Over the holiday weekend I read Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case For A More Joyful Christmas. With less than 100 pages it is a pretty fast read and I loved the fact that the cover was made from brown packing paper… it just screams minimalism and voluntary simplicity.
The core idea is to pick a modest amount of money like $100 and spend no more than that on the holiday. This allows us to slow down the pace of Christmas, make it more about time with loved ones, and less about rampant consumerism. Of course the book has a very slight religious bent (it is about Christmas after all) but this secular mom found it very good as well. I was actually raised in a home that celebrated no holidays and for several years after I started my own family I kept it that way. If I could avoid the money sucking holidays that have no religious significance to me, then why not right? Well, as my children got older it became apparent that you do it for the kids. Still, no reason to go all crazy and put ourselves in debt… or even in financial discomfort every year. The holidays became for us a tradition of time spent with family and modest gift giving.
This book came a little late to try the $100 thing because alas I have already spent that on just one of my kids. BUT I am not sure I would change that because we already travel a path of voluntary simplicity throughout the year and the kids don’t get a whole lot of gifts outside of Christmas and birthdays. I don’t have any guilt about what I spend this time of year. We have always kept it within reason and we pay cash for everything we buy. Some of our splurges for this holiday season are really gifts that will last all year long. I bought season passes to the zoo, the science museum, and the conservatory. I also bought tickets to a Ballet for my two oldest. The gift of time together can’t be undervalued.
That said though, I think this book has some WONDERFUL ideas for gift giving while keeping it under $100 and I am making a mental checklist for this year and next. The author, Bill McKibben, talks about using your skills or learning new ones to make gifts by hand, things like learning to make soap. My husband and I discussed this and we have some skill building plans in place so that we can make more stuff for ourselves, not for holidays but in general. The idea of making our own gifts is a bonus.
Another thing I valued in the book was the history lesson about Christmas and how it has come to be the holiday of excess that it is today. It was very interesting. If you happen to buy this book at some point, you could even re-gift it during the holidays and perhaps get another in your family on board with creating a new Christmas tradition that is more about celebrating life and your time with loved ones and less about consumerism and excess.