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Crows on a Cloud

My friend posted a cute picture of her Christmas decorations online. In the post, she mentioned her budget for holiday decorating. $9. I was in awe of her strict and excellent budgeting. An angel of hope on a tree of debt. $9 for Christmas decorations felt like some kind of sanity. Growing up, decorating was a big deal. Though mostly secondhand, decorations seemed to insulate the house in the winter and thrilled our joyful hearts.

What is the deal with December? For many families that barely scrape by, we’re supposed to come up with all these magic funds to buy presents for everyone who matters to us. Where does this money come from? Well, I guess it comes from your holiday budget.

Your budget for Christmas presents, decorations, parties, travel, time off from work, entertaining visiting friends or family is a hot topic. The average American spent $935 on Christmas presents alone in 2016 according to a study by the National Retail Federation. But who talks about emotional budgeting?

What’s your emotional budget for Christmas? Do you have a limit for what you will let yourself handle? Last weekend I was wracking my brain trying to figure out travel and holiday plans. Who watches the dog alone is a headache. Planning for the end of December feels like solving the quadratic formula and we only have two people in our family. If you are married to your planner like I am, you may enjoy Marcia Ramsland’s Christmas planner. In it, she suggests you start on Halloween versus Thanksgiving because it’s always an exact eight weeks away.

In addition to your financial budget, I encourage you to create a mental health budget as well. Do you have a silent night penciled in? I’d like to use one to learn how to play “Carol of the Bells” on piano. Schedule in free time if you have to. Sometimes I write in my calendar to remember to look my child in the eye. Sounds bad, but it works for me. Are you including buffer time between activities on Dec. 25? Will you make rest a priority?

Celebrating Christmas by doing less is getting back to its original roots of humble reverence with trends of families simplifying even the color in their home to reflect a mood of focus, peace and reflection. Families and friends are opting out on material presents and instead saying something kind and meaningful when they celebrate. It’s interesting that Facebook lets us donate our birthdays to a cause important to us but not our Christmas.

My friend from Guadalajara speaks to the potential peace of this day. He likes that Christmas in Mexico is extremely sacred. Even drug lords stop killing each other on Christmas. It's a day of putting your differences aside.

My mom had South Carolinian roots and would read the 1930 story “How Come Christmas” to us as children on Christmas Eve. There was truly no better gift or holiday comfort beside the fire than this fun story and performance-based family tradition.

Thanksgiving is my skin care holiday. The time when things get even drier and colder here and I try to tune into some self-care. Christmas is supposed to be the care-for-others holiday. In The Christmas Chronicles on Netflix, Kurt Russell’s glacier blue eyes tell us that Christmas is when we realize how good we can be.

It should be easy to figure out who is having a hard time in your circle. If your list isn’t already full there are many opportunities to give even downtown at Rainbow’s End with a Sharon Manor giving tree or the mall. If you want someone a little closer to your circle, use social media to ask if anyone your friends know could use a gift of money, time, transportation or food. Maybe you can’t afford a reasonable contribution to a cause you support, but you probably could along with a group of friends. Emphasize cooking in the home on these cold days, and give a favorite or custom recipe along with a dish instead of a present. If you’re doing it right, some of that extra time that you’ve budgeted out can provide an opportunity to help a friend move or ask your neighbor if they need anything.

It should increase your joy which should increase your energy which you’ll need to put up all those holiday decorations. And if you are going to shop please, shop local!

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Katie King lives at high altitudes telling middlebrow jokes, mostly to her son who tells her to get real. She is an actor, writer and songwriter, and claims 17 years as a Flagstaff local.


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