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Christmas Homemade: Keeping Calm During the Holiday Season

So this post was going to be how to save money at the Holidays but totally morphed into something else. The rest of the month this blog is going to be filled with seasonal suggestions but we want it to be known that these lists are to help simplify holidays not to bring additional stresses or to-do's, so I guess this is a good place to start.  

I love a good deal as the next frugal momma, but it seems like every Black Friday seems to be bigger than the year before. There are so many good deals that it is easy to get caught in the I want so therefore I need trap. It is really easy to get everything we "need" plus a few things that are "good deals" that we never considered.
My least favorite holiday memories are the time: (1) I was sick for weeks after waiting from 3 am to 5:30 am in the cold at Best Buy to get a laptop and then spent the rest of the day checking off my list looking like a zombie from lack of sleep, (2) It took me 30 minutes to get a few rows of Walmart only to have a total breakdown and turn around (it took Slim Jim 30 minutes to find a parking spot and my Father-in-Law saw a fist fight break out over DVD's), etc. These experiences left me feeling
As opposed to my favorite Christmas memories, that are filled with family and friends I love. They are ones like the Christmas Eves we got together at Grandma Twila's with our cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. We watched the black and white versions of Christmas Carol and its a Wonderful Life. Or the time we spent helping her put up her Christmas decorations and we would be rewarded with cinnamon sugar toast and hot chocolate.
I don't think most of us want a commercialized Christmas it really comes out of wanting what is best for our love ones. Commercialism is tide that is very easy to get swept up in (or at least for me). I think by wanting to give our families "everything" we are distracting from what we would really like them to learn and experience. 

1. Being Honest with yourself and your family as to what you can spend. 
Most of the people that we will be giving presents to us care for us enough to want what is best for us. We all love to have that awe moment when someone opens a gift but that doesn't require a certain price tag.
Christmas Towel Tutorial & Free Printable
Last year we knew we wanted to give our grandparents a gift but really didn't have the money to spend. Our families are very religious so I knew that they would appreciate a gift that highlighted the reason for the season. I decided on a pretty framed scripture with a customized towel. The gift took very little time and spent very little (I only had to pay for the frames and I purchased them at the dollar store, the ribbon and towels I already had on hand). I was able to do all four of the gifts at the same time, I think it took an hour and half.

2. Make a simple list and keep it close as a reference. 
I assess the needs or stages of my nuclear family and then as many of those holes with homemade gifts. Keep in mind for young children you don't need to give them expensive or a lot of gifts just gifts that they will like.
Here is my list for the kids this year, taken from Instagram. I am pretty sure that I will not get through it all but I am going to try to do the things that are most important and feel out what could be saved for Valentine's Day or Boston's birthday

3. Think about the person you are "shopping" or making for. 
Last year Al and I went together on making several gifts but before began we scoured Pinterest looking at our friend's boards. We tried to find good matches for their personal style or needs.
I had Momma Shaffer snap a shot so you could see it in use.

My dad had given us his old truck (that he loved dearly) a few months previous, when we put our new plates on we saved his plates and made him a license plate keyholder. It was another easy gift but my dad and mom use it every day. We took a piece of wood that we hand on hand from other wood projects (guess someday we could show you those) routed the wood, spray painted, applied some hooks we had on hand (if you don't have any on hand they are just a couple dollars) and attached the license plate. It has been enjoyable for him because he was able to remember those summer drives with his girls beside him.
The picture of Jesus with the little child symbolizes our angel brother. My mom carried him full term only to loose him before birth.
For mom we knew it would be kind of fun for her to have individual pictures of her whole family for her office. So she could show off each child and grandchild. Last year after the school year ended she took it home and since then it has been sitting on her mantel. When ever we go home my kids always want to play with the "blocks". Again we were able to make these out of supplies we already had on hand. The base is a 4 by 4 from the time that Slim Jim and Samson tried to make us sturdy benches that Dad ended up helping them rework to a much more manageable weight and size. And the blocks were cut by Samson he took all the 4 by 4's and cut them down to 1 by 1 by 1 blocks. We sponge painted all the blocks in a oil based paint that we had on hand from refinishing Al's kitchen table. I then cropped pictures with rounded corners of each family member in Photoshop to fit the block. Al cut out a number (for the order they joined the family), a birth date, and a name in vinyl on her Silhouette. After hours of weeding vinyl we applied each one and then applied several coats of Modge Podge and it was good to go.

4. Come up with creative ways to make memories not spend money.
If you have a group of girl friends that you are close to that you want to do "something" for but the money isn't there to purchase a gift for each one. Plan a girls night in. Have everyone bring a dessert/snack, favorite colors of nail polish and rent a chick flick (or to save a little bit more watch a classic chick flick you already own and no in and out like Anne of Green Gables).
Al and I did this last year and it was so fun, we just forgot to snap a picture.  But a Christmas story book reading could also be fun for your friends with kids with simple chocolate milk and marshmallows.

5. Share your talents/time with neighbors. 
Instead of another plate of cookies maybe you could invite them to go caroling with you or invite them over for games. 
Don't you love Jo and I's little Christmas Dresses?
Growing up we had several adopted grandparents (most of them were shut ins) that we would visit through out the year. The always had great stories and we were really taught by example how lucky we had it and how to serve others. December was my favorite month to visit our "other grandparents" because we got to act out the nativity as a family. Dressed up in bathrobes, stick horses and baby doll in hand we would do a creative remix of the nativity scene (there were just 4 of us so not hardly enough to fill the whole nativity, there was always double casting of several roles. Dad would read the Christmas story from the scriptures and we would quietly act it out. Without a doubt we learned the reason for the season and were able to give those shut ins the companionship that they desperately needed.

6. Don't run faster than you have strength. 
I know I have a tendency to over do things and often times this means that I don't get the sleep I need or enjoy my family as much as I should. Like a home without clutter makes our home a place of refuge, the holidays without the "fluff" will bring calm to our minds and good memories for our souls. From year to year, person to person we will need to evaluate what is "fluff" and what isn't.
This is from Slim Jim and my first Christmas married at my inlaws house. My mother law has the prettiest home on the holidays.
For me last year the "fluff" that I removed was a perfectly decorated tree with glass balls, Boston was crawling & standing and I didn't want her to be tempted by the glass ornaments so I just cut strips of fabric on the bias and tied it. It was very simple and stress free. It was the third year in a row that one of us had lost a grandparent during the holiday season and I couldn't muster much Christmas "fluff" spirit.
This was the first year Ryder really understood the concept of Santa, he woke up at 3 am. Which wasn't really ideal because I was about 37 weeks pregnant and very tired. He was so funny about his stocking.
I don't think a complete list of how to keep calm during the holiday season but these are the things that help me. What would you add to this list? What are you doing different this year compared to years past? 

Since we are two days into December, we are just going to say we hope you have a calm and enjoying Christmas season. And have an enjoyable and wonderful memories with those you cherish.

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