11th Day of Christmas with Ruth Soukup {Living Well. Spending Less.}

chaos.calmFrom unrealistic expectations to traditions to your screaming schedule as well as those annual holiday encounters with the in-laws and outlaws, this free 5 Day challenge will allow your holidays to go from chaos to calm. Click HERE for the free 5 Day Challenge and they will automatically come to your inbox. Merry Christmas!


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IMPORTANT NOTE: Remember you may comment to win on all of the 12 Days of Christmas posts until Sunday night, December 15th at midnight EST so be sure to read through those you missed and catch up!

Welcome to the 11th Day of Christmas with my friend Ruth Soukup from Living Well. Spending Less.

Ruth_Profile_2013_SmallRuth is a writer, photographer, entrepreneur, wannabe DiYer, semi-frazzled mom to two beautiful girls,wife to her wonderful husband of eight years, and, above all, a child of a loving and gracious God. Her passion is her family, and creating a home filled with joy and purpose. She started writing Living Well Spending Less in July 2010 because her spending habits had become so out-of-control that her marriage was on the brink of collapse.  She needed to find a way to hold herself accountable, and writing about the challenge of living well on a budget helped.

Now, meet Ruth!

Our Favorite Christmas Traditions

When my husband and I first got married we talked a lot about how we wanted to create special Christmas traditions for our children.  He had grown up in a family with lots of traditions, while my own family seemed to do something new (though equally chaotic) each year.  It was important to me to give our kids the stability my own childhood had lacked, and it was important to both of us to create memories that they would cherish for a lifetime, as well as to teach our kids that Christmas is about something more than presents.

Our_Favorite_Holiday_TraditionsOur first year together, my husband gave me a beautiful hand-blown glass ornament and said, “we should do this for our kids each year, so that by the time they are ready for a tree of their own they will have their own special collection to start with.”  We have had so much fun each year picking out the ornaments that most represent an important milestone or passion from that year, and each year when we decorate our tree, the best part is opening the box of “special” ornaments and reminiscing over the years past.

We’ve added other special family traditions to our holiday lineup, including everything from a special Advent calendar filled with treats & treasures, collecting items to fill our Operation Christmas Child boxes, buying gifts for the local “angel” tree, eating Dutch Babies on Christmas morning, and ringing the Salvation Army bell outside the local Publix.

However, our very favorite tradition of all is delivering freshly baked & decorated cookies to the local fire station on Christmas Eve.  We’ve done this since our youngest was just a baby, and every year we stop by on our way home from church to hand out cookies and tell the firemen thank you for working to keep us safe when the rest of us get to be home with our families.

It is a very simple gesture, one that requires so little time or effort on our part, and yet those firemen are always so kind and appreciative.  In years past they have even treated us to a tour of the fire station and let the kids explore the engines and try on gear.  Honestly, I think we get far more out of it then the firemen do!

HolidayTraditions02There is a lot that we won’t do this year.   We won’t go see the Nutcracker or any other holiday show that one of our children is not performing in, and we won’t give either of our kids a pile of the latest must-have toys.  Our Elf on the Shelf won’t be the main character in a new elaborate scene each day—she’s happy enough just to remember to move to a new spot before the kids wake up—and I’m pretty sure our Christmas dinner will consist of frozen pizza and leftovers.

But that’s okay.  We’ve realized that it is easier to say no to the things that don’t matter—or to give ourselves grace for serving pizza for Christmas dinner—because ultimately it is the traditions and the love that gets remembered far after the holidays have come and gone.  Our simple family traditions remind us that the joy of Christmas comes not from the gifts we receive, but from the one precious Gift we have all been given.

For us that is the best Tradition of all.


Ruth is giving away a $50 Amazon gift card to one of you!!! To enter, simply leave us a comment with who you and your family or friends could bless at the holidays. One of my favorites was the year we gave the hard-working, mentally-challenge man at Target who rounds up all the shopping carts out in the snowy parking lot a twenty dollar bill on Christmas Eve. we told him it always inspires us what a hard worker and friendly person he is.

Now, your turn. Any ideas?


  1. My hairdresser this particular Christmas because her mom just passed away at 92 years old. It will be a sadder Christmas for her family. I’ve already sent her something to let her know I was thinking of her.

  2. My family is helping one of my brothers who has struggled so much this year. His daughter died; he lost his job and has no money; and he is suffering from multiple serious health problems. We sent him money, but more importantly we bought him a Bible imprinted with his name. He is not a Christian, but with all he has going on we pray he turns to the one and only thing that will give him hope.

  3. Our family (myself kids plus our church communities) blessed the homeless today with a full course turkey and ham plus al the trimmings dinner. It was wonderful.

  4. We will bless our neighbor. She contemplated suicide about 40 days ago and is now 30 days sober but having a really tough time.

  5. we are doing Project Angeltree, Operation Christmas Child, and an orphanage in Haiti this year, so thankful to share

  6. Try as I may, I haven’t found a way to out give my God! I’m always looking for ways to share the abundant life my family has been given! We love to always put together boxes for Operation Christmas Child, we give through Samaritan’s Purse in honor and memory of family, we cook meals for those we know that struggle this time of the year because of loss/grief, and I absolutely love to bake for my family!

  7. We like to leave baskets of food and toys on a needy families door, ring the bell and run! It’s a great way to be a Secret Santa

  8. Some of the kids my daughter goes to school with struggle with food insecurity. I would love to bless their guardian with the opportunity to indulge for their family. We buy gifts for a couple families at Christmas.

  9. We are on a light ’em up challenge with our three children to fill up our sparkle box by Christmas morning as our gift Jesus.

  10. We haven’t decided yet, but each year we get the whole family involved in be a blessing to someone else. If we can do it anonymously, that is even better!

  11. Lately we have found ways to support hurting families, such as donating to help cover medical bills.
    We are also trying to “LIght ’em UP!”

  12. We are sending a calendar with my son’s pictures in it and a handmade (from a craft kit) ornament out to my Aunt Janis. The love of her life went home to be with the Lord suddenly before Thanksgiving. She and Uncle Bob were married about 60 years. He was a great servant of God who loved Jesus and people, so I know she will have a tough time this year.

    Carissa in eastern Iowa

  13. We have already participated in our angels tree at school, a toy drive with school and we teachers adopted a family also. But this year our family will also visit a local older gentleman who lives alone & take him some treats! I love the idea of visiting the fire house also but think we will visit the police station. It’s right down the street! Thanks for the idea!!!

  14. We just bought Christmas gifts for a family with 4 children that our Sunday School class is sponsoring. Our kids are going shopping tomorrow for another child.

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