Mr. FAF and I didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas.
I don’t know about Mr. FAF, but for me, having been born and raised in Vietnam, I saw Christmas as a Western holiday.
I neither had a day off nor received any presents for this occasion. It was somewhat a foreign concept to me.
Our families celebrate the Lunar New Year’s some time in late January or early February.
And that’s the biggest festival of the year that I grew up with and love dearly.
Christmas in me
After coming to America, however, the festivity surrounding the Lunar New Year’s no longer exists to the extent I have experienced.
There are no New Year movies or music shows to watch on TV. There are no special food or candy displayed at the grocery stores for the Lunar New Year’s.
At first, I felt sad. But I gradually got used to it. I don’t remember since when, but I started associating Christmas with the Lunar New Year’s.
It’s a time to celebrate a new beginning, spend time with family and friends, take a few days off work, eat good food, go shopping, see the nice red and glittery decorations at the stores, review what happened in the previous year, and make plans for a new year.
I have developed an affinity for Christmas and get excited whenever the holiday season rolls around.
Our previous plan
Before Baby FAF came back to the US, Mr. FAF and I always talked about buying a big Christmas tree and decorating our house on this special day. We wanted to give our son the true experience of enjoying a national holiday in America.
However, we haven’t carried out our plan for two reasons. First, Baby FAF is only 2.5 years old and barely understands what holidays even mean.
I think the only thing he really enjoys right now is watching ABC’s songs on Youtube and playing with his toys. Having an extravagant Christmas celebration would mean more for us than for our son.
Second, since Mr. FAF and I will be the main family members putting up the decorations and enjoying them, we have been debating whether we even want to spend time and money doing that.
And the answer is No. I love Christmas, but it doesn’t mean I need to spend a few hundred dollars on Christmas ornaments.
Our current plan
We plan to have a frugal and merry Christmas by doing the following activities.
1. Host a hotpot party at home
Mr. FAF and I love eating good food. We also like spending time and catching up with our good friends. After hosting a successful hotpot party on Thanksgiving which cost us only $54 for 7 adults, we decided to continue the festivity by having another one for Christmas.
Our Thanksgiving hotpot
Mr. FAF and I are finalizing the guest list, but we will likely cap the total headcount at 7 due to the limited space at our dining table. Our estimated budget for the party is $60-70.
2. Not exchange gifts or send postcards
We didn’t grow up receiving or exchanging gifts with other family members. Our parents were busy making ends meet and not particularly interested in gift exchanges. Mr. FAF and I got into the same habit of not buying presents for each other on any occasion.
After Mr. FAF dropped $300 on a dress and $10 on some roses for me, I have told him not to buy any gifts for me again. If he wants to surprise me, the gift should be less than $10. It won’t be a waste even if I don’t like it.
Gifts from Mr. FAF: a $300 Ted Baker dress & Shoppers roses
Over the past few years, we have received loving postcards from our friends. But we are not planning to send out postcards this year and have never done so. I think emails and Facebook messages will do.
3. Buy Christmas decor from the Dollar Tree
On our way to celebrating our 4th anniversary, Mr. FAF and I stopped at the Dollar Tree to pick up two Christmas decorations for $2 in total: a snowman face and a hanging artificial Christmas tree.
I did think that we were a bit cheap in spending only $2 on such cheap decorations. But the truth is that they are enough to bring us some holiday joy and remind us that this is a special time of the year.
It also helps that many of our neighbors go all out with their Christmas lights and decorations on their front lawns. In a way, they make our neighborhood more pretty and festive. And I’m grateful for that.
Christmas decor from the Dollar Tree: snowman face & Christmas tree ($1 each)
4. Have Baby FAF take a picture with Santa
Before Baby FAF went to China with my in-laws, we spent a Christmas together. But that was not a merry Christmas for us. Baby FAF had a high fever for four days straight. We ended up spending Christmas Eve in the emergency room where the on-call doctor did a series of painful tests on our son.
Fortunately, it wasn’t a serious problem, and we went home on the same day. Yet, you might probably agree with me that it’s not a great way to celebrate the holidays.
This year, Baby FAF had a fever followed by an ear infection that lasted almost two weeks around Thanksgiving. I am determined to have him take a picture with Santa this time.
We could do that for $25 at the mall or for free with a Santa invited (and paid for) by our HOA (we live in a townhouse community). Mr. FAF insists that we should take a picture of Baby FAF with the HOA Santa since it’s free, so we did.
The pictures don’t look as good as those taken at the mall. The lighting wasn’t great, and the background was simple. There were some kids hanging in the background.
At first, I was disappointed. But I learned to embrace the imperfections in the photos. The most important thing is that Baby FAF got to meet Santa and even got a lollipop from him. And we were happy.
5. Minimal shopping
My mother-in-law (MIL) is going back to China probably in February 2018 (after the Lunar New Year’s). She plans to buy gifts for Mr. FAF’s extended family (a must-have in Asian culture), and we will pay for all of her purchases.
My MIL is generally very frugal and has given us great help in taking care of our son. We are happy to buy whatever she wants or needs.
I will also buy three gifts for Baby FAF’s teachers since they’ve done a great job caring for him while Mr. FAF and I are at work. Other than that, Mr. FAF and I don’t plan to buy anything for ourselves.
In total, we plan to spend at most $150 for Christmas: a hotpot with friends and three gifts for our son’s teachers. My MIL’s shopping will happen regardless of Christmas, so we don’t count it as holiday shopping.
This is our first Christmas together after our family is reunited. And I do believe that we don’t have to spend hundreds and thousands of dollars to be happy together.
On behalf of the FAF family, I want to wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy holiday. Thank you for supporting us in our frugal adventures! 🙂