Lowering Holiday Stress Levels

My feeling about the holidays as a (soon to be) 35 year-old is much different than it was 20 years ago. My holidays these days involve mostly hours of driving around the province of Ontario, in order to fulfil family obligations and witness present – opening by smaller family members. My preference would be to fit these visits in over the next 6 or 8 weeks, in the course of our normal visits we make to family, instead of over 6 or 8 days which is what has happened in the last 5 years – in some cases, causing my wife and I to spend more time on the road than we spend doing the actual fun visiting.

Over the years, my wife and I have attempted to make Christmas less stressful. I have attempted to stop adult gift exchanges – I would rather just show up and have some good food and visit than have to worry about getting a present for people that could just go buy whatever they wanted. This initiative was unsuccessful, as people apparently like presents. This year however, my wife and I stopped our own gift exchange.

Our birthdays are 3 days apart in December, a week before Christmas, which sort of compounds “present stress” that comes with the holidays. We try our best to get each other things that we’d enjoy, but this year decided to just not bother. Most years, I was essentially giving my wife an Amazon wish list of things that I liked, because I am not the easiest person to buy things for, or my wife would stress out that what she got me was nowhere near what I wanted. The whole process seemed like the opposite of fun to us. For our birthdays, we’re going to go out for dinner at a fun restaurant to celebrate – right now our choices are sushi (my wife’s choice), and gourmet burgers (my choice), but with a week to decide this could change many times.

As someone who is interested in spending my available dollars as efficiently as possible, this method of Christmas, although Grinchy is much more effective. One thing that I wanted is a cast aluminium tortilla press – I like to make corn tortillas, but kind of bent a frying pan making them the last time. My wife could comparison shop around and guess the size and type I had in mind or I can just buy this for myself and get the one I for sure want.

This change is a small thing, but I’ll take any sort of “win” this time of year – the more small changes we can implement every year to make things better in this hectic season, the better.

Is this a stressful time of the season for you? How would you, or how have you reduced the amount of stuff this time of year?

11 thoughts on “Lowering Holiday Stress Levels”

  1. My brother and I agreed to no gift exchange for the adults but we will buy things for the kids. My wife and I told each other what we wanted for this year (french press for me!) and we agreed to no gift exchange next year. My mom and dad each get one present and our son will get a few things (balance bike, books, educational games). I think buying presents is the most stressful aspect of Christmas and the more this gets diminshed the happier everyone will be!

  2. What we did which sort of kick-started the “no adult gift exchange” with both of our families is we gave a bundle to charity, and handed out cards that said things like “we bought you a goat! It’s living with a family in Tanzania if you would like to visit it.” Not entirely subtle, perhaps, but it caught on. 🙂

  3. For a long time now we’ve cut back Christmas gift giving to just to our 5 grandkids. My wife buys each a present and I kick in $$$ to each of their RESP plans.

    If you want to cut down adult gift giving in your family, might I suggest this approach. Have the whole family put names in a hat and choose only one name to buy for. I’m sure everyone’s budget would benefit.

  4. Hubby and I haven’t exchanged gifts- Christmas or otherwise- for a few years now. Since he buys whatever he wants anyway and after years of wrong- sized clothing that I always felt guilty returning- it stopped making sense. This year well in advance of Christmas my sister sent out a suggestion that all birthday / holiday gifts for her and her 13 year old son be contributions to his 529 for college. She then sent another “invite reminder” around thanksgiving before holiday shopping began. Ingenious! Her 529 account sends these invites via email so it makes it really easy. Tomorow my 5 year old’s kindergarten class is attending a shopping store within the school to pick out gifts for family members. It’s touted as the most exciting event of the season for the elementary school. Basically you send your child to school with cash and volunteers help the child pick out trinkets and gifts for family members. I think this is common in US elementary schools, and it’s kind of a shame. For parents that don’t have the means to keep the child home on this day, they either participate with funds needed for other things or I suppose sit out while other kids ” have fun shopping”. My son won’t be there.

  5. In 13+ years of marriage my husband and I gave never bought birthday or anniversary gifts. We’ve managed to convince some adult relatives to halt the gift exchange. Others are harder change.

  6. Xmas isn’t all that stressful for our family. We like to enjoy each other’s company and just have a good time. Gift is really secondary.

  7. We’ll be doine a Christmas with one set of grandparents, then driving through Ontario to do it all over again too. Thankfully we’ll just have the two stops.

    This year I convinced my sister to stop exchanging gifts and to just focus on the kids. The husband and I have been trying out different strategies over the year. This year I think we’ll just be doing a stocking for each other, but it’s something I’m excited to do!

  8. Being born Jewish but now an atheist for the last 38 years, Christmas has never held any special meaning to me. Being childfree has also removed any of the luster the holiday offers. No stress whatsoever.

  9. We have never really celebrated it aside from a nice meal together. This won’t change in the future even with Baby Bun. He may get a present when he’s 5 or something, but not right now as a baby..

  10. @ Mitch – Those “rules” seem pretty reasonable. We get our nieces and nephews (four in total) a present each and are in a few secret Santas.

    @ James Brown – I like your style! I would prefer to donate over giving crap that people won’t use.

    @ Rob – We have 3 secret Santas – 1 at my mom’s, 1 at my dad’s and one at my wife’s family’s. I like the RESP idea. I would prefer to do something like that or support a charity like “Heifer International” instead of buying presents out of obligation.

    @ Tina – I like the the 529 idea, and the fact that it’s easy to do.

    That is an odd thing for a school to do….the sentiment is there, but the school hyping up consumerism somehow seems improper.

    @gloria – Imagine the lack of stress that would cause. With 9 days between Christmas and my wife’s birthday, it’s been pretty hectic the last few years, since we’re both grown ups and have our own money to buy things we want.

    @Tawcan – The getting together part I like (or can at least deal with), it’s the expectation of buying and trying to find the “right” thing.

    @Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom – A Christmas stocking is fun – get all of your spouse’s favourite things 🙂 Hopefully your driving goes well!

    @ Deegee – Sounds like a nice peaceful time of the year for you.

    @ Save, Spend, Splurge – Sounds much more peaceful than my holidays are going to be…jealous

  11. Sitting poolside in Mexico right now. This is, and has been, our birthday/anniversary/Christmas presents to each other for many years. One month In heaven to reconnect and relax!
    Our son got new brakes and some gifts cards, in the past we took him to Mexico with us.
    Our parents want and need nothing so a nice Christmas plant and special food items suffice.

Comments are closed.