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As I ponder the Christmas season, I feel somewhat overwhelmed. It’s because of the unwritten expectations of doing all the things and giving all the gifts, all the while trying somehow to manage to squeeze a little Jesus into the puzzle. I’d like to throw some holiday caution out there because I don’t like feeling overwhelmed and anxious, and I’m sure you don’t either. It truly doesn’t have to be that way, so I’d like to share a few things with you as we head into the holiday rush.

4 Things to Remember Heading into the Christmas Season

It’s super easy to get caught up in all the hoop-la that we forget to relax and enjoy the season. The older I get, the more I see the bustle that is constant from Halloween to Christmas; and honestly, it makes me understand why my parents didn’t love it as much I did as a kid.

Does it have to be that way? Do we have to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season? I’m just going to be honest, Black Friday gives me the heebie-geebies. There is nothing in me that wants to add my meager Christmas budget to the billions of dollars spent that day. It is projected that each shopper will spend over $1,000 on Christmas this year.

But what if you can’t do that? What if you don’t want to do that? Then I’m right there with you. That’s why I’m sharing 4 things to remember as we head into the Christmas season.

1. Focus on what you have and not what you don’t have

It’s simple, huh? Focus on what you have…. Verses what you don’t have. Trust me, I’m constantly having to remind myself to focus on what I already have.

When we focus on what we don’t have, or what others have or what they can do, as opposed to what we have or what we can do, we start feeling very defeated and frustrated.

Instead of thinking, I only have $300 to spend on Christmas on my three kids this year; think, yay, I can spend $100 per child this year! We all know that perspective is everything.

It would also be helpful if your children understand this concept as well. Start by redirecting their focus when they say they want something or wish something was another way. Gentle reminding and prompting is the way to get them to understand to appreciate what they do have.

2. Only spend what you have available (not what your credit limit is)

It seems like a no-brainer: only spend what you have. However, most Americans are not only spending over $1000 each, but much of that is going on credit cards. If you are used to overspending by using credit cards, promise yourself that you won’t. And stand by it. There is no reason for you to have to go in debt for Christmas. Take what you have available, and don’t spend any more than that. It might make for a smaller Christmas than you are used to, but in the long run, you will thank yourself.

I can remember the stress we used to feel [because we did make really dumb financial decisions as a young married couple!] after Christmas. We would get caught up in the excitement, buying the perfect gift, and pulling off the ultimate surprise. Unfortunately, it would bite us every.single.January.

I’m not sure why it took us so long to get it through our heads that we don’t have to lose our minds at Christmas. Except that we wanted to make Christmas magical for us and our children, and the only way we knew to do that was spend and go big! What we’ve learned, though, is that it can be magical (are you ready for it?) without spending ridiculous amounts of money.

To be sure, there are some who may enjoy the high stress and high anxiety that comes with all the shopping and spending, but if you want to stop for a bit? Slow down? Enjoy? Relax? Lean into those you love? Then do it. Stop spending more than you have. There will be less worry, less anxiety, and more of the things you actually want to get from the Christmas season.

Related: Make Christmas Amazing and Memorable – 17 Cheap or Free Ways

4 Things to Remember heading into the Christmas Season3. Make Jesus the center not the add on

Frankly, I’ve been guilty of saying, “Oh, and by the way, ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus!'” If we are true followers of Jesus, then Christmas should hold Him the center while the rest of the holiday fun takes second place.

I’m not talking about legalism here. I’m not saying to stop playing Santa or to stop buying gifts or putting up a Christmas tree. We could argue that all of the latter things mentioned are rooted in pagan rituals. Perhaps they are, but as Christians those aren’t the reasons we do those things.

However, it can also be argued that putting those things before Jesus, whose birth is the reason we celebrate, is placing idols before our God. I challenge you to find a way to keep Christ the center of your celebration this Christmas.

Resources we go back to every year include a Jesse Tree and devotion as well as an Advent story. These help us to focus on Jesus throughout the Christmas season and not add Him on on Christmas Day as a “by the way….”

Related: Can Christmas Just be Christmas? A Guide to Simplifying the Holidays

4. You aren’t obligated to make others happy

Mama, I know you want to make your people happy. We love seeing our babies and our hubbies pleased with our efforts during the Christmas season. The twinkle in little eyes is enough to make us go strong even when we want to throw our hands up at the whole mess.

I’m talking about everyone else. You know…those people who hold you to expectations, whether they are reasonable or not. We’ve come to expect so much during this time of year, and it isn’t fair to any of us.

Related: The Most Important Thing about Gift Giving

Promise me not to feel obligated! Focus on you and your family and however the rest of the world fits into that is okay.

The truth is this: you can’t make everyone [family, friends, extended family] happy. You can make yourself miserable trying, or you can let the expectations go and embrace simply enjoying your people and serving your Savior this Christmas season!

Savor the ever-fleeting moments.

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