What kind of holidays do you really want?

What kind of holidays do you really want?

The days are fast approaching for many family holiday gatherings. The last couple of years have been challenging, and many adaptations have been made to keep families safe. As you talk with family members, I’d like to offer a few questions that might help to define the expectations for everyone.

What kind of holidays do you really want to experience for you and your family? What do you want to share? How much do you want to spend? What changes are you and your family willing to make? What do the children remember most about your traditions?

This time of year, many of us get overwhelmed, and some of those feelings may be because we are aiming to meet the expectations of others, both our families and our friends. It is a wonderful time of year to create a happy season for your family, and to do that in part, we need to focus on the things that truly matter. So ask yourself and your family, What parts of the celebrations are most meaningful? Where can I focus my efforts? What can I let go of? Can some items be eliminated that can be helpful for not only the time factor, but also the budget?

As part of the conversation with extended family, maybe this year is the time to cut down on giving gifts to everyone. Maybe it’s time to draw names or only buy for the children. It may be a wonderful time to look at family possessions and share those while the stories can be shared along with them.

Last weekend when I was home and helping my parents decorate, there was a ceramic tree Mom had made in the back of the closet that was no longer used. When I asked if I might have it for Christmas, the conversation led to many stories I will always cherish.

Maybe, instead of gifts to wrap, it’s a gift of time. It could be a future event like a dinner and a movie in February or a trip to see flowers or a special exhibit in the spring or summer. That would spread the cost out throughout the year and the enjoyment as well.

Maybe it’s a labor of love, like cleaning out the car or the garage or even help with a particular project that would be received with a smile in place of items that are not really needed.

It seems the food, both for the meals and the gifts that are shared, takes up a large part of the budget. The average consumer spends about $2.17 — maybe more with the current grocery prices — for every minute spent in the grocery store, according to the Food Marketing Institute. Most additional purchases are the result of us seeing, touching, smelling or tasting additional products. So the key to effectively sticking to your budget is to make a list and don’t shop more often than is needed. The exception might be when there are items on sale that you use on a regular basis and you have the extra money and storage space for them.

Another strategy might be to shop at different stores for different sale items each week, remembering in the long run to only purchase what is needed and what the budget will allow.

When possible, plan the menus for meals or gifts around what is already in the pantry or cupboards. Look at the recipes and see if there are items that can be substituted. For example, nuts on top of a casserole might be exchanged with cereal or cracker crumbs that have been toasted. Nuts are more expensive, and cereal is most usually on hand. If family and/or friends are close by, invite them to share the load by signing up for dishes to bring. Sometimes the family favorites come from those who have a special recipe to share.

Thinking back to the expectations, how many paychecks do you have between now and your events to share? With what you can budget, make a plan and stick with it so additional debt doesn’t cloud future plans as we enter 2022.

Being realistic to your family situation this year, your favorite traditions and being easy on yourself are important to meeting expectations so everyone can enjoy the holidays. As we have these conversations, remember the true meaning of the season can’t be wrapped in ribbons or bows or shared around the table. May your family be blessed as we begin another year.

All of us at OSU Extension wish you the best for your holiday gatherings.

Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension family and consumer sciences educator and may be called at 330-264-8722.