Potato soup.

It’s probably not the first thing or even the millionth thing that comes to mind when you think about Christmas, but for me, it’s right at the top of the list.

It was Christmas 2012, the first time I made potato soup. My husband, Sam, and I had a sizeable mountain of debt. That mountain was large enough to house the abominable snowman himself — and it was equally scary. 

Paying our way through $460,000 of debt meant that Christmas was not the time to spend extra money on things like . . . well, Christmas. Don’t get me wrong — it wasn’t my intent to be a buzzkill. I just knew that was not a year to “do the most.” As a matter of fact, that Christmas, much like many to come, would be a year to do the least. Fewer gifts, less travel, less obligations and way less money spent. Therefore, way less stress. 

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As a result, we were able to pay down further on our existing debt. Now, “debt-free” may not be the words that come to mind when you think of Christmas. After all, Clark Griswold taught us all to believe that a “fun, old-fashioned family Christmas” comes chock-full of debt, stress and keeping up appearances. 

Clark’s strategy also involved hoping and praying a bonus check would come through just in the nick of time to save his butt from all that overspending. But that didn’t turn out so well, did it? At least, not until Cousin Eddie stepped in and kidnapped Clark’s boss!

That Christmas in 2012, we decided we were done with “doing the most.”

My husband and I agreed it was an opportunity for us to build new traditions that allowed us to get further out of debt, not go deeper into debt. I remember standing in the living room, hands on my hips, looking around our home, thinking, “OK, what can I do here?” I bought a miniature Christmas tree from Big Lots and arranged it on the table. I found a random strand of Christmas lights lying around and wrapped them along the rail of our staircase.

For Christmas Day, we needed just the right meal. I decided on something as far from the norm as possible. I made loaded baked potato soup with all the fixings. I don’t even remember exchanging gifts that year. It was just Sam and I spending the day together, enjoying each other’s company. 

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All of us have a choice to make this Christmas: Will you stress and overspend to “do the most,” or will you give yourself a break by “doing the least”? Allow me to set you free with a few words of truth I’ve learned:

Please do focus on kids ages 3 to 18. Failure to do so will result in a guilt trip you don’t want to take! 

Now that my husband and I are debt-free, we can do the most for Christmas — and we do it debt free! But I’m still so thankful for those “do the least” years because they gave me perspective. 

The only person who needed to go into debt on Christmas was Jesus. The day He was born, He took on the debt of all our sins. And later, He died to pay that debt. 

That, my friends, is what Christmas is all about.