I cannot believe that Christmas is right around the corner, it feels as though we just celebrated. Maybe it’s because the holidays bring back so many memories for me, who knows for sure. While this post may be more personal than most. Keep in mind that I’ve learned over the years that the holidays aren’t about “things,” they are about memories and the people we love.
Several years ago my daddy was diagnosed with incurable brain cancer. The Tuesday before Christmas that year he was admitted into Hospice without much hope of making it through the Christmas holiday (we were so thankful that he made it another two months).
Although “things” have never been what defined Christmas for me I learned that year what was truly important and it has shaped me ever since. I learned that time with those I love the most is what is the most important. We don’t have to have fancy dinners or expensive gifts to celebrate.
That Christmas my entire family gathered in the family room at Hospice to share Christmas Eve dinner together, we opened gifts beside my dad’s bed, and enjoyed each other’s company.
Here’s what I learned that I hope to always carry over into my family’s holiday celebrations. My goal continues to be the same every year, simplify the season, be purposeful in planning, and savor every moment.
1. Gather with family and friends – enjoy being together. The holiday means spending time with family. Seriously, while everyone pushes the gift agenda, it’s so nice to just relax and enjoy being in the presence of family.
2. Prepare food/meals in advance when possible so as not to complicate and cause stress. There’s nothing worse than a stressful holiday where you spend hours slaving in the kitchen while the rest of the family enjoys each other’ company. The holidays for me mean planning ahead and making the day as stress free as possible.
3. Stay within our budget as gifts are quickly forgotten but experience, traditions and memories together last a lifetime. Staying within budget is so important in our family. We love to buy gifts, but want to stay within our budget because people mean more to us than the presents we buy them.
4. We are purposeful to focus on the real meaning of the season for our family. We love the holidays, but really try not to get caught up in the commercialism of it.
5. Create traditions that last a lifetime. My mother always prepared the exact same breakfast for Christmas morning. Now, as a mother I cook the same breakfast for my family. It’s something we all look forward to. It’s fun to see my kid’s faces on Christmas morning, 2/3 have been around long enough to start to expect it on Christmas morning and I love it! This is just one of many traditions that my family enjoys. Plus, we have traditions with each set of grandparents. No wonder Christmas feels so magical to me as family traditions are my favorite way to celebrate!
6. Teach Purposeful Giving. It’s so important to look beyond ourselves and serve others all year long, but especially during the Holiday Season. I want my children to understand how blessed they truly are. One way to do that is to serve as a family. Personally, we join with our church in a project called, “Love the City.” Each year at Thanksgiving we help package bags of food for Thanksgiving meals that go out to 500 families in our community. Then, at Christmas we serve by helping with “The Magi Project,” which serves hundreds of families by providing brand new toys for their children for Christmas. Finally, each year we pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.
Just as I’ve learned things over the years, SunTrust has also taught me a thing or two. While I haven’t always been at a place in my life to be so mature about the holidays, I was astounded by some of their statistics. “According to the National Retail Federation, the average American planned to spend about $800 celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas and/or Kwanzaa last year?” Can you imagine dropping $800 on toys? Apparently it does happen.
Holiday Budget Tool & Holiday Guide
Even if you do plan on spending that amount on Christmas, which is totally up to you, you don’t have to go broke buying Christmas for your family. SunTrust actually has some really cool resources available to people like you and I. I love their Holiday Budget Tool, you can download a planning worksheet, set limits, track expenses, and so on. And I love that SunTrust allows you to make automatic transfers into monthly savings to help you reach your holiday savings goal. You can also download their Holiday Guide, which includes tips to help keep you focused on the task at hand. The holiday season should not stress you out and SunTrust wants to help. There are some great tips in there and I encourage you to check them out.
Join my family and SunTrust and make your holidays mean more. Use the tools that SunTrust offers to help plan for the holiday season, so you don’t end up overworked and overstressed. Use the tips I gave you to keep the meaning of the holidays in check. Don’t get caught up in all of the commercialism, enjoy your family and friends. What do the holidays mean to you?
Visit SunTrust’s resource center for actionable information, tools, tips and calculators to help you make this holiday season a smart financial one.
The holidays are for focusing on moments that matter. But for many Americans, financial stress can get in the way. This year, you can make small changes that make a big difference for your financial well-being.
In this holiday planning guide, you’ll find tips for getting organized and making a plan for holiday spending so you can feel confident in your ability to stay on track with your budget. You’ll see how other Americans are shopping, traveling, celebrating and giving in ways that make the holidays cost less, but mean more.
For more holiday planning advice visit holiday resources
Meaningful spending made easy with a budgeting tool to help you make a plan and stay on track with your holiday spending. Download here.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust. The opinions and text are all mine.