Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Day 74: Rethinking the Christmas Budget


 The Confession: When Luke and I first started talking about a project like this, about reevaluating our status quo and seeking to let our lives better reflect our priorities, the first thing that grabbed my heart and filled me with panic was "but...but...but...what about Christmas?"

It's like part of me was saying "Okay God.  You can turn our lives upside down.  Change our hearts.  Convict us of our apathy.  Break our hearts with what breaks yours.  Show us your way, your truth, your life in a way we've never encountered before.  Just don't touch Christmas, capeesh?

Because, honestly, Lord, I kinda like celebrating Christmas my way."

But God is changing our hearts.

The Task: This year we are committing to give away to those in need, dollar for dollar, just as much as we spend on Christmas.

And since we aren't loaded stinkin' rich or using our credit cards, practically speaking that means that we have half as much as normal to spend on Christmas this year. 

The Why:  Where do I start?  Sometimes you need to do something because the very thought of it makes your mind and heart go to war.

Like when you're standing in the bathroom mirror, fiddling with your dreadlocks, saying "Half? Really? Could we do it? I mean...will we have enough? For presents? And a tree?  And a turkey?"

"...but presents are already a good charitable thing, right?  Surely Jesus doesn't want me to cut back on those."

"And the cute photo cards like last year.  Those are a must...aren't they?"


But I can't continue spending my life praying words like "Your kingdom come, Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven." and then ignoring his call to actually be His hands and feet, to bring His justice, His reconciliation, and His economy of love to a community in need.  I can't have one foot in God's radical backwards kingdom where the least is most and the poor is rich and the blind will see while having the other foot firmly planted at the local stuff-mart.

Scripturally, if we have more than we need it belongs to the poor. John the baptist instructed people who have two shirts to give one to the poor. (Luke 3:11) and Jesus tells a Pharisee to hold feasts, not for his friends and family, but for the poor and maimed who cannot repay his kindness. (Luke 14:12-14).  We're also told to give to anybody who asks us (Matthew 5:42) and to love our neighbour as ourselves. (Mathew 22:39) 

I'm not going to pretend to have these verses all figured out.  It is no easy calling.  But it seems pretty clear to me that Jesus wants bigger things for his people than shiny trinkets and obligatory sweater gifts.

The Verdict:  So we are saving for Christmas like we always do around this time of year.  From each paycheck, we add a few bucks to an envelope.  Only this year we do it knowing that half of it is going to our local homeless shelter.  And I have become really excited about this decision. 

The Dare:  Normally I tell people that this is our journey to simplicity and that we have no expectations that others will do what we do. We are sharing our lives, not asking you to change yours.  We don't expect you to get dreadlocks, or give up paper towels or to put your bed on the floor.   But tonight, if it's okay, I would like to dare some of you to make a similar commitment.  I trust you'll know if God is drawing your heart to that same place, even if part of you is running away screaming inside. 

In the words of Basil the great.  “When someone steals another's clothes, we call them a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”  

We are doing one small thing (almost) every day for a year to create a simpler, quieter, more intentional life. Take a moment to read all About Us, check out The Rules of our year long project and sign up for our RSS feed or "like" us on facebook so that you can follow our journey to radical simplicity!

30 comments:

  1. I LOVE this! We have already made a commitment to spend less this year, to be more intentional and thoughtful in our gift giving. And we also intend to spend more of our time and money this year in giving toward those who truly need it. We are each filling boxes for needy children through Samaritan's purse, and are looking for other ways to bless this year. Thanks for sharing your journey!

    Blessings,
    sara

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  2. So excited to see you addressing this. Just a couple weeks ago, I shared with my oldest 2 children that we would not be exchanging gifts in our home this year (between those of us living in the home). Instead we are going to give gifts to Jesus by giving to the poor. I have assured my kids that on their birthdays, they will be the guest of honor and greatly celebrated and on Jesus' birthday, He will be the one we celebrate. I am pleased to say that the kids are really looking forward to Christmas this year and all the ways we plan on celebrating Jesus this Christmas!

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  3. It is easy for me to say I'm spending less and doing Shoeboxes....but what about people who insist on giving you gifts you don't need or want...after being told not to give you anything? I am trying to get rid of stuff...I don't want more!!!

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    1. I bring unwanted gifts to a local charity shop. They use money from sales to fund care for cancer patients.
      I don't feel particularly bad about getting rid of unwanted gifts - I still feel gratitude to person giving the gift and appreciate the sentiment. I just happen to not need the physical gift itself.

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  4. This is giving me the chills. Very powerful idea. The commercialised nature of our Western Christmas celebrations has never sat well with me.

    The quote from Basil whoever-he-is is very compelling; I've been considering decluttering as something I should do to improving my own life, but never as something I can do to improve someone else's. If I am keeping stuff that someone else might need, it starts to sound a little more like hoarding... and donating to the thrift store sounds a little more like charity.

    Thanks for a powerful (and brave) post.

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  5. Ever since I read on Ann Voskamp's blog a question her son asked, I have been thinking about how we celebrate Christmas. His question? "Mom, why do we get presents on Jesus' birthday?" I finally brought this up in my family and we are thinking seriously about this. At this point we are thinking about small stocking stuffers (chocolate and craft/art supplies) and maybe a handmade thing. The money we have saved will be donated. I am at peace and I think the rest of the family is too. Now to figure out how to handle this with the rest of the family!! What to give, how to deal with their desire to give gifts without offending or being ungrateful.

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    1. I think that's great to do in your house! I'm going to talk to my husband about this tonight. Stocking stuffers only.

      As far as people who desire to give you gifts, really, the polite thing to do is to accept gifts graciously. Then you can do what you want with them (ie donate). I don't think there's a way to say "we don't want your gifts" without offending. (I've wanted to do this with MIL for years, but just can't.) I think a good 'what to give' is homemade things that can be consumed and not add clutter and 'things' to people's homes. Or 'experience' gifts. (Like movie gift cards and offering to babysit the kids for a night.)

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  6. Re: less on holiday cards: every year I create a photo collage of the year's highlights, compose a holiday greeting to add to it, and save it in PDF format. I email it to friends and family, some in a bulk message, and some in individual messages with a note. Yes, it is less personal than a hand-written note (which would end up in the recycling or trash a within a few weeks at most, anyway) - but it gets done, it saves me a lot of time, and it is not adding to anyone's garbage. Anyone who wants to can print it out, and others can save the e-card to look at as desired.

    As a bonus I now have multiple years of these collages to look at, myself.

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  7. SO convicting! We will have VERY little to spend on Christmas anyway this year (our second son is due in just a few weeks!) and it has had me in the mind/heart war for a while now. It scares me to have the conversation with our family who always give wonderful presents that we won't be able to join them this year...but instead we want to write them heartfelt notes of love and appreciation. But also...what a wonderful way to share Christ with our unbelieving family members! Thanks for the encouragement!!

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  8. We had already decided to cut way back on Christmas this year. As I was searching frantically last minute for something last year to buy my sister-in-law (who did not give me a present, btw), I couldn't help but wonder why we did this year after year. My children receive useless, last minute toys from well meaning family and friends, which normally find their way to the bottom of the toy chest or as a donation to daycare. This year, we're buying a few select items for our children and each other, as well as our younger siblings. We're giving pictures to grandparents, as well as a few homemade items (jelly, mixes, candy, etc.). I want to teach my children the joy of giving to others in need, versus the joy of giving one more useless thing to someone who doesn't need or want it.

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  9. What in inspiration! That takes a lot of courage to really let go of what we feel we "need" for Christmas.

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  10. We scaled back Christmas last year, but I love the idea of matching what you spend in charity. Thanks for the idea!

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  11. Thank you so much for this blog. I was just sorting my mitten/hat/scarf bin and not liking how much was in the 'save' pile...too much to fit in one container. Your quote from Basil just helped me to reduce it and give the extra to the local clothing depot. Perfect timing!

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  12. I am a lurker. I love reading all you've done and it's inspired me. (not as much as you, but I am always trying to get rid of "stuff")

    Just wanted to let you know that Sam's Club sells Christmas for at least half the price of other places.

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    1. Sam's Club sells Christmas?

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  13. Christmas is something I am ALWAYS feeling we need to cut back on. Our kids are young, we have more than we needs and grandparents to spoil them anyways. So we always keep it simple. One or two gifts.

    I love this idea though.
    What a wonderful idea. Thank you for sharing!


    31 Days to Living a More Intentional Life
    www.ourfrontporchview.blogspot.com

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  14. Thank you for posting this. Our family has also decided to cut back on Christmas, but in a different way. We have decided that most of the gift giving will be homemade this year. I'm sewing journal covers, aprons, doll diapers - even reusable menstrual products for the ladies! We will fill the kids stockings with their usual craft supplies and book (never candy), and then buy them one special gift each. This way of doing Christmas has changed significantly from four years ago when I actually cried on Christmas morning because we could only afford to give our daughter one toy truck. Now, I wonder why I had an issue with it.

    PS. The October challenge is already changing my life! Thanks!

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    1. Oh, Michelle. I am smiling and please take my comment with a grain of salt, but I don't know WHAT I would do if someone gave me a reusable menstrual product for C'mas, lol! I do love your other ideas. :-)

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  15. I can relate to you on your blog posts in so many ways. This one does hit especially close to home for me. We decided after I started this minimalist journey by myself, my husband jumped on the band wagon and our daughters. Christmas will be simple with very little clutter gathered as gifts. We decided to take a trip up north where our oldest daughter & her family lives to spend Christmas with them. Love your posts. Could you please give a little more detail on what your doing for Christmas? Hugs, Bobbi Jo

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  16. Thank you for sharing your plans for Christmas!
    I myself will try to focus on my family and the people who have been there for me. Yep, hopefully some homemade gifts, but trying to be realistic.
    Most of all, will recject (ok, at least question) the idea that we have to give the people we love A LOT of EXPENSIVE things.
    Ieva

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  17. We do a small Christmas too, and give to Angel Tree and Shoebox, etc. But all of the Christmas gifts we purchase, for anyone at all over the holiday season, are all gifts that benefit others as well. Toms shoes, or a basket or trinket from working women in another country, a stuffed animal from WWE, etc. Love all of the ideas here!

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  18. I love this! We actually started the tradition with our kids last year of giving them both four gifts each using the idea (that I stole from a blog that I don't remember, but I have heard it other places) to give them something they want, need, wear, and read. Since they are only 2 & 3 now, we are starting before they can really figure out that lots of people get A LOT more than that. It really helps us think through our gifts, helps us not spend too much, and keeps us from picking up impulse gifts that just fill our house and I will have to clean up. I buy or make Christmas PJs as the wear part. I also try pretty hard to get the gifts taken care of before Thanksgiving because it really helps make the Christmas season less stressful and keeps me out of the stores and away from shopping to prevent the constant want and temptation to buy things just because they are on sale. This has made the Christmas season a lot more enjoyable and less hectic! We also add different days to give toys or clothes away into our advent countdown activities.

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  19. I love this! My husband and I have been married for 15 years (second marriages) and we have NEVER given each other gifts. I told him upfront that I give to charity, Angel Tree, and write a check to ST Jude Childrens Research Hospital. He has been fine with it and so have I. And Ihave to say I love it when people ask me what my husband gave me for Christmas and I say "Nothing!". I am not about jewelry, diamonds, etc. We both just wear plain gold bands. I am about simplicity, living practical!!! So proud of you and your family!!!!

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  20. So I'm a quiet stalker of your blogs and usually don't feel the need to comment but I think expressing gratitude is important... Thank you for the quote from Basil. It is beautiful. I've joined you in reading the Sermon on the Mount this month and already I feel my heart crumbling as I realize I love my Savior but haven't really DONE what He said. I appreciate getting stirred up, especially just before this season. I'm excited to truly celebrate Him.

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  21. I to enjoy 'stalking' your wonderful blog. I was a single Mom for over 17 years before getting remarried. Five years into singleMomhood, I announced to my "everybody but me, two income family" that I was not buying everybody presents. I barely had enough money for my son, let alone the other 20+ family members. Needless to say, it did not go over very well. That same year, after my last client(I had my own cleaning business), I, along with many other parents stood in line at Toys R Us, at 5pm Christmas Eve, trying to get my shopping done. I realized then that my son and I were missing out on Christmas together. He spent his whole vacation with his Grandparents, while I cleaned and helped others get ready for Christmas. I decided then, never again. The next year, two months before Christmas, I kindly let my clients know that I was taking a VACATION, the two weeks before Christmas. Something I rarely did, as if I did not clean, I did not get paid. That too did not go over very well. I lost one client, but my son and I had our first of many great Christmas' together. I have never regretted those decisions, though they were tough ones.

    So do what is best for yourself, husband and kiddos. You all will be glad you did, I promise.

    blessings, jill

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  22. Wow. My husband and I have been inspired by your journey to do our own month of re-focusing. It looks different than what you are doing, but the heart of it is the same. But we're only doing it for a month. And just today I told him I was feeling convicted about Christmas. If we're trying to focus on him, shouldn't that carry past this month? Mainly, shouldn't Christmas look like it's focused on him? And we talked for a long time about how we wanted to handle Christmas this year. We ended our conversation saying we wouldn't make any decisions right now because we both LOVE giving presents (my husband admitted it would be harder to limit himself when buying for me than buying for our sons) and we just weren't sure we could commit to limiting ourselves so much. And now, tonight, I read this post. Wow. Just wow. I think God is speaking to us through you. Again. Thank you!

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  23. A couple of years ago we decided to cut way back on Christmas. We talked with our families and broached the subject by saying that since the economy was so bad we were wondering if they would like to cut back on Christmas gifts, to make the financial side a little easier on everyone. We ended up compromising on giving gifts to the kids only. It cut out more than half of the people on our list though. For our own kids, we try to ask for things they need or things we would really like to get for them but just cannot afford. If they are going to buy the kids gifts, it might as well be something they can use.


    We also started doing a $100 Christmas challenge. We have $100 out of pocket to spend on gifts. With nine family members and about eleven of my son's teachers/therapists that's not much money to go around. Each of our kids gets a stocking and then one toy from us. (Grandparents and extended family make sure they have toys so they still get PLENTY.) I buy things at garage sales, thrift stores and on mega clearance. I can sometimes find brand new stuff second-hand and the cost is way less than it would be new. But our two teenage nephews usually end up getting the bulk of our budget. I usually stalk pinterest and find an inexpensive gift to make for all of the teachers and therapists. For the past 2 years we have made scented bath salts. The salts cost me about $4 (and we still have some leftover) and I used peppermint oil we already had. I put them in leftover jars from buying probiotics and voila, a cute little gift.

    Every year we have given some gifts to charity. This year I would like to give at least as much as we spend on our other Christmas gifts. It seems backwards to struggle to find gifts for people who have almost everything they could ever want instead of giving to those who truely need help to cover the basics of food, shelter and clothing.

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