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christmas

Catholicism

We’re Still Figuring Out How to Do Advent And That’s OK

December 2, 2015

Advent.

A beautiful season the Catholic Church has given her people to direct their hearts and minds to the ultimate gift – the Incarnation of Jesus Christ at Christmas. It’s designed to be a season filled with prayer, repentance, and most of all a JOYFUL anticipation of Jesus’ arrival.

I think it can be a hard season to fully embrace as a Catholic today.

Why do I think that?

Well, as soon as Thanksgiving is done (who am I kidding, its when Halloween is done) Americans get busy. They start decorating, shopping, feasting, partying, music-ing, etc. to celebrate the Christmas season. The problem is that Christmas hasn’t happened yet. Liturgically, we are supposed to be waiting, reflecting, anticipating, and slowing down to make room in our hearts for the arrival of Christ.

The Christmas season is coming…and all those things should happen.

Just not yetright? Or can we do them while still waiting?

This is where my husband and I butted heads in a MAJOR way as newlyweds…and if I am being honest we revisit this topic Every. Single. Year.

You see, I want to just go along with what the culture is doing. I want to buy and decorate with ALL THE THINGS, listen to cheery Christmas jingles, host and attend parties, go caroling, bake until my oven breaks, and be so saturated with Christmas that by the time it arrives, I am really really really ready for it. Of course I want to do these things in addition to Advent devotions as well.

I blame it on my melancholic nature…I don’t shift gears quickly or easily so it’s actually hard for me to flip a switch and suddenly become excited about something. I need a buffer time to get excited before the thing actually happens. So in some ways, I NEED to begin the Christmas activities early so that I am actually ready when it arrives, right? 😉

But my better half wants to approach the season a bit differently and if I am being honest, he wants to approach it in a way that is liturgically correct. He wants to wait on Christmas music, decorations, baking, parties…you name it, he wants to wait on it until it’s officially the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Instead he wants to protect and preserve Christmas because it’s sacred and holy. He wants to give our family the gift of well prepared and quiet hearts to embrace Jesus at Christmas. He wants to make sure we haven’t Christmas-ed ourselves out before it even arrives and like the general culture, be done with celebrating December 26th when there are liturgically twelve full days to celebrate.

So this year we’re trying some new things. We’re two adults who respect one another’s opinions and are willing to experiment with how we ought to celebrate as a family. No one is a dictator around our neck of the woods and one person isn’t going to decide our traditions. We will mutually explore options and decide together.

What are we doing this year then?

We are decorating the house in pink and purple for Advent. We’ve got a Jesse Tree devotion we’re doing each evening around the Advent Wreath. We’re spending more time in prayer and plan to go to confession as a family. We’re keeping things simple so we can make room for Jesus at the “Inn” of our hearts. We will switch gears and bust out all the Christmas music, turn on the oven, and change the decorations…but we don’t know exactly when because we will be traveling on Christmas Eve and Day.

I want to clarify and say that I don’t believe this to be a moral issue. If you listen to Christmas music, you are not in sin. Please, nobody run off and take this post that far out of context. We’re just exploring this topic out-loud here on the blog as we process it ourselves. Yes, I continue to Google “How to be a good Catholic and be a?ble to listen to Christmas music” and Jonathan continues to interview families who’ve held off on celebrating.

We’re researching as a family and are trying to figure out what helps us enter more fully into Advent. That’s what this is about – being ready to receive our King into our hearts on Christmas. Whatever facilitates that best is what we will do in the Teixeira home.

I know this is a highly debated topic and I would love to hear from other perspectives in the comments. What have you chosen to do? What helps you get ready for Christmas? How do you embrace Advent?

Money

6 Ways To Keep The Holidays From Ruining Your Financial Life

December 5, 2014

Most of us have gotten swept up into Holiday fever and blitzed our budgets in the process. All it takes is one well-played “Jingle Bell Rock” at the mall…and the next thing you know we are shopping zombies with an off-budget Pumpkin Spice Latte in one hand and six bags of off-budget purchases in the other.

Scary. Stuff.

What are we to do? How do we survive the Holiday season with an intact budget?

Today I want to share with you 6 ways to keep this year’s Holiday season from ruining your finances.

Budget!

First things first…you need a budget before you head into the deep end. Think of it as your life saver. The budget will give you freedom to set expenses aside for Holiday spending (gifts, travel, parties, and clothing) but also a hard stop so you know when you are done spending in those categories.

Sticking to the budget is the hardest part but it will prevent you from going over the deep end this year and derailing your other financial goals.

Planning!

“If you fail to plan you plan to fail.” Benjamin Franklin

A great way to stretch your holiday budget is to sit down with it and plan out how you will likely spend it. In addition to your monthly budget, Dave Ramsey even has an even more detailed Christmas Budgeting App specifically for tracking gift purchases per person you are shopping for this holiday season.

Sitting down with your realistic budget and making a plan for what you can afford and an idea of what you will get all the various people in your life is a great way to prevent a budget blow-out.

Know Thyself!

How tempted are you when you go out shopping? How will you make sure you are on budget?

If Black Friday will cause you to overspend and throw all caution to the wind…don’t go shopping that day. Perhaps you hit some deals up on Cyber Monday instead.

Or maybe you are the person who forgets your budget at home a lot. Perhaps you create multiple copies and have them in your purse…car…at work…just make sure you can’t forget it.

Basically know what your weaknesses are going to be and try to plan around them.

Become a Deal Shark!

It’s easy to bust through your budget for holiday spending whether it’ large or small. Becoming a deal shark will help you stretch your budget farther, making each dollar work hard for you!

Obvious days for snagging a deal are Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or each weekend leading up to Christmas. There will be sales and more sales you can shop during that time.

However, don’t forget Craigslist, eBay, or Thrift Stores for gently used items. The holidays are a time when some people are selling things just to get some extra cash in their pocket so you can snag a real deal. Or they are cleaning out the closets and donating great items to local thrift stores.

Make sure you capitalize on these deep discount opportunities before paying retail prices!

Get on Pintrest!

If your budget is really tight this year, maybe Christmas is going to be a craft. That doesn’t mean “cheap” or “bad” but it does mean you can make several gifts for a much lower cost than buying at the store.

Get on Pintrest and search for “DIY Christmas Ideas” or something along those lines and you will discover hundreds of blogs and articles. This is a great way to give highly personal gifts while staying within budget.

Stop fearing others!

For some, this might be the biggest hurdle to your holiday spending. It’s easy to fear what this or that person will think about your gifts, decorations, or holiday activities. It’s especially difficult if other people in our lives refuse to budget themselves, respect our budgets, or be grateful for whatever gifts we can afford this year.

When you are getting out of debt, there can absolutely be pressure to feel like you need to spend “x” amount on family because they spend “x” amount on you. Other people could resent you for something as silly as not spending as much on them as they spent on you. Oh well. That’s sometimes the reality and as long as you are doing what’s best for you and the budgeting goals you’ve got this year, you are doing an outstanding job.

No more keeping up with the Jones…not at the holidays and not ever! And hey, maybe later when you are in Baby Step 7 you can have a year where you’re incredibly generous with your family and friends for all the years you had to tightly reign things in! 🙂

Money

One Simple Tool to Keep Christmas from Breaking the Bank

December 2, 2014

It’s that wonderful time of the year once again…

Christmas time. Well actually it’s currently Advent but you know what I mean.

For some of you, it snuck up when you were least expecting it despite the fact that Christmas always falls on December 25th.

Oops.

I fully admit to being one of those people this year. Having a baby on November 10th meant that my time to mentally and financially prepare for Christmas sort of went out the window. Until yesterday…when we had the Teixeira Family Budget Committee Meeting and we had $0 in the Christmas category.

That means Christmas expenses are going to come solely from December’s budget…which is doable by cutting costs elsewhere but we should have saved for the past several months in smaller chunks.

I’ve read the statistics. The average household is planning to spend over $861 on Christmas gifts this year. To us that sounds like a LOT and we don’t plan on spending anywhere near that. To others that might be about right or nowhere close to what you plan to spend. We simply want to write this blog post to be a blessing to all of you, no matter what your Christmas budget may be this year.

For those who have saved up or are like us and all of a sudden need to squeeze Christmas into your December budget, there is a tool designed to help you keep track of your Christmas spending. This way Christmas spending can be budgeted and tracked – reducing damage to your bank account, financial peace, and relationships.

Why are we using Dave Ramsey’s My Christmas Budget web app, and why you should too:

1. No Fighting.

We don’t want to have any money fights associated with Christmas. Not only does setting aside a specific overall dollar amount cut down on the potential arguments but this app lets you break down spending by person or event on your list. That way you can’t even fight over how much to spend per person or worry about going over or under budget for the important people in your life.

2. No Guilt

Budgeting = Freedom. I can go to the mall and joyfully spend lots of money (to me) in one fell swoop without guilt since I know my budget won’t lead me into harms way. I can be guilt-free about walking to my car with a dozen store bags since I know it was all planned and accounted for. Ahhh, I can feel the peace now.

3. Keeps My List Organized

When I am out shopping I always forget who I am out shopping for or who I already bought gifts for etc. The app allows us to track who we’ve shopped for by name and even enter the details of what we purchased for them.

4. Balance and Intentionality

I love how the app allows me to take my overall Christmas Budget and spread it out over the people and gift exchanges I plan to be part of. This helps us think in advance about what we want to spend on certain people, why we want to spend that amount, and what items may fall into that budget realm….making shopping even easier.

That’s why we are using Dave’s Christmas Budgeting app and a few reasons why you ought to download it too!

Protip: You can use this website like an app by visiting it on your iPhone in Safari, then clicking the share button (square with an arrow coming out of it) then selecting “Add to Home Screen.”

Have a wonderful rest of your Advent season as you prepare for Christmas!