Keep the magic of the season

by Dave Ramsey, Contributing Writer. It’s easy to overdo Christmas for the sake of others. But when we’re exhausted and stressed, we miss out on the magic of the season. This year, bring back your Christmas magic. And don’t let these five simple mistakes cost you any more time, money or meaning.

1. Focusing on the External
If you can’t be content until your house is Martha Stewart-perfect and your menu is Barefoot Contessa-worthy, you may need some perspective. Christmas is not about buying and serving the finest of everything.

It’s about faith, generosity and family. So if you want to deck the halls of your home for the holidays (and you can afford it), go right ahead. But give your full attention to what matters most.

Everything else is just decoration.

2. Buying Gifts Without Meaning
Choosing a gift for your Dad is impossible. Every year, you play the what-do-you-want game for weeks, until you finally give up and grab the first World’s Greatest Grandpa sweatshirt you see.

You both know you’re wasting your money, but you have to buy him something! This year, give him an experience he’ll actually remember.

It can be as simple as a round of golf for him and his buddies or donating to his favorite charity. Just show him that you took the time to remember him. That’s the best gift you can give.

3. Forgetting to Stop and Rest
You wouldn’t think of working during your summer vacation, but you hardly sit down during your winter break! What gives?

Okay, there’s a lot to do. But you’ll get it done—you always do. And once you take a day or so to rejuvenate and relax, you may actually be more productive with the rest of your time off.

Block off a few days just for you. Don’t buy anything for anyone or make a mental grocery list. Just cozy up on the couch and read or head to the spa for a massage. Think of it as a mini Christmas present to yourself.

4. Catering to Your Kids
Your pre-teen has been begging for the latest gaming console for months. You can’t afford it, but you buy it anyway. Then you feel guilty for not spending $400 on all your kids.

We’ve got a better idea. Once you and your spouse settle on a reasonable budget, sit down as a family and lay down some realistic gift guidelines.

If your son won’t give up on the Xbox and it doesn’t fit in the budget, give him a few options. He can either have one gift card for a percentage of the price, or he can have several gifts to open Christmas morning. He may decide his old game system works just fine.

5. Not Saving for Post-Holiday Sales
Retailers spend tons of money promoting their Christmas merchandise. But as soon as December 26th rolls around, they want it off the shelves—fast. And they’re willing to discount accordingly.

Instead of spending every last dime on gifts, remember to reserve some cash for the Holy Grail of Christmas sales. And only buy items you will absolutely use again next year, like bulk wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper and spools of ribbon.

When you stock up on staples now, you put money in your pocket later.

Don’t overspend or overwork yourself to extremes this season. Do what you can, and let everything else go. Trade in your holiday mistakes for a more magical, meaningful season.