Spending less at Christmas yields more joy

Spending less at Christmas yields more joy

What do you really want to experience this year for Christmas?


Less stress? More joy?

If that is true for you, here is one way to get there: giving fewer gifts.

I’m referring to reducing the number and scale of presents, which is not to be confused with your charitable giving.

This can be a tough concept for folks, I think mostly due to pride.

Plus, it may run hard up against your family’s traditions and expectations.

You may also wonder if it’s even possible to change given the bar you’ve set.

The good news is that change is possible, and the results are worth it.


My immediate family went this route a few years ago, and we have never looked back.

We had been through Financial Peace and decided that we needed to spend less on Christmas.

Plus, I was tired of Christmas feeling like a frenzy of buying and checking off lists rather than making really thoughtful purchases.

I will admit that while we were all in favor of this idea, I struggled with my pride.

My inner Nervous Nellie fretted over what would be a small pile of gifts, worried we’d made the wrong decision.

However, once the day arrived, we had a wonderful time.


Here are the some of benefits we experienced by spending less at Christmas:

We were much more intentional about what we asked for and what we chose to give.

We spent less, but the shopping was more fun, as we felt challenged to get the most bang for our buck.

We also spent less money and time on wrapping.

The emphasis moved from opening gifts to enjoying our time together.

On the receiving end, our gratitude was not spread thin, but focused on a few thoughtfully chosen gifts.


We continue with this tradition still, and it continues to serve us all well.

I highly recommend it, especially if you have children.

It helps foster thoughtfulness, resourcefulness, and especially a mindfulness of money.

Plus, your offspring will ultimately experience more gratitude.


If you’d like to step back from where you are, I highly recommend creating a budget and plan with your husband, and then following through.

Preparing your children for the shift is vital, too.

I love what Kristen of the Frugal Girl has to say about changing their expectations:

I think a large part of our children’s problem is that their expectations are too high. And when that’s the case, giving more and more every year won’t fix the problem.

Amy Dacyzyn talks about something in The Tightwad Gazette that I think is relevant here. She says if you take your children out for ice cream and they’re not pleased unless they get something bigger and better every time, the solution is not to buy them more ice cream, but to buy them less.

If you get a cone every day, then you’ll start hankering for a larger cone, a banana split or a milkshake. But when the ice cream treats are fewer and farther between, a simple ice cream cone looks quite delectable.

Amy calls this strategic deprivation, and I think it’s applicable to adults as well as children (for instance, if I got a Tazo chai latte every day, it would cease to seem marvelous to me. When I drink them only every now and then, I think they’re crazy delicious.)

So. If your children are quite demanding at Christmastime, don’t buy into the idea that you need to buy them more presents, as that will probably just exacerbate the problem.

I couldn’t agree with her more.


More direction on spending less at Christmas can be found from Emily at Jones Design Company:

We have really great kids who are {mostly} kind and thoughtful.

But they are not always grateful.

I don’t blame them; it’s hard to be grateful when you have no idea what it means to do without.

Jami wrote about it so beautifully and convicting-ly a few years ago after Christmas. I remember laying in bed reading her post and just crying because even though she was writing about her family, she was writing about mine, too.

We are spoiled beyond measure and yet we still want more.

So, last year, we gave something new a try with the hope that by reducing the number of presents, we would be more grateful for ones we received.


The steps to change your family’s style of gift-giving are fairly simple, but the results are powerful and far-reaching.

If you have felt something has been missing from your holiday celebrations, I urge you to establish a new tradition, and experience more joy by spending less at Christmas.


Question: Where do you stand on spending less on Christmas?

Sharing at LOBS, Wedded Wednesday

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  1. It’s spooky how this is exactly what we had already decided to do this year. Admittedly our first reason for this was a financial one, its been a tough year and we are hoping to move home and change our lifestyle in the new year so spending less at Christmas will mean we are able to make our money work better when we will really need things after the move. Plus for the last few years its a Christmas treadmill of gift buying then January sales reducing the prices on Boxing Day which seems so pointless. Long gone are the days when the January sales didn’t start until January 2nd and the shops would be closed on Boxing Day and New Years Day in any case…..How I wish that was still the case.
    I am hoping that the purpose, joy and meaning of Christmas will shine through and there won’t be too many disappointed members of the family, only time will tell. Lets hope we find the same benefits discovered in your article. Another triumph of the voice of common sense in an increasingly crazy World, thank you Kim. Have a wonderful Christmas.

    • Well done on your decision! It is tough when the finances are not what you desire. Stand strong, and be graceful when you approach family. Hopefully they will respond with grace as well. I pray for a joy-filled Christmas season for you and your family. Thanks so much for taking the time to share!

  2. Great tips. Great post.
    Little Miss Wordy recently posted…Paid in Full – Merry ChristmasMy Profile

  3. I know this is true, Kim, but I really have a hard time sticking to this, because I LOVE to make gifts for my family (especially my female family members and friends). And with Pinterest giving me a ton of fun and practical ideas, I can’t resist doing this every year! I really don’t care if I get something back. It’s just fun for me to “give.” But as you’ve said, it really can complicate Christmas, sometimes stressing me out because I don’t have time for all the gifts I want to make. Great thoughts and I will definitely meditate on this challenge, my friend!
    Beth recently posted…The Pursuit of PerspectiveMy Profile

    • :-)
      I can really appreciate how choosing to make more gifts than we have time for can be stressful. It takes us from giving to Grinching. :-) Not that I’ve ever done that. . .

  4. Agree, agree, agree! Christmas is simple in our house…to the point that I am almost oblivious to the frenzy that goes on around me this time of year. We don’t do what everyone else does. We do what we do..and it works.
    Ilene recently posted…A Million Little ThingsMy Profile

  5. With my unemployment, we are forced to spend less this year. But I have to admit, it HAS been less stressful! Great post! :)
    Crystal recently posted…10 Tips For Self-Publishing A Multi-Contributor AnthologyMy Profile

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