How To Change Christmas Traditions You Can’t Afford : The Saturday Weekend Review #202

how to change christmas traditions you can't afford



Christmas around the world is different for everyone and there are no set rules to say how much to spend on festivities. Many people like to keep Christmas traditions going once they’ve moved out, gotten married or have children but can’t afford it. These parents want their children to experience the same traditions as they did however if money is tight things may have to change.

According to Mrs.CBB when she was younger it was difficult to see under the Christmas tree for all the gifts that were stacked around it. Christmas traditions in their house began with a huge holiday morning breakfast and hours of gift-giving and receiving followed by plenty of wrapping paper clean-up.

It was fun times she says and lots of memories were made but Christmas Traditions like that are hard to hang on to once you have a family of your own. Where you may run into problems is when some of the family members agree to change and others are not so happy about it.

At the time there were no set financial limits when it came to gift-giving but their Christmas traditions continued for many years until something changed. They grew up, moved out, got married and had kids. Coming home for the holidays because the kids moved away was a struggle as was keeping up financially with the family Christmas traditions.

Christmas Traditions used to be about them but now it has changed because the kids have become a bigger part of the holiday celebrations. What used to an almost half-day event of no price limit gift-giving changed to a dollar amount. The first year went fine buying gifts for everyone and we began to build new Christmas Traditions that we thought would be feasible for the family.

Move ahead a couple of years now and things have changed financially for my wife’s parents and for us. Since then we started to budget for Christmas so we spent the same amount on all the kids even  back home in the UK. For this reason we put a stop to our gift-giving extravaganza that used to take us hours to shop and wrap. It was fun but the expenses were not especially when all we really wanted to do was go home and spend time with the family.

It’s easy for Christmas traditions to get out of hand especially if there is someone in the family who isn’t ready for change. Family feud’s can start and then what used to be a fun gathering turns into a jealous pot of family members who believe you are being too frugal.

Since we’ve gotten past all of this over the last few years I thought maybe others might be going through something similar. I was hoping to shed some light on how it’s perfectly fine to break Christmas traditions to build anew. Memories are in our minds and hearts for a reason and sometimes we have to push forward to a new way of thinking when times change.

This is our time-line of gift-giving Christmas traditions over the years for 8 adults and 6 children.

  • No numbers specified just buy as much as you want
  • Approximately $150-200 per person
  • $100 per person
  • $50 per person
  • $25 per person
  • Only for the kids $50 and an envelope for the adults with photos and a lottery ticket.

Included in this was the baking of many Christmas cookies which were an absolute hit. These days the adults have backed off eating the cookies due to health changes and the kids don’t eat as much to call for all the baking. Mrs. CBB hasn’t had any sweets since last year and her parents shouldn’t be eating them either. Bringing too much home is only tempting them so we opt for healthier snacks.

This year we’ve decided to stop baking our traditional Christmas cookies and try something new. Instead of the Holiday Snowballs, Festive Coconut Balls and about 5 other cookies we will make Dundurn Castle Shortbread fingers and chocolate peanut butter balls without the nuts and cherries. That’s it. One of my wife’s siblings no longer bakes and just buys snacks and appetizers pre-made from Costco. Her reasoning is that it’s a time-saver rather than a money saver since she now has a child and works so much.

Although one family member seems a bit bummed over the change she understands that having too many sweets at home is tempting for those who shouldn’t be eating them. Not only that but the price of baking ingredients are not cheap and to have only a few people enjoy some of the baking and most of it ends up in the freezer isn’t worth the time and effort.

The only Christmas tradition that hasen’t changed is coordinating schedules so we can all be together. When there were no kids involved getting together over the holidays was simple. When our little guy was a baby it was simple to visit but last year was a nightmare at Christmas as he was NOT happy at all so we left early.

Another family member has multiple Christmas celebrations to attend to now that she is married with kids. Over the years this has been challenging meaning we might not celebrate Christmas on Christmas Day but we all find a way to be in the same house during the holidays. Although we’d like to keep our Christmas traditions the same it’s more important for us to keep them alive.

Forget about how much money everyone wants to spend and the types of foods everyone wants to eat because that’s really just the small stuff. This holiday focus on sparkles and joy for it’s only when someone is gone that they are truly missed so love them when they are here.

Happiness for us is sitting by the fireplace and Christmas tree  with a hot beverage watching classic Christmas movies. When the kids have had enough we stop the movie and begin listening to holiday music while the children laugh and play. Roasting chestnuts on the fire and joking around about the funny things that we all do is more precious to us than how much we spend on gifts and who has the time to bake homemade goodies.


Christmas Traditions are meant to evolve


For those of you who are struggling with family feuds over the holidays I have a few tips that might ease the pain of changing Christmas Traditions with your family.

  • Gift-giving should be with-in reason but if you choose to spend more that’s your choice
  • You may not agree with everything but sometimes for the sake of it just smile and move on it’s not worth the arguments.
  • When a family member or someone says they can’t afford something don’t pressure them rather offer solutions that everyone can work with.
  • Sometimes you might have to miss a Christmas celebration because of other gatherings with extended-family and that’s fine. You can’t always be together with your family but if you can work it out on an alternate day then so be it. No one says you must celebrate Christmas on Christmas Day. Recognize the day and celebrate when it’s best for your family.
  • Creating new Christmas Traditions is a great way to inspire even the children to participate. Let them come up with new ways to do things such as opening 2 gifts on Christmas Eve or opening no gifts. Some kids may want to donate one of their gifts or buy gifts. Keep the spirit alive even if its small changes for you but wildly effective for others.

Christmas should never be ruined over financial decisions especially when they change for someone who once could afford to give more. It’s best to accept what is being said and allow the festivities to continue with happiness. After all gift-giving is about offering something to make someone else smile even if is hand-made or a surprise visit. Not all gifts can be un-wrapped.

Remember what made you smile as a child during the holidays and envision it every chance you get while enjoying the new. If you have children who are small, moved out or married with kids allow them to build their Christmas traditions by accepting change as they should for you.

Discussion Question:

What Christmas Traditions have changed in your family over the years and why?


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Today lets welcome JW from the personal finance blog, The Green Swan.

Hi Mr. CBB and Fans,

green-swanHello fellow CBB readers! My name is JW, also known as The Green Swan, and I run the early retirement blog, The Green Swan. I greatly appreciate being featured on the MAD series!

The Green Swan represents a way of life and my approach toward personal finance. Many of you may have heard of a black swan before, which is a metaphor to describe a surprise event with a major effect, e.g. the 2008 economic collapse that resulted in significant financial destruction. Well, alternatively, The Green Swan is a metaphor coined to describe a deliberate approach to managing and investing money with a major effect: wealth accumulation, financial independence (FI), and early retirement.

I was raised in “small town America”, had average grades in high school, got in my fair share of trouble, but studied hard and worked my way through college. After college I had an average job working for a large bank and I got married to my best friend. Shortly after, we experienced the 2008 economic collapse.

At that point, I stopped taking employment for granted and began a nights & weekends MBA program while working full-time.  I graduated with distinction, continued to work hard to advance my career, moved a couple times, and had a kid in the meantime. I’m just now starting to reap some rewards of this hard work, but I continue to work hard for everything I earn.

I’ve maintained a frugal lifestyle, invested my savings, and built wealth. In my late 20s is when I realized that if I keep going down this path, following The Green Swan lifestyle, I can reach FIRE (Financial Independence and Retire Early.

My wife and I managed to reach millionaire status earlier this year, at age 30. We hope to reach FI in five more years and ride off into the sunset not long after. If I can retire early, I know you can too. Follow The Green Swan way of life and you’ll be on your way!


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single serve coffee Keurig


Check out this awesome Brag from CBB Fan Colleen who found something at the Dollar Tree to save her money. I like how she is not brand loyal and looks for cheaper alternatives to fit her budget and lifestyle.


Hi everyone!!

What a deal if you aren’t brand loyal. A Keurig reusable filter sells for almost $15 each and a knock off set of 4 at Walmart is $16.

This is a K-cup compatible package of 2 which only costs $1.25 at the Dollar Tree. The tops on these aren’t hinged but just sit on top. Works for me.


Spotlight on finance

dont go broke trying to look richDon’t Go Broke Trying To Look Rich

I felt with the topic of today’s blog post that this finance quote from The Good Vibe fit perfectly. So often people try to look rich when they are not. The hard part about playing this dangerous game is that you can go broke fast and it’s harder to live with the consequences once you’ve allowed them to happen. Budget your money and don’t be afraid to say, No.


Top finance post


I read lots of finance posts from all over the world every week and I learn something new from each one of them. This week I stopped by the personal finance blog, Becoming Minimalist to read a story dating back to 1982 titled, The White Envelope. It fits perfectly with today’s blog post about traditions and how they can begin and end. You’ll love this story, trust me.

This story was originally published in the December 14, 1982 issue of Woman’s Day magazine by Nancy W. Gavin. It was the first place winner out of thousands of entries in the magazine’s “My Most Moving Holiday Tradition” contest in which readers were asked to share their favorite holiday tradition and the story behind it.

The story inspired a family from Atlanta, Georgia to start The White Envelope Project and Giving101, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating youth about the importance of giving.


Frugal recipe box


French-Toast-Sausage-Roll-Ups-1Food is a big part of any budget and a struggle for so many people which is why I’ve created frugal recipes for my family and yours for many years.

I have a second Facebook page called The Free Recipe Depot where I exclusively share recipes from Food Bloggers around the world.

Since we are officially in Christmas Holiday season I’ll be sharing festive recipes for the month of December.

Check out the Free Recipe Index on CBB compiled of frugal recipes that are 100% tested and accepted by family and friends!

Over at Tastes Better From Scratch Lauren sure knows how to make her readers drool with delicious looking recipes like these French Toast Roll-Ups.

I thought this would be a perfect breakfast for Christmas morning and a perfect change if you’re used to the same breakfast every year. You could also serve these as morning appetizers after breakfast but before lunch as snacks.


Frugal DIY crafts



I found this simple Christmas wreath craft over at Kids Play Box that you can make with the kids. All you need to stock up on paper plates, paint, sparkles, glue and pom-poms. You can buy all of this at the Dollar Store along with some pipe-cleaners to hang the wreath.


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That’s all the fun for this week, thanks for dropping by and we’ll see ya all again next Saturday!


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  1. This year I’m trying to instigate a change and it’s being well received. I emailed my family to change some expectations and they are in agreement. Early planning is the key.

  2. There is one tradition that has changed for us, and that’s what we eat at Christmas dinner. Since my daughter is a vegan, we have actually replaced all meat with vegan alternatives. Everybody loves the food, even the nonvegan family members (or so they say at least, haha). It feels good though, to not contribute to the animal food industry. And it is fun to discover new dishes!

    But as you say, the most important tradition is spending time with your family and having fun together. At the end of the day, love and the people in your life is all that matters.

  3. Thanks for having me on the MAD series!

    And yes, healthy snacks are a mustover Christmas! I know I don’t need a bunch of cookies and sugary foods. For us it’s best to stick with healthy foods and good eating habits over the holidays.

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