes her a Merry Christmas.

Yeah, right. Merry Christmas for whom? Maybe the kids. Hopefully the kids.

She loads her packages in the car, climbs in, and just sits there while dread crashes in. “How will we ever pay for this? Why does Christmas have to be so expensive? I just blew the budget for the next three years!”

Have you ever felt this way at Christmastime? I have.

Watching a person unwrap something you’ve given them is a special thrill. I love to receive gifts, but I love to give them more.

Once we had children, it was even more fun. I loved their squeals of joy, the sparkle in their eyes at finding that special toy under the Christmas tree.

But I didn’t love the hit to the bank account or the hated January credit card bill!

So what’s a parent to do?

After a few years of the overspend-guilt cycle, my sweet husband and I had a tough, necessary discussion about a realistic Christmas budget. You see budgets and I weren’t on friendly terms. In my opinion, budgets severely cramped my giving style. Severely.

However, my sweet husband convinced me to try a Christmas budget for one year. We haggled over how much money we could afford to set aside for gifts in the next year. Then we committed to setting aside a portion each month into a special bank account.

To stay within this Christmas budget, we I had to be disciplined.

So, how did we change my mindset?

  1. We focused our gifts for each child on three categories:
    • Something to wear
    • Something to share
    • Something just for you
  1. Stocking gifts were part of the budget too.

Well, after that first year, we revisited the Christmas budget. This time I was fully onboard with my sweet husband.

To my utter amazement, the Christmas Budget taught me:

  1. Paying for gifts with cash is fun
  2. No dread over a looming credit card bill brings bliss
  3. Focusing on the three types of gifts makes for easy gift giving
  4. Planning ahead relieves stress
  5. Expensive gifts do not mean I love you any more
  6. Christmas Budget is not a gift giving killjoy
  7. Some of the best gifts given and received really are free

Do we I stay on budget perfectly every year? Nope. But, most of the time now I do. And I wouldn’t trade the freedom in this budget.


How do you conquer the Christmas gift giving craziness? Or, are you still struggling with overspend-guilt cycle? I’d love to hear your tips. Please leave a comment below.

  • Kirsten D Samuel

    I empower Christian wives to discover they are seen, loved, and heard. These women find the freedom to be who they are beyond their partner’s struggles, and find hope that there is a life worth living.

    View all posts


  • Erin G says:

    Gift giving is tough in a consumer based world! I have enjoyed have guidelines the last few years on what type of gifts each child receives and the limited number they receive. I also have started asking for meaningful gifts/creative gifts and even experiences rather than another little toy given just to add the present pile. It’s almost like I’ve started giving gifts with the amount of entertainment hours it will bring rather than the price tag or present quantity.

  • ramblinrose says:

    Erin G: great tips! Thanks for sharing them.