Christmas used to be so easy as a kid. All I had to do was wake up on Christmas Day and open the presents Santa brought me, since I was good all year, of course. As I got older, Christmas got even better. (Spoiler alert) knowing Santa wasn’t real and my family was in charge of my presents made it easy to hint at what I wanted. Eventually, I really grew up and realized I couldn’t free-load off of my family anymore and I had to give them presents as well.
Here’s the thing about Christmas: It’s really expensive, and it shouldn’t have to be. It’s not just the presents, but the parties, decorations and other events as well. After a few years of spending a lot of money and stressing out a little bit, I made some changes. The biggest change was to realize that money isn’t what makes Christmas, and as cheesy as it sounds, it’s really about enjoying the company of loved ones.
As my three best friends and I got older, we realized it was time we gave each other presents for being friends for so long and we all had good jobs. But, we did think about the fact it would be adding more people we had to give presents to. So we compromised and started a secret Santa tradition. Instead of buying three separate gifts, we only bought one and set a spending limit. Then we get together for dinner and exchange gifts. It’s one of my favorite traditions. Then we spend a few hours with each other, having a great dinner and giggling about who we thought had who and why. We spend the month before the exchange trying to get one of us to admit who we got. So if you have a lot of people to shop for, a secret Santa is the best way to do it.
Last weekend I was in Bellingham visiting my brother with my boyfriend and on our way back home we saw a bunch of lights and people and decided to stop and see what all of the commotion was about. It was a Christmas parade! We were so happy in that moment, watching a bunch of kids dressed up as snowmen and a million lights everywhere. That right there, is what Christmas is all about. We didn’t spend a single cent and we were so happy.
Of course, giving and receiving presents is a lot of fun. So when it comes to having to purchase presents, I have two words: Black Friday. It sounds a little crazy to buy your presents a whole month in advance but it can save you a lot of money, especially for more expensive things. So try and at least get the most expensive things during Black Friday sales to save some money. Tickets to events are always a good idea too because most of the time, there is a Groupon for it.
I know Christmas parties are so much fun, but having to buy an ugly sweater can definitely get expensive. The best thing you can do is stock up when Christmas is over for ugly Christmas sweaters. They usually end up half off or more, since Christmas is over. The same advice goes for decorations. Buy a few to get you through your first year of decorating, at full price, but then wait and get everything else after Christmas for the next year.
And also, don’t waste your money on unnecessary items like gift wrap. I love having my presents wrapped up, nice and neat with bows and string and all of that, but at the end of the day, it’s all just garbage. Once I realized this, the Dollar Store became my best friend.
So remember, Christmas really isn’t about how much money you spend or how many presents you get. It’s about being happy with your favorite people around you. If you’re stressing out, you’re doing something wrong.
Ana Karen Perez-Gusman is a reporter at the Covington-Maple Valley-Black Diamond Reporter and a regular contributor to the Courier-Herald.