How to Get in the Christmas Spirit When You’re a Scrooge

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Getting in the Christmas spirit when you're a scrooge is hard, but it can be done. Here are some things I do to enjoy the holiday season.

Okay I’ll admit it. I’m a Scrooge, but before you shake your finger at me, I’m definitely not alone. For the past few years John and I have definitely shared in our Bah Humbug spirit. I just don’t understand why people like it all so much. My husband keeps sending me texts filled with images of Christmas trees and snowflakes (which he has been doing since Halloween mind you.)

All I can say is barf. 

I think what’s so irritating about this entire holiday season is the excess. When I lived abroad in the Caribbean for three years, the Christmases I celebrated there were the best. Children in Grenada experienced a very minimalist Christmas. You were not assaulted with Christmas wrapping paper in August. People were happy to just be thankful. Material gifts were not the focus.

Now that I live back in the United States and I have two children, the pressure to have the best Christmas ever is upon me. Sometimes I feel like a subpar parent because we only give our kids four gifts every year. Other times, I wonder what’s wrong with everyone else.

Now, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I know I’m supposed to be working on my gratitude, so here are some ways we can all get in the Christmas spirit even if you’re a bigger Scrooge than I am:

Be Giving


I think one way to inspire the Christmas spirit in us all is to be more giving. Even if we are on a tight budget or in debt, there are many ways that we can give during the season. Our most precious asset is definitely time, so volunteering or giving to those less fortunate is a great way to get those “feel good” moments during the holidays. (For the record, it’s hard to feel great when you’re being trampled by large crowds on Black Friday so this is a good alternative.)

The most charitable giving throughout the year actually happens in the last three months of the year according to an article by USA today, which shows that many people get in the giving spirit this time of year.

Be Patient


The holidays inevitably lead to long lines, stressed out drivers, and a hectic pace. So, it can be easy to lose your temper or get impatient especially as people start traveling and traffic increases. The best thing you can do to avoid being a Scrooge is to breathe deeply during those moments.

Realize that you don’t need to rush. Realize that traffic can’t move any faster than it already is. Turn on some holiday tunes and try to enjoy the time in your car with your spouse and loved ones or, if you’re stuck in line trying to buy a specific toy, think about your child or your niece or nephew who will be so excited when they receive it.

Getting in the Christmas spirit when you're a scrooge is hard, but it can be done. Here are some things I do to enjoy the holiday season.

Be Aware


When I’m feeling very Scrooge-like, it helps me to be very aware of those around me. Just one trip on the subway in New York city can show me tons and tons of people who are struggling in this world and who need a helping hand. Although I am in debt and have my own personal struggles, I know that I am fortunate to have a roof over my head, a good income and a beautiful family.

Practicing gratitude and being thankful that I can give my kids a nice Christmas day with a full meal is a great way for me to avoid being grumpy. I know there are people who have have more lavish Christmas days than I will, but I will choose to focus on how lucky I am to experience the one that I’ve got.

Overall, I think it’s easy to slip into a bad mood when you deal with holiday lines or even family members who want you to visit five houses in one day. However, I think if we all took a step back to breathe, be aware, be giving, be patient and be grateful, the holiday season will go more smoothly and I might actually enjoy it once and for all.

Do you consider yourself a Scrooge during the holiday season? What irritates you the most about the holidays? How do you get out of your funk and have a good time? What’s one of your favorite holiday memories?

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Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for parents who want to better their finances and take on a more active financial role in their families.


  • I dislike crowded shopping centers and parking lots, so I try to schedule my shopping when I know that’s less likely to be a problem (avoiding weekends, Thanksgiving/Black Friday) and try to pick up things online to minimize the stress.

    When I concentrate on the family and community aspects (decorating the house with my daughter, baking holiday treats, church, family gatherings) I enjoy the holidays. I think these are the types of things most of us actually enjoy, rather than the gifts. I know I’m very lucky to have people to share them with.

    I guess when I think of the gifts as just a manifestation of all of those family and community warm fuzzies, rather than an end goal, it helps me to deal with the hassles better.

  • Hannah says:

    I don’t feel like a Christmas scrooge, more like a Christmas failure. My parents developed some great Christmas traditions that I have no interest in replicating (my dad wrote a chapter in a fictional novel each year, and my mom put up Christmas lights in every room, and made hundreds of Christmas cookies).

    As parents, my husband and I haven’t really done anything Christmasy at all. I will pull out a few Nativity scenes, and an Advent calendar that will help us focus on our Faith during the Christmas season, but I just can’t get excited about the work that goes into the other parts of the holiday.

  • Four gifts seems like PLENTY to me, especially when they’re still so young! Then again, I might also be considered a “scrooge” haha

  • I agree with Stefanie: 4 gifts is plenty at this stage of their life. Though it’d probably suffice (especially since there’s 2 of them) the rest of the time too. Apparently, one Christmas when my cousin’s kid was so young, they actually had to stop opening presents. His in-laws had gone a little overboard, and he actually got overwhelmed and teary. So… yeah.

    Growing up, my Mom and I would pick one or two names off a Toys for Tots-like program called the Angel Tree. She’d save all the coins and money she found over the year (and pitch in a little more), and we’d hit holiday sales for things like board games, Play-doh, toy cars, etc.

    It was part of the holiday season, and the years that I don’t, I always feel a little less like it’s Christmas. So that might be a cool tradition to start with your kids when they’re old enough. And a lovely way to avoid being a Scrooge. (Or I guess you’d still be a Scrooge, but the good version at the end of the tale.)

  • Wait…Christmas themed texts in October! There needs to be a rule that there is not to be Christmas décor or Christmas themed texts until after Thanksgiving. The stores are always waiting to pounce on the next holiday to get shoppers in the door. When I talk to my co-workers I feel like a scrooge too…but honestly Christmas doesn’t mean buying a ton of stuff. That’s just what the retailers what you to think.

  • Nicole says:

    I don’t consider myself a scrooge but I really wish we weren’t assaulted by Christmas stuff until after Thanksgiving. And I wish everyone would turn their lights off after the holiday. They don’t have to take them down since it’s cold here in the Midwest but don’t keep them on for months! Ugh! I hate seeing that in February. Hmm… Maybe I am a scrooge!

    But seriously, I think Christmas has gotten ridiculous when people spend 5-6 months planning and talking about ONE day.

    We put our tree up about a week or two before the holiday and it usually comes down before New Years. Each year is a little different regarding how festive I feel so I just proceed from there. Honestly, the holiday lost it’s magic a long time ago and I’m not sure if it’s the commercialism or just being an adult.

  • I enjoy the holidays but mainly because our families are all very reasonable about gifts and we are comfortable giving our kids just a couple thoughtful (sometimes used) things. The thing that drives me crazy–other than all the ads and materialistic hype–is planning out logistics of when to see different family members, who is cooking what, whether to do a Secret Santa or whatever else. But it’s good to remember how much I have to be grateful for when bemoaning all the details!

    • Cat says:

      Yeah I don’t even fret about logistics. I just told everyone our kids would be waking up in their own house on Christmas morning and that solves that!

  • I hate to say scrooge because that insinuates you are not a giving person, and I know you are…and so is John for that matter. But I’m with you on not being into Christmas. Mostly it has to do with my upbringing and family situation which never lead to any kind of tradition or warm fuzzy feeling. But yeah I’d happily hit the fast forward button between thanksgiving and the new year. 🙂

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