Over the past couple of months, I’ve shared about my desire to avoid the Holiday Hangover—that moment when Christmas is behind you and all you’re left with is exhaustion, a few broken toys, and a pile of credit card bills. We entered the holiday season with the goal of making it meaningful for our kids...but without the stress, without the headaches, and without the consumerism.
Were we successful? I think...yes (she said with a look of pleasant surprise).
We try to be pretty focused on family traditions at Christmas time. Christmas lights. The Charlie Brown house. Hot chocolate and Elf. Our Christmas Eve brunch with a few of our closest friends.
This year we added one thing to the list, and I’m hopeful that this will become a new family tradition.
It started with me sitting down at our piano to play some carols one night before Christmas. My kids decided they wanted to play along. India dragged her drumset into the living room to join me. Jafta dug out his bass and plugged in his amp. Kembe gave Karis a shaker and sat down with his djembe drum. The kids asked Mark to get his acoustic guitar.
Boom: Suddenly we’re going all Partridge Family with the Christmas carols. It was a full-on, unplanned family jam session in the living room, complete with Howerton covers of “Jingle Bells,” “Joy to the World,” and a little Weezer (we couldn’t help it).
I’m not sure you really really want to hear the joyful noises we were making. But it was so much fun, and the kids are still talking about it.
The best part is...the experience cost us nothing.
Well, that’s not precisely true. We’ve been paying for our kids’ music lessons over the past year, and it was honestly super fulfilling to see that investment pay off a little. Is it completely dorky to share that all six of us sitting in a room and making music together has always been a secret dream of mine? Because it has. I kind of loved it.
I’m hoping to keep that focus on special moments and experiences going as we get deeper into 2015. Right now we’re pretty intent on saving money in preparation for our two big trips of the year—one to Peru to go see the rainforest with some friends and another big bucket-list safari adventure to the Serengeti. We’re in the process of saving up for the costs surrounding those events, which means we’re looking for things to eliminate from our budget...or at least to find some savings.
One way I know we’re going to do that this year is by being sticklers about meal-planning. And by “we” I mean ME. I’ve gotten pretty bad about getting lost in my work or my kids’ activities during the afternoon only to realize suddenly that it’s time to start preparing for our evening meal. Which means, way more often than I like to admit, we end up going out to eat or ordering takeout. It’s become a bad habit.
I want to change that this year by planning our meals at the beginning of each week. That way I have all the ingredients available, I have a schedule, and I don’t have to decide at 5:30 what’s for dinner that night. We’ve spent way too much on restaurant food in recent months so that’ll be a good opportunity to save. Our financial values are to spend money on travel and theater, not on convenience foods. So that’s one of my financial resolutions for the new year, and a change in behavior I hope will help us meet that goal.
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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust. The opinions and text are all mine.