Home Design Your Best Life - 52 Week Series Finding Freedom Week 17: Leaning In To Christmas

Finding Freedom Week 17: Leaning In To Christmas

by phiafreedom101@gmail.com

Alright folks – before we get into this weeks post, I’m super excited to share that Mike and I were recently invited to sit down for an interview with the Money Mechanic and Chrissy over at the Explore FI Canada (EFIC) podcast.

I am a big fan of MM and Chrissy. They both run their own FI blogs at the FI Garage (on which MM also hosts the FI Garage podcast with co-hosts The Accountant and the Economist), while Chrissy can be found over at Eat Sleep Breathe FI. They both regularly put out amazing content that always keeps me coming back for more.

Unfortunately their EFIC co-host, Ryan (creator of the Canadian FIRE blog), couldn’t make it for this interview, but I’m hoping we’ll get an opportunity to chat with him in the future!

As always, it was a ton of fun to chat with MM and Chrissy. We had a chance to delve into how we got started on our road to Financial Freedom, some of the big decisions and investments that helped us along the way, what we think of retirement now that we are on the other side of Financial Freedom, and what we are up to now! You can check out the interview here.

A huge thanks to the EFIC crew for having us on 🙂

Now – let’s get into the spirit of Christmas? Yes.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

I love Christmas. It is hands down my favourite holiday.

I have incredibly fond memories of going to pick out the perfect Christmas tree with my mom and siblings, of filling the windows with hand cut paper snowflakes while real snowflakes lazily drifted down in the yard outside, and of drinking Cadbury hot chocolate with mini marshmallows while watching the original Grinch.

Memories of my Mom’s Christmas cards strewn about on our dining room table for weeks while she carefully hand wrote lengthy, personal, and thoughtful letters to each person on her list.

But more than anything else, I remember it as a time of friends and family.

A time when our house was regularly full of guests and the mouthwatering smells of big dinners wafted through the halls, while snow fell all around our little old farm house. The many nights we would head over to my Nana’s house to drink tea and listen to the adults while helping ourselves to her seemingly endless trays of chocolates, cookies, and pastries.

Or our annual tradition of carolling with a large group of friends in the snow, driving from house to house, stopping off at all the old folks homes, and feeling warm and fuzzy about how happy our visit’s seemed to leave them.

Then come Christmas Eve, we would drop carefully wrapped and oh so thoughtfully purchased presents off to everyone we knew, ringing loud Christmas bells to announce our arrival.

We’d top it off with a big dinner at my Grandma’s house, my Mom would let us open one Christmas present that night (always Pajama’s, and yet every year we were still excited), read a long list of special Christmas books my Mom would pre-order from the library (Mouskin’s Christmas, Apple Tree Christmas, A Hundred Shining Candles, The Cross Country Cat, Cranberry Christmas, just to name a few), and then me and my siblings would pile into one bed together to giggle and wait anxiously for Christmas morning to arrive.

As much as we loved opening presents, for me, the highlight of the day was always Christmas dinner, which we would get to eat by candle light.

I loved it all. It was magical.

As a child, I didn’t recognize the immense effort my Mom invested to make every Christmas season one of wonder. And she did it all on a budget, without us ever having any idea.

Now that I’m a parent, it’s apparent just how much work that all would have required, and my appreciation for those wonderful family memories is immense.

And yet – all of those things that I remember so well, I do hardly any of with my own children.

The Ghost of Christmas Present

When we were working, it felt like December was a season filled with obligatory work Christmas parties and school concerts or bake sales that filled every weekend, topped off with whirlwind trips to see as many of our family as we could pack in over our brief holiday time off.

In response, I worked hard to rid ourselves of Christmas obligations. To minimize the events we would go to, and overall make our Christmas as EASY and efficient as possible.

Our Christmas tree, while large and beautiful, is fake, and I often decorate it when the boys are busy with other things to make sure that it looks all Martha Stewart like, and, if I’m being honest, because it’s easier and faster.

I bake cookies and treats, but I do it when the boys are in bed – because it’s easier and faster.

And while I do make sure that every season we make paper snowflakes, and watch the Grinch with our cups of hot chocolate, the complaining that would happen if I asked our oldest (and likely Mike too!) to go Christmas carolling makes me cringe. I also have a horrible voice – so there’s that part too.

I don’t host things the way that my Mom, and Nana used to – because it’s easier. I don’t do cards in general. I’ve always had an aversion to paying for something that I myself throw into the trash a few weeks later, and the thought of keeping the cards makes my de-cluttering self shudder.

I’ve spent a lot of time”simplifying” Christmas. Reducing my obligations as much as possible, minimizing the stuff, and relentlessly cutting costs.

But as I’ve been reflecting on how to make this Christmas season one my boys will also have fond memories of, I’ve been realizing that maybe I’ve been investing my Christmas efforts poorly. Because if there’s any type of common theme in my childhood memories, it’s the feelings or warmth from being with family and friends that stands out above all else. And all of that……took effort (and frankly – had associated expenses. It’s not cheap to host people).

The Goal of Christmas Future

So while I may have been on the right track with my efforts to simplify our Christmas season, and keeping costs reasonable, trying to make it EASY has translated to it not feeling all that special.

So this Christmas, I’ve decided to invest the effort, but to do it in a very intentional way. To slow things down, and really savour the moments. To be selective about what we go to, but not to the point of eliminating the events and gatherings that matter most. And also – to take the time to give back, in person, as a family.

I’ll be making the effort to host plenty of events with family and friends, but rather than posing as Jamie Oliver, they will all be potluck style. So not only will it not cost me a fortune, more importantly, I’ll get to relax and enjoy the company, rather than trying to play the perfect host.

As always, I’m still going to keep the stuff to a minimum, so I’ve already set a strict limit of only a dozen stocking stuffers, and my children’s gift will be limited to the playroom space I’m creating for them, but I am going to ignore the quality of my Christmas tree decorations, or the appearance of my baked goods or wrapped presents, and simply embrace the fun of having my boys do those things with me, in whatever way they turn out.

Buyer Beware**: The sugar cookies and butter tarts will have been made with the assistance of a 10 year old and 2 year old. I will make them wash their hands multiple times. But you have all been warned.

Our family may never be a family that goes out carolling, but rather than trying to minimize the effort of the Christmas season and maximize my efficiency, instead I’m going to slow down, lean in, invest the time, and create our own unique traditions. Ones that we can all enjoy, look back on fondly, and leaves us with the warm and fuzzies that only family and friendships can bring.

I’m confident that it will be an investment that, over the long term, will pay dividends. Maybe one day one of my kids will write a post about the wonderful Christmas memories that I helped them forge 😉 A mama can hope.

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