So guess what? Last month, we did it. I made my last student loan payment ever and we are 100%, even our house, debt free!!!! It was the craziest most freeing moment that also happened to be extremely normal too. Because it wasn’t like it was a green light to all of a sudden spend a bunch of money to celebrate! In fact we just immediately started working on our next financial goal of saving for our emergency fund (of 4-6 months of expenses for our Dave Ramsey baby step 3). Because now that we have figured out how to take charge of our money to reach our goals, we've learned that it still takes a tremendous amount of focus and attention..
Its the end of December though and the holidays are here, so did we become minimalists when it comes to gift giving and receiving because of Dave Ramsey? No and yes is the answer. Dave Ramsey loves Christmas and gift giving, but he is more focused on teaching you how to budget for gifts than to eliminate them. I do say yes though because this last year of focusing on our debt, really did make us examine where every dollar was going. So when we looked at the value of just buying stuff to check off the names on a list, it was missing our goal of being intentional with our money. So we did what a lot of people end up doing when they start trying to get a handle on their finances, and we just said no. No to friend gift exchanges, no to family gift exchanges, and definitely no to getting each other gifts. We have what we need and if we don't, then we save up and buy it ourselves.
Really though, this started long before Dave Ramsey, and it was when I started looking at how much waste there was in gifts. I am always trying to be a minimalist at home, constantly frustrated by the things we do keep in storage and always purging things (Marie Kondo also stepped that up a notch). So when it came to gifts I just hated that they came with this feeling that I was obligated to keep them because someone gave them to me. Then when I got over that feeling of obligation and started putting gifts that I didn’t need anymore, or frankly never needed or wanted from the beginning, into goodwill piles I got even more frustrated! What a waste of that thoughtful persons time, money, and energy that they looked for this gift, bought it, found a box or a bag, got wrapping paper, wrapped it and brought it to me only for it to be dumped off at goodwill. So I started to make it known to as many people as I was close with, don’t get me anything!! I have everything I need and I’ll just feel bad if you get me something and I didn’t get you anything. So just don’t. It first got through to my friends who know me well and now we get to focus on spending our time getting together just to catch up. Trust me its so freeing to not be worried or focused on the gifts when you see your friends around the holidays. It is harder with family, who will still always ask if we want to do a gift exchange or something simple at least. It’s hard to say no because they love the giving part of it so much, but when we do it stay out of it and just spend Christmas together talking, eating, or playing games its so much more rewarding.
I had told a coworker recently that I don’t do gifts and he said “Wow your Christmas must be so boring!” And yes I haven’t mentioned the exception to this rule and that is, children! Kids and gifts are still all about magic and excitement, so yes we are good aunts and uncles and we do buy the kids gifts. But we try and stay under a very reasonable price point and try hard to get them things they are really into that year and will really enjoy. I’ve also been bugging my sisters for years to set up a college fund that I could put half of our gift budget into for them, without success though I might add. But yes if the kids are around we happily spend the money and enjoy moments of excitement with them opening their toys. But i never get bored of spending time with my family, listening to my grandmas stories, playing some crazy game, and having a big meal together. That is more than enough for me.
What are the PRO's of being a holiday minimalist?
- NO STRESS!! I can't tell you how nice it is to not be running around from store to store, searching and looking for that gift that the person may or may not have, may or may not like, worrying about spending too much or spending too little, fighting traffic and rude holiday shoppers, etc! I literally don't have any of that! I ordered all my nephews and nieces presents online in about an hour this year and was done.
- Well obviously you are saving money! But its not just about the money, its about what more that money could do. Rather than all just the stuff you are exchanging, it could pay for a trip with the people you love, it could be a night out with those people, or even go towards something so much bigger.
- You are saving the planet! Okay this might sound a little dramatic, but things like stocking stuffers are a complete merchandisers gimmick to make you think you need to buy a bunch of cheap crap that no one actually wants or needs. Its just disposable, and honestly the world could use a lot less of this stuff sitting in the landfills.
- A change in priorities & a shift in your focus. Rather than it being about the stuff, it can end up being about the quality time you get to share with your friends and family. Maybe you could hear a new story from a family member that you had never heard before? Or get to have time to go through old family photos? Or learn a new recipe from a family member. But once your attention and time is shifted towards togetherness, a lot can come out of it.
So this is not me trying to guilt you if you do buy gifts for your loved ones, its actually quite the opposite. Its about bringing an intentionality to this part of the holidays. Looking at what your purchasing and really thinking all the way through your reasons for giving them. Is it just a thing you've always done? Is it because that person is going to get something for you? Or is it because you really enjoyed taking the time to find that absolutely perfect thing that you know they are going to love?? Because when it comes from the right place and is given with the right intention, there is a such a beautiful joy in gift giving and receiving. But sometimes the absence of them can be just as, if not more, wonderful.