Just The Tip.
Why is it that on November 30th it still feels like there’s PLENTY of time to get ready for Christmas, but once that damn calendar flips to December 1st all hell breaks loose and it’s all shopping, scrambling, and stress-eating Little Debbie trees? You blink and it’s December 20th. You wake up covered in crumbs wondering how much Egg Nog you actually drank the night before.
Being a mom means we need to have it all figured out – like it’s a magic power imbued in us the moment we push that first kid out of us. Shopping for the gifts – for every-damn-body – hiding them from the kids, remembering where you hid them, and then wrapping them; planning a meal, or parts of a meal, or figuring out how to pretend you know how to cook a meal; sending Christmas cards; arranging cute family photos; and of course the all-important magical moments that we have to have pouring out of us at every moment during the month of December, like visiting a reindeer farm, driving around to see Christmas lights, and hiding that fucking elf.
It’s bullshit. And it gets expensive.
But lucky for us, these days there are so many ways to help take some of the stress out of the holiday and find great ways to not spend a fortune and send ourselves on the road to holiday debt that lasts well after those cute kids become spiteful teenagers.
Here are some great ways to save time, money, and stress with one week left to go of this holiday season.
The Gifts That Keep On Giving
For the under-six crowd (and maybe even for those older, not-so-bright tweens and teens, and husbands) find something you know they haven’t touched or played with in forever, wrap that sucker up and put it under the tree. Voila! That same excitement that they feel when they pull it back out of your giveaway pile every spring (BuT mOm, I LoVe tHiS ToY …) will come rushing back to them and they’ll be SO EXCITED to have it for another year. Or, if you’re lucky, they will genuinely think it’s an absolutely new gift.
Pro tip: If they try to say, “Hey, I already have this in my room somewhere …” tell them to find it and show you that they do and you’ll swap it out at the store for something else. Win.
When In Doubt, Get A Candle
Whether it’s for your kids, your kids’ friends, your neighbor, your in-laws, that weird guy at work, a cozy blanket is 100% the way to go. Need a Dirty Santa gift? Get something ugly, like this burrito blanket. Got a kid obsessed with Baby Yoda (or Grogu I guess if you insist on being formal about it)? Then you have a treasure trove of options for blankets like this one. Want to feel like you made a little more effort on the blanket idea? Go with glow-in-the-dark. Kids love shit that glows in the dark.
What do you get for the teen that hates absolutely everything? Force them into the adult world by getting them a cookbook. Tell them family dinner is in their hands now. Or grab a huge box of snacks for them to enjoy. This one should last them to the end of the day at least. Pour yourself a glass of wine and relax. This is how it’s done these days, just go with it.
Now, what to give that special someone in your life? Something he’ll probably hate, tbh. Isn’t it easier to just let him get his own gift? Hell, he probably already has. He’s going to experience that excitement of not knowing what’s in the beautifully wrapped box over and over again anyway because he didn’t buy any of the kids’ Christmas gifts, so save yourself some time and energy and just throw him a $20 gift card to Home Depot or wherever the hell he disappears on Saturdays. If you feel like he needs at least a little something to unwrap on Christmas morning, grab him this special sexy time candle.
Rethink That Big Holiday Meal
Pancakes. Or spaghetti. We always make way more than we need to anyway, just do it on purpose this time.
No? Not feeling it? Okay, but at least consider going away from the traditional turkey/ham/roast beast.
Maybe doing a full breakfast spread instead of the usual dishes for Christmas lunch or dinner would get your family excited. Think about how much of those “traditional” items your kids actually eat and then think about how much more they will eat when it’s their favorite breakfast foods.
Personally, when it comes to holiday meals I couldn’t care less what the meat of the meal is. I’m all about those sides! Mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, macaroni, salads. The yeast rolls … So maybe your family would be glad for a meal of nothing but side dishes.
Still want the big traditional meal anyway? Consider splitting the duty with everyone you’re inviting. If you are going to someone else’s house for the holiday or having people at your house, ask everyone to bring just one dish. But – and trust me on this – make sure everyone knows what everyone else is bringing, or else you’ll end up with a table full of mashed potatoes and peas.
Decking The Halls
This is a lot…
Decorating is not something that comes naturally for a lot of us. We want it. We salivate over those charming scenes we see in magazines or Facebook and Instagram feeds. But trying to recreate them can be daunting and expensive. And the glitter never … goes … away.
Stick with what’s simple. Buy a few pieces that are easy to just set somewhere – like throw pillows, pieces that sit on the mantle or counter or bookshelf.
Kick it up a notch by joining a few Dollar Tree Craft pages on Facebook to get some ideas on cheap decorations that you can make.
Are you a sucker for a good balloon arch? Then this candy cane-inspired setup is something you should check out. Just remember that you have to blow those bitches up yourself, so make sure you have a good bike pump.
If all else fails, just put up the tree with the ornaments you have on hand. Let the kids each pick out one new ornament from the dollar store and put it on the tree. Hell, let them put all of the decorations on the tree themselves! Or if you’re not quite ready to unclench and let them do it, distract them with making popcorn garlands while you perfectly – and lovingly- place each ornament on the tree yourself. When you’re done, congratulate yourself with some holiday spirits.
Making Magic Happen
This time of year is a flurry of activities around town no matter where you live, and more often than not there are plenty of free things to do. Jump on your local Cool Moms pages and local resident pages on Facebook to find out the best neighborhoods to see light displays.
Is your city (or another bigger, cooler city) hosting any family holiday events? Find out the dates and places for local parades and Santa meetings. Vendor craft fairs are always popping up around towns at this time of year, making it a great time to get out and support some small businesses while wearing out your kids by forcing them to walk a few miles while carrying all the crap they wanted you to buy.
For the younger kids, they will love it when you find a reindeer cam for them to creep on all month. As for that elf, you’ve chosen that life, so now you must embrace it until that magical day comes that they ask if the elf can stay with them forever, even though it means their magic – and ability to move around and cause mischief each December – disappears.
You Are The Gift OK?!
One thing it’s very important to keep in mind this season is that You Are Enough! You are Mama/Mommy/Mom (and yes, one day cringe Mother) and that is a special kind of magic that doesn’t come from a fat guy in a red suit with a serious cookie problem.
So, take credit for those big presents that you busted your ass to buy! Let Santa get the credit for that re-wrapped toy you got out of the bottom of the toy basket.
Buy the cheap wrapping paper because it’s going straight in the trash bag at the end of that morning frenzy. Hell, use the Sunday comics like our parents used to do when money was too tight for that fancy ass Hallmark gift wrap and bows.
At the end of the day, the best way to make this holiday magical is to do it in a way that gives the kids a happy, smiling mom these next few weeks. If you can do it without feeling the guilt of overspending, without the stress of overcooking and overeating, then do it.
All they want for Christmas is you. And maybe some Legos.
Author: Jessica Neff is a mom, writer, photographer, born-again baker and failed housekeeper. She’s living the doublewide dream as a reporter down in Texas with her fiancé and two daughters. Jessica is also the Market Director for Cool Moms of Parker County!