This post is sponsored by SunTrust. Thank you, SunTrust!

When you’re a kid Christmas is the best time of year mainly because of one thing: presents. That’s not to say kids don’t appreciate the more important things, like spending time with their family, but visions of sugar plums (or American Girl dolls and Transformers) definitely dance in kids’ heads. Now that I’m a grown up, though, the holidays are different. I look around at my holiday gatherings and realize that some of the people I’ve loved most in my life are no longer here to celebrate with me. It really makes me understand that what’s important this time aren’t “things,” but the quality time you spend with the ones you love. This year I am going to really focus on appreciating my family and creating memories we’ll all (especially Annabel and James, hopefully) remember the rest of our lives.

One way to add meaning to the season — and to make memories — is through creating or continuing family traditions. One of my favorite family traditions is one my mom started, where we challenge ourselves to find a new ornament that really captures the kind of year we had. The first time we vacationed in Hawaii, for example, she somehow found a pineapple ornament. The year my softball team won the national championship, she found a softball player in a uniform that matched mine. This was in pre-internet days, when you couldn’t just conjure up an appropriate ornament on Amazon or eBay. My mom has skillz, yo. This year I plan to continue this tradition in my own home and really involve the kids. I’ve already told Annabel my plan for all of us (my mom included) to hit the mall together in search of the perfect 2015 ornament (I’m thinking something about Kindergarten), and she is beyond excited. I hope to make an outing like this something we do every year.

ornament

My favorite tradition growing up, though, was of our Christmas Eve dinner. At some point when I was little my grandma decided she didn’t want to cook a giant holiday meal two nights in a row, so she suggested we instead go out for Mexican food. That soon became a family tradition, and I looked forward to eating Mexican food with my family on Christmas Eve every year. Now that I’m married we spend Christmas Eve with Mike’s family, and it has become a tradition that is every bit as meaningful. We have dinner (sometimes Mexican food in honor of my grandma), watch the kids run around like maniacs hopped up on Christmas cookies, and catch up on our lives. It’s the kind of thing our kids will look back on fondly, just as I look back on all those Mexican meals my grandma initiated.

To really appreciate traditions like these, though, you need to be in the moment and not let yourself be distracted with worries about holiday spending (which are very real when you consider that, according to the National Retail Federation, the average American plans to spent $800 this holiday). Thankfully, Suntrust has some great tips and tools for managing your finances, like this holiday planning guide and budget planning guide. Most importantly, I’m going to really focus on keeping and creating traditions with my kids. I want my kids to grow up and carry on the traditions with their own families!

The holidays are for focusing on moments that matter. But for many Americans, financial stress can get in the way. This year, you can make small changes that make a big difference for your financial well-being.

In this holiday planning guide, you’ll find tips for getting organized and making a plan for holiday spending so you can feel confident in your ability to stay on track with your budget. You’ll see how other Americans are shopping, traveling, celebrating and giving in ways that make the holidays cost less, but mean more.

Download Guide

For more holiday planning advice visit  holiday resources

Meaningful spending made easy with a budgeting tool to help you make a plan and stay on track with your holiday spending.  Download here.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust. The opinions and text are all mine.