Battling the Gimmes and the Tightfist

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Years ago when we came to the realization that we needed to fight our debt with a vengeance, Christmas was drastically pared down. We had kissed our credit cards goodbye, and as a result, only had cash to spend, what little there was. Our bigger kids at ages 10, 7, and 5 were totally on board. They understood we were downsizing. They had one small request. All they wanted were cornbags.

How excited I was to hear that since I was secretly crafting customized cornbags at night after bedtime. That Christmas was so wonderful, in part, because my kids demonstrated that they weren’t in it just for the gifts. They were adaptable; they were team players; they had simple desires. They did not suffer from “the gimmes,”and I was so proud.

Last night I had quite an interesting conversation with the Big Three, as we call them. They offered to “give up” their Christmas lists. They felt bad that I was always referring to the cornbag year as my favorite. They didn’t want to be selfish (in my eyes or theirs) and they were checking themselves. Hmmm…..

It gave me pause. What kind of message have I been sending to my kids?

The conversation made me realize that I feel guilty spending money — even though we have some to spend. Even though we’ve planned what we were going to spend this year and even though we have the cash on hand to do it, I have cringed at the checkout instead of taking joy in the gift choices we’ve made. And my kids have somehow absorbed the fallout.

Once again, they are proving to be team players, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be wise with our money or not feel remorse when we haven’t made the wisest choice. But, I’m wondering if I’m becoming a little too much like Ebenezer Scrooge before he has his change of heart. To be financially prudent is good. But so is being generous. And the two can coexist.

I’m hoping to find the happy medium in my heart and mind this week.

What about you? Do you struggle like I do? Have you figured it out? I’d love to know.

Related Reading:
Molly Gold inspires parents and kids toward volunteerism in Helping Hands.
Cooking During Stolen Moments recently posted Tips to You Share Your Season
Tony shares her secret to raising content kids.
You will love Lynn’s story about how her family “gave up” their Christmas lists.
I am inspired by Liz and her family’s Drop In and Decorate Day.

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  1. This year we gave our kids a budget for gifts. If they chose a gift that was close to their budget limit, then they get 1 gift. However, knowing their budget, caused them to choose wisely and us to shop and buy what they really wanted or needed. Its gonna be a great Christmas!

  2. hubby and i set a budget this year ~ and it's all cash. gifts are bought and wrapped. and best of all, they're paid for. no january bills. last night i mentioned to lawman (hubby) that i felt like we hadn't done enough. not really sure why i feel that way but i think it may have something to do with no really big santa gift. now that the girls are teenagers all they want is clothes. i know they'll like what they have under the tree and they'll probably be perfectly content with it. i'm hoping i can find contentment too. especially knowing how fortunate we are that we are able to provide christmas gifts.

  3. I think you're doing GREAT! Growing up, I always thought about $$ because my dad was so MISER! Every single penny was accounted for and every single gift we had to get for a wedding or birthday for someone was something he got at work for free. When he did spend on me and my mom he bought some useless trinket that I could care less about. I knew he had no time in his brain to think of something that I would like. The jewelry gifts were easy for him. ANYWAYS… it left me with a sense of distaste for money. Yes, I had everything I needed and wanted growing up.. Yes, I was able to go to college and never have to worry because of his phenomenal saving plan… but in the end, I resent him for not taking the time and always working. When I got on my own and started making my own $$ I REFUSED absolutely REFUSED to bargain shop. Only the best and high end for me. After a couple years I was bored and that left me empty. 16 years later, I'm now the one the budget with a baby on the way and to my surprise, it gives me great joy and freedom to know exactly where our money is going and how it's allocated. So to answer your question… the important thing is how you're kids feel. It looks to me like they feel loved and appreciated and have beautiful childhood memories. What more can you ask for.. ?
    -Sahsha's Mummy

  4. I've found myself seeking out as many freebies and deals as I can find. But I realized that I couldn't freebie my way through Christmas. We have the money set aside for gifts, and now I'm willing to spend it…. after I've exhausted all freebie avenues! 🙂

  5. I've been in your shoes. I got past the mental block by opening a Christmas club account.

    I was a banker and, at first, thought Christmas clubs were…silly…or something I couldn't quite define. Then I realized that I kinda resented spending the money I had saved so carefully all year. The Christmas club was the perfect way to alleviate my resentment and guilt. I could spend that amount with joy, knowing that it was set aside for that purpose only.

    It still seems odd that it made such a mental difference for me but my dh and I still use Christmas clubs to this day, even though they are a terrible "investment".

  6. Thanks for your encouragement and input, ladies. Karen, I think you have a great suggestion there. I have gotten a little lazy in my saving and have just thrown it all in one big pot. If it were in its own place, the Christmas money might be easier to spend.

    Thanks, all!

  7. I do struggle with this. We have so much and my kids know it, but I don't want to emphasize the materialistic side of Christmas. I want them to get great gifts, I just don't want them to get so many of them. I know my kids would love to keep up with the Joneses and get ipods, but I also don't want to encourage them to plug in separately and live their lives in isolation. It's hard to say no when you can afford to say yes. I don't want my kids to be resentful so we try to have open talks like you all do. My kids are really precious about it, too. My mom and dad who have lots of money offered to buy me an iphone for Christmas and pay for the plan for me. I have been really excited and planning on it. I do not have a cell phone and never have. I went with my mom to look at them yesterday and couldn't believe how much they cost and how much each month! I don't want them to spend it- not because they can't, they can, but because it just doesn't seem right. There are so many more meaningful ways to spend that kind of money. Child sponsorship, or even a family vacation where we give one another our time. So, yes, I do struggle with it, too. I know there's a balance and we try to remind our kids that everything that is ours really belongs to the Lord. God is the giver of every good gift and we have so much to be thankful for!

  8. I have a "big three" too!!!

    Honestly, I have nothign figured out. We barely scrapoe by and worry about food…Whatever money there is I never know what to alocate for Christmas or "extra" our kids are great (it sounds like yours are too) they dont expect anything and really do "get it"

    I want to gvie them more. I detest the idea of token gifts and giving them things like underwear…I want to start ahving them draw names and mae things for each other: a friendship bracelet, a cd of christmas music, getting up early and recording educational cartoons….

    I really do wnat to figure this out!!

    BTW–Im doing my first big giveaway right now–A Canon Photo Printer
    (at) Having a Hallelujah Good Time

  9. I feel exactly like you do a lot of the time. I want my children to see me being a good steward of God's money. But sometimes I think they see it as being selfish. I need to lighten up a bit when we have either saved for something or have extra money that can be used for something fun.

  10. Two years ago, we started on the Dave Ramsey journey. Like you, we had to redefine how we "did Christmas."

    We are now on Baby Steps 4 and 5 and I share your struggle. We have a Christmas account that I have been dropping money in all year but I am loathe to use it. So, I have been trying to cash flow Christmas and have been finding myself getting stressed. I need to use the money for the purpose of Christmas and allow myself to enjoy the giving without fear or resentment.

    Thanks for that post.


  11. Oh My Goodness. I found your post through Meredith's Merchant Ships. I needed this. I so needed this. I watched my parents struggle with money most of my life, and after I was married they went through bankruptcy. I've become like a little Scrooge with so many things, telling myself that it's good I no longer shop till I drop. But it's kinda become a problem where I am nearly afraid to spend money. I am thankful for this post to let me know I am not alone, but that I need to be more generous. It's something I have been struggling with lately and fighting. Baby steps.