Another weekly column :)
The holidays can cause stress if you don’t factor their cost into your budget. More and more, families buy gifts for their kids on special occasions—look no further than Facebook for displays of piles of toys and candy for most holidays. Many people are feeling the pressure of “keeping up” to these expectations, especially when kids compare their loot at school. It can be hard to explain to little Timmy why his friends got new bikes from the Easter bunny and he only got the usual foil-wrapped chocolate eggs. Comparison is indeed the thief of joy when there are so many ways to see what others have and are doing. Parents, if you have had to cut back on your spending and it bothers you to see how others continue to shower their family with gifts and treats, consider taking a break from social media over the holidays. Not only will you rediscover spare time and be more present and in the moment with your family, your focus will be on enjoying yourself and not worrying that you haven’t provided enough for your kids. If you are spending time together, visiting, playing, having fun and making happy memories then you are providing everything that is needed! Your kids will thank you for spending time instead of money.
Maybe you are used to making a large event out of every special occasion. Even if you are still able to do so, consider your neighbours and friends who can’t afford it this year. Where you might normally get your kids their summer sporting equipment and give it at Easter, why don’t we all wait a week and give it because it is needed and leave the holiday out of it? It’s just not fair for kids to wonder why every holiday is a competition to see who got more.
Rather than a bunch of gifts, plan a treasure hunt with clues and a few chocolate prizes, or useful things like toothpaste, socks, used books and games. Make up certificates for “one day free of chores” or “dad makes your bed for a week”. Make it fun and take the focus off “stuff”! Another idea is to explain to your kids that money is tight for many people these days. Take them to the grocery store and allow them to pick out a few items for the food bank and remind them that Easter is actually about sacrifice and giving to others.
|O holding a baby chick last spring|
But even if you try to keep it simple, holidays like Easter can stress the monthly budget. Are you hosting a big meal? Have you got company for the weekend? How will you feed and entertain without going overboard?
Begin by buying extra groceries in advance, watching for specials of course. A menu-plan is very helpful in making sure you have frugal meals planned and enough food on hand. Ask if your regular grocer will be selling turkeys at a reduced price or giving them away with a minimum purchase. Ask at another store, and another, until you find the best deal. Watch the flyers for other deals on meat—if you are feeding extra people this is where you can try to save the most. Call your local butcher shop and see if there are any deals to be had. The same goes for libations if you like to partake in a holiday toast. Watch the flyers and buy ahead of time. Leaving your shopping until the last minute can often mean spending much more.
If you are hosting a large group, a potluck is a great way to even out the work and expense of the gathering. Frozen or canned vegetables are often cheaper than fresh—think seasonal when filling your holiday buffet. Turnip, cabbage, carrots, and potatoes stick to the ribs and you can often buy day old bread at a reduced price to make your own stuffing. Better yet, start freezing any dry bread that you might otherwise toss out and by Easter you will have enough for your own dressing. Hunt for recipes and videos on how to prepare a holiday meal from scratch.
Don’t forget to make good use of holiday leftovers. Freeze extras for future casseroles and soups, and use that turkey or ham in lunches. You have worked hard to prepare the food, don’t let it go to waste!
Hopefully this Easter can be a holiday where families return to simple pleasures like homemade food, time together and helping others. Use Skype and Facetime to reach family at a distance and don’t forget the local aged and shut-in who need a visit over the holidays. This is an opportunity to teach children that giving, even if it is only our time, feels much better than receiving.