Keeping the Holidays Simple: The Joy of Christmas Stockings

A Christmas without stockings would be the worst Christmas ever.

It would be sadder even than Scrooge’s Christmas future without Tiny Tim.

Luckily, I don’t have to face that tragedy, because my sisters and I keep the Christmas stocking tradition alive.

three christmas stockings
Three Simple Christmas Stockings by Liz Aragon //CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

An abundance of treasure in a sweat sock

Mom kept it simple. She understood that it didn’t matter so much what the stockings contained. It was more about the fun of discovery as we drew out each item.

Nothing about the stockings was extravagant, because we lived on a tight budget. In fact, when we were very young Mom didn’t even bother with store-bought stockings. Instead, she simply used Daddy’s white sweat socks.

On Christmas morning, after we had opened our other gifts, we dove into the stockings.

We never up-ended them and dumped out the contents. That would be cheating. We pulled out the gifts one at a time, pacing ourselves, none of us wanting to finish first.

There were foil-wrapped chocolates, candy canes, yoyos and little puzzles, nuts in the shell, and at the very bottom an orange, which filled out the toe of the stocking.

Child's yoyo
Child’s yoyo by Panda Free Clipart

While we were engrossed in playing with toys and sneaking chocolates, Mom made breakfast.

Indulging in simple luxuries

Today my sisters and I delight in surprising each other and Mom with goodies we aren’t likely to buy for ourselves:

  • Shortbread made with real butter.
  • Chocolate truffles.
  • Warm, fuzzy socks.

We also aim to make each other laugh. We seek out silly ornaments for the tree, refrigerator magnets with sarcastic slogans (Anne Taintor is a favorite), and gag gifts like those candy containers that dispense chocolate reindeer poop. (Yes, it’s disgusting — that’s the point!)

Recapturing childish glee

The greatest thing about Christmas stockings is that they allow my sisters and I to be kids again. To play, to tease, to eat too much candy, and to laugh until, red-faced and breathless, we collapse in a merry heap on the floor. Even in those years when we can’t celebrate together, we’re connected by this tradition.

I don’t remember a specific gift from my childhood, but I do remember the stockings.
Stuffed with everyday treasures, they were the best part of Christmas morning.
They still are today.

candy_cane_icon
Candy Cane by Tanemori via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.1 jp

What about you? What holiday traditions from your childhood do you still enjoy?

P.S. Don’t tell my sisters, but this year they can expect to see this in their stockings!

Troll doll
Toll Doll by Cheryl via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Tracking the neighborhood wildlife: My photo safari

One of my favorite adventures is a photo safari. I’m on a tight budget, so I book my safari close to home — very close. I take a walk in my neighborhood, cell phone or camera in hand, and document the local wildlife.

What I found right in front of me the other day was fascinating.

close up of praying mantis head
Anybody recognize this guy?

Continue reading “Tracking the neighborhood wildlife: My photo safari”

My coffee costs how much?

I was surprised to learn how much a coffee habit could cost me over time. The average U.S. employee spends $21 per week buying coffee drinks. That adds up to roughly $1100 per year.

I put together this infographic to illustrate how the costs accumulate over time, from 10 years out to 40 years. I also calculated the result of saving that money and investing it at a modest 3% (just to keep up with inflation).

//e.infogr.am/so-how-much-does-your-coffee-really-cost

enjoying my coffee without blowing my budget

Yes, once in a while I indulge in a decadent coffee when I’m out and about. (Make mine mocha!) For me, coffee is more than an indulgence – it’s a necessity. I have to have it to function in polite society. Just ask anyone who’s ever shared an office with me.

But the bottom line is I’m cheap. I can make coffee at home. I can even make fancy coffee drinks like cafe au lait and iced mochas. (More on this in an upcoming post.) I can think of lots of other uses for that money. Such as, I don’t know, retirement.

being able to retire someday

I keep reading about how little Americans are saving. Most of us don’t have an emergency fund. And more than a third of us have less than $1,000 set aside for retirement. I’d rather scrimp now and be able to live comfortably when I’m older.

How is your retirement nest egg? Do you have any strategies for making it grow?

links and resources on coffee and spending wisely