Making Christmas Count

You don't have to spend a lot to give your family what they really want for Christmas

Does anyone remember the marginally entertaining TV show Supermarket Sweep? Contestants had several minutes to fill grocery carts with as much stuff as possible. The winner wasn't determined by the quantity of stuff jammed into the cart but by the total monetary value at checkout. The contestant with the biggest tab won the game. The strategy was simple. Pass up the low-value stuff and load up on what's going to pay off big at the checkout. Smart contestants had a plan of action and knew exactly where to head the minute the clock started ticking.

Christmas is like that. Once the season begins, you'll start filling your shopping cart. You'll have lots of choices. What you choose will either pay off in terms of happiness, satisfaction, and pleasant holiday memories, or you'll get negative results of dissatisfaction and disappointment fueled by guilt, obligation, and trying to meet others' expectations. What you end up with when it's all put away for another year will depend on the choices you make between now and then.

Measuring Holiday Value

In their book Unplug the Christmas Machine, authors Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli say that while children may be quick to tell their parents they want designer clothes, the latest electronic gear, and name-brand toys for Christmas, underneath, here's what they really want:

  • relaxed and loving time with family
  • realistic expectations about gifts
  • an evenly paced holiday season
  • reliable family traditions

Underneath, I think that's what adults want too. Just imagine how the holidays might look this year if we have the courage to hold each of our choices and holiday decisions against the measuring stick of the four things we really want for Christmas.

Relaxed and Loving Time with Family

If you're looking for a big payoff in terms of happiness this holiday season, this is where you want to concentrate your efforts. That's because experts tell us that happiness is the process of enjoying what we're doing. Happiness is found in our relationships, our free time, our family, and our lives.

The secret here is to schedule blocks of family time in the same way you would an important meeting with a client or lunch with a friend. Write them on the calendar. Do it now and do it in ink. It's that important.

Idea: Fill shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, an organization that distributes gifts to children in desperate situations around the world. For specific information on how to get involved, go to

Idea: Spend time alone with each of your children, putting together puzzles, making gifts, decorating the tree, baking, shopping, laughing, reading, or even playing video games.

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May 25

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