I said more cowbell, not more cowbells.
The holidays are hard for the Frug. Christmas shopping gives everyone a fantastic excuse for buying more stuff. You know the whole gifts and holiday traditions thing going on. Our friends, family, and our extended family fully embrace the holidays. Multiple family get-togethers and other holiday parties take their toll on the wallet. There are also 9 plastic tubs of holiday stuff that emerge from the deepest corners of the storage room shortly after Thanksgiving. Lots of festive pinecones, cowbells, singing Santas, ornaments and knickknacks.
I said more cowbell, not more cowbells!
I can just feel the surge of stuff rolling into the house from all directions. Just thinking about my required half day of frantic holiday shopping also gives me hives.
This holiday season we made an effort as a family to see more stuff instead of buy more stuff.
So here’s the idea. SuperK and I hatched a plan in June to join some other family members on a trip to Mexico for Christmas. This would require some saving, airfare hacks, and creative scheduling as far as the traditional holiday get-togethers are concerned. We also had a goal of scaling back on gifts and having a more traditional utilitarian (I love that word) Christmas celebration.
We would make this holiday season all about family experiences versus stuff. Sure the kids would be disappointed but to be honest they are generally disappointed with most gifts. You can see SuperK’s thoughts on this here. Plus, it would be hard for them to complain while sitting on a beach in Mexico hearing about the icy temperatures at home. So, instead of making the trip a surprise we let them in on it early on. We built excitement with countdown calendars, savings thermometers and photos. We also talked about some of the adventures we would have in Mexico with friends and family.
I am also always playing up the idea that less stuff equals more. Less stuff to shop for, put together, store, repair get rid of, equals more time for adventure. In a year, I’d like to say we are traveling light not just on our adventures but at home, lightening the load that excess stuff puts on you.
Okay so this was a big experiment. Did it work? Here is some of the stuff we saw this holiday season in Mexico.
Family and friends from Baltimore MD, Amherst MA, Minneapolis MN, Los Angeles CA, Brooklyn NY.
A school of gray whales about 30 yards from a boat that was significantly smaller than each of the whales.
Went to Spanish Christmas Mass in a small neighborhood church in Puerto Vallarta.
The Greatest Mariachi Band in the World, as touted by family and friends that had seen them before. I must agree.
Several beach towns including Yelapa Mexico, only accessible by boat.
A taste of some small village life in Mexico by hiking up a trail of crumbling rocks and ancient steps.
Six fantastic sunsets.
A dose of reality for the boys, seeing many kids working selling trinkets on Christmas Day
The famous pie ladies of Yelapa, and some coconut pecan pie on the beach, why not.
Some of the best food Mexico has to offer including a great Fish and Chips place Joe Jacks
So here are a few tips for lightening the load so you can see more stuff next holiday season.
Use the stuff in, stuff out formula. For every new item that comes in the house two items need to leave. This can include toys your kids no longer play with, clothing they’ve outgrown (or I’ve outgrown), items you no longer use, knickknacks you’re just tired of looking at.
Start planning your adventures now. To make this happen, it really does require some thinking in February once you’ve recovered from your holiday $ hangover.
Add up everything you spent this holiday season and take a hard look at what you can move out of the category labeled stuff.
Give things away, It’s easier to part with anything when you believe someone may get some use out of it. We keep a large donation box in the hallway to always remind us of this. Last year we filled about 20 of these.
Keep a record of what you give away, Goodwill, Purple Heart receipts etc. you may be able to write off $500 or more on your taxes.
Make sure you’re using a credit card that produces from 2 to 5 points for each dollar spent. Check out the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Fidelity American Express that include 2% cash back or points on every purchase.
I’ll be working on the stuff out formula and who knows we may end up in Mexico again next Christmas.