Happy Thanksgiving week, dear friends! Now that it’s officially socially acceptable to start celebrating Christmas, I have a confession to make. We started decorating for Christmas and watching Christmas movies about two weeks ago. Before you give me a hard time for wishing away Thanksgiving or rushing in the Christmas commercialism, hear me out.
Our family loves to celebrate the holidays. It brings us joy to put out our decorations and set a festive mood for our home. We have a close family and we truly enjoy spending time together. We cherish the holidays and we always feel that they passed much too quickly. Traditionally, I have waited until after Thanksgiving to start decorating and celebrating (but not shopping… that starts earlier for maximum savings. You can read about my game plan here). This year, I started to question this tradition. Why do I feel like I have to wait to do something that makes us happy? Why do I care if other people don’t agree with our decision? Does it really hurt anything or anyone to start celebrating a little earlier? As I considered this, I realized something very liberating: I AM A GROWN WOMAN AND I CAN START THE CHRISTMASING WHENEVER I WANT! Maybe only my fellow people-pleasers will understand this feeling of freedom. I know that the issue of when to put out Christmas decorations is trivial, but in my deep-rooted, rather ridiculous desire to please all the people all the time, I’ve never even stopped to consider whether or not I’m happy with this Only After Thanksgiving situation. It turns out, I’m actually not. And the best part is I don’t have to be! I can sing Christmas carols and watch Hallmark holiday movies for two months if I want to and it’s okay. Some people might disagree with me and that’s okay, too. Either way, I want to share with you why I feel like this is an important realization for my family.
This post may seem like a digression from my usual posts about money, but it really goes back to the issue of Contentment that I wrote about in The Key to Budgeting Success. Your financial success is closely related to your ability to find joy in relationships and experiences rather than stuff. You will be caught in an eternal rat race with your savings plan if you feel like you live in a constant state of deprivation. That’s miserable. No one can sustain that for very long. Also, people won’t want to hang out with you if you live like a financial Eeyore who can never have any fun because you’re “trying to save money.” I say this from experience, my friend. I’ve tried it both ways. I spent the first two years of our marriage mostly on the Eeyore side and it wasn’t much fun to be around (bless my husband for putting up with that). I felt like all the fun things cost too much money and we spent a lot of time staring at the four walls of our apartment. Looking back, I wish I had tried harder to make the best of the situation. Plenty of things don’t cost money! We could have played card games, gazed at the stars, or learned new life skills from YouTube. I could have invited friends over for a potluck rather than feeling like I had to feed everyone myself on our tiny grocery budget. Part of the problem was that my idea of “fun” had been so ingrained by society that I never considered those other things. Just like with the Christmas decorations, I never challenged the idea that “date night” included dinner out or a trip to the movie theater. Unfortunately, I just went with the traditional school of thought and assumed our lives had to be boring to save money.
Now, I would say I’m mostly on the Contentment side of the scale. I have to credit the majority of this change to my husband. He is by far the most optimistic person I know (this was incredibly frustrating in my Eeyore years as I’m sure you can imagine). He refuses to not have fun. I’ve learned from him how to enjoy small things and soak up good times. We are learning how to have fun without spending much money. We have surrounded ourselves with friends who don’t mind inexpensive nights in each other’s homes. Admittedly, this became a lot easier when everyone started having babies. Taking several small kids to a restaurant is not “fun.” It’s more like a hellish nightmare. We also learned how to host friends and family in our home. Over time, we invested small amounts of money into our house to make it more inviting and comfortable. We learned a few inexpensive recipes that feed a crowd and started storing those items in the freezer. We had to get past apologizing for mismatched furniture and non-gourmet meals because friendships and quality time are much more important. We had to learn how to prioritize the good stuff and let the rest go.
Everyone has good days and bad days, but you get to decide whether you set up camp on the Eeyore side or the Contentment side. It’s up to you to look past the expectations of others and embrace the simple pleasures that make you feel content. This November, I found contentment in early Christmas decorating. It certainly did not diminish my Thanksgiving enthusiasm. I introduced my girl to the awesomeness that is the Macy’s Day Parade just like I would have otherwise. I won’t spend any more money on Christmas this year than I would if I had waited two more weeks to start decorating, but I will cherish watching my baby a few more days as she stares wide-eyed at the Christmas lights. I will get to enjoy the smell of my cinnamon candle and the memories of our past Christmas trees for a couple extra weeks this year. I will have the opportunity to cry over sappy love stories in Hallmark movies as I think back on my own sweet love story a few more times this season. Those things are worth far more than the brief insecurity I feel when someone comments on my decorating “too early.” Let’s commit to start doing more of what makes our souls happy, even if it’s unconventional. Next year, I think I’m going to start my Christmas celebrations the day after Halloween just because it sounds like fun.
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