This time of year can bring loads of happiness and joy however it can also bring loads of stress and anxiety, particularly for parents. Is there a way to authentically celebrate the holidays without feeling stressed and going into debt? Absolutely!

There are many ways to take the focus off material things and on to what truly counts: FAMILY. Here are some ideas to inspire you:

1) Begin a "tradition" present so that THIS becomes the most exciting gift your children receive. It can be something useful but inventive. For example, tell your child that each year you would like to buy them a _____________. (Be sure to base it on your child’s interests and/or likes)

“Tradition Gift Ideas”

-book or novel
-calendar
-funny or colorful socks
-crafty toy
-scientific toy
-bookmark
-pair of slippers
-Christmas ornament
-Wallet or purse
-Something with the 1st letter of your child's name (pens, pads of paper, notebooks, pencils, books, socks, picture frames, calendar, key chain, wallet) The ideas are endless and will always keep your child guessing!

This way, the present is useful and will keep your child excited for what it will look like next year. You can be sure that when your child remembers holidays past, in ten years time, it won't be the toy they asked for that they will remember; it will be the one that their mom or dad always gave them.

2) Give ONE gift that your child has asked for (feel free to put a price limit on this) then give a stocking. Stocking gifts are far less expensive than big presents or electronic gifts and are just as enjoyable. Go to your local Dollar Store and pick up some fun little items that will delight your child.

3) If you can only afford to give one gift, but want to make it fun, this is a super idea. Ask your child to make a list of items they would like that are X amount of money. Then tell them to cut the items into individual strips of paper. Now have them decorate a jar that will be placed out for Santa’s elves one month before Christmas. Tell your children that the elves will give the jar to Santa so he can choose what to give them that year, based on what materials he has. This works wonders because the gift they’ll receive is something they want, it will be within your budget and it will still offer the element of surprise.

4) Keep the focus on FAMILY. Throughout the year your family can save spare change in a container. On Christmas Day, pull out the container and count the money together. Once you’ve established and celebrated how much money your family has saved, you can then have a discussion about how to spend it. The only requirement here is that the item is something the whole family wants and can enjoy. This will take the emphasis off individuality and put it back where it belongs: on sharing, teamwork and family bonding.

After the item is agreed upon, bundle up your family on Boxing Day and head out to purchase it. Then spend the rest of the holidays enjoying whatever it is that you purchased.

Using any one of these ideas will help take the pressure off and will put the emphasis on more important things like love, togetherness and happiness. Now THIS is what I call a cheap and stress-free holiday!

Author's Bio: 

Erin Kurt, parenting & life coach to working mothers, and founder of ErinParenting, is also the author of Juggling Family Life and creator of The Life Balance Formula and the How to Get Your Child to Listen program.