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This is me smiling over my coffee at you.  I’m feeling a little smug today.

Mostly, I’m terribly excited.

I have only one more Christmas present to buy.  And we’re shopping for it this Friday.  That’s it!  Done before Thanksgiving!

And guess what. . .

NO CREDIT CARDS were used in the making of this Christmas!

How did we do it? 

Well, for starters, I began to think about our holiday spending–oh, I hate that term I celebrate Christmas for crying out loud–our Christmas spending back in September. 

It became clear that if we didn’t find some extra income, Christmas shopping was going to have me looking like this:

Oh, the headache, the nausea, the horrible feeling of being controlled by the system! 

If this were to continue, the anxiety of traveling and decorating and wrapping and baking and teaching my children the TRUE meaning of Christmas would lead me to this:

It’s the mo-ost wonderful ti-i-me. . .OF THE YEAR!

This usually puts me into a tailspin. Christmas truly is the most magical, wonderful holiday of the year.  I teach my girls that we give gifts because it is on this day we celebrate the greatest gift ever given, that God gave his son to us. 

We try to remember the less fortunate and incorporate some charitable activities each December.  

I work very hard to try to keep the materialism out of Christmas.

But, when you do not have the money to spend.  Or worse, when you spend on a credit card and end up paying interest, it quickly serves to remind us that we cannot serve two masters.  When Christmas spending occupies more of your brain than God, it cannot be a holy day.  

So what to do?

As I said, we began budgeting and planning long before the season of preparing our hearts.  (Perhaps that is out of order, spiritually, but that’s another lesson for another year.)   

We put all my earnings–from childcare and photography–into a separate checking account.  That amount does not enter our monthly budget.  Then, when we do our shopping, all the spending comes from that account.  Even the added expenses of eating out and gas money.  (We’ve noticed in the last few years that the incidentals add up to be nearly as much as the gift budget.)

“Hey, Lady!”  you cry.  “That was supposed to be used to ditch debt!” 

Right you are.  But let’s think on that.  If I had paid extra on my credit cards, what would I spend on Christmas? 

“Nothing!  If you can’t keep outta debt, you don’t get Christmas presents.”

Oh, see, it doesn’t work that way.  The gifts are not for me, but for others.  If giving to my family and charities were putting me in debt, that would be dreadful, but that’s my problem, not theirs. 

Others shouldn’t have to suffer for our mistakes.

Some people might not be excited about being done with Christmas shopping by Thanksgiving, but to me, it means peace, joy, and love throughout December. Not shopping and materialism.

More time to watch Charlie Brown, from whom I learned  a lot of this.