Halloween is over, we already had some flurries and our first frost of the season made some of us cringe. Shorts, polos and sundresses are now replaced with hoodies and yoga pants and winter gear (sigh). Pumpkin spice everything has taken over, Christmas decorations inundate store shelves and retailers are bursting with eagerness to get you to buy anything and everything. So, with all of that, whether you are ready or not…the holidays are definitely coming, and fast. EEK!
Right now I know you can picture Will Ferrell as an elf in his yellow tights and a huge, cheesy smile on his face, with a jolly reminder, “There are only eight Fridays until Christmas!”
OH. MY. GOSH.
It’s time for Kohl’s to have their BIGGEST sales of the year again…and…again…and again. Every weekend, and pretty much every day, especially Wednesdays. That darn Kohl’s gets me every time…just when I think, “This is it, no more trips to Kohl’s,” they send me that beautifully delectable Kohl’s cash and I’m right back online or in the store spending more money and driving my hubby insane. Tee hee.
It’s time to buy gifts (or to at least wrap your head around who you need to shop for), to try not to overspend, to try to juggle schedules, to decide about when to travel to families and friends, to prepare your house if you are hosting and, well, just overall plan for all the things that correlate with the holidays (including keeping your figure because damn, you are looking fine and those holiday cookies are not going to taunt you this year!).
I’m not an expert, I don’t write for Good Housekeeping or have any credentials like that and half the time I can’t keep my living room de-cluttered of trains and Legos. But, I have had a lot of practice with holidays over the years, and I can hopefully help at least one of my six (ok, five) readers out there survive!
So, in no particular order, here are some tips for creating a less stressful holiday season:
1) Stock up on wine.
For fast and easy gifts, of course. And when you accidentally drink these delightful gifts o’ the vine as you do laundry or think about how big your to-do list has grown or realize you haven’t really slept well (or at all) in six years, just be sure to restock and rewrap! Easy peasy lemon squeezie.
Oh, but stay off of Amazon: Don’t drink and Prime.
2) Remember that simple is better.
Ok, I get it: Some of you out there want to make everyone happy. You want to have the cleanest house and the best-wrapped gifts and the prettiest tree, decorations, etc. You want to have the tastiest food and desserts. Understandably, you want to have the best holiday ever. And that IS attainable, but not at the expense of your entire savings account, or more importantly, your sanity. People can still be happy, and the holiday festivities can still be wonderful and memorable, without going over the top.
3) Make traveling easier.
Inevitably, holidays involve some travel to see loved ones. Parents know traveling with kids can be extremely stressful. Yet, it doesn’t have to be dreadful, even if it’s a longer trip. Listen to Christmas music (we have the soundtrack to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation…makes me laugh every time), bring easy and accessible goodies, have some games ready, make sure those portable devices are charged and most of all, stay positive. There will always be an end of the road, even if it takes six pit stops at gas stations or rest stops to get there! Side note: Be careful of those wonderful little gas stations (Love’s, I believe) that sell All. The. Things. Danger! My little guy saw about eight different train sets he just had to have, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of sparkly tote bags, scarves and a bunch of other cute items I totally didn’t need, but bought anyway while giggling maniacally with joy.
I’m not a pro, but I’m definitely not terrible at budgeting. I am fully aware how effective it can be, and how necessary it can be. So, it’s not totally out of line for me to offer budgeting advice, although my husband had wide eyes when I told him this was a part of my blog. “I am qualified!” I squeaked at him with a pouty look on my face. It’s like that one phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do,” or something like that. Anyway, here’s my budgeting advice in a nutshell: Think ahead, plan now and budget now so you can save later (and then spend what you saved later). BOOM! Totally free, effective, magical words right there, y’all!
But seriously, just remember that you can give your kids an amazing Christmas without buying them every video game or doll set or sports equipment out there. I know they want all the things, but you do not have to buy all the things. You do not want to create massive debt over one holiday that can absolutely still be special without breaking the bank.
If you know what you need to buy ahead of time, you can find the best price for it, as opposed to paying full price at the last minute. Unless that’s your bag baby, then don’t stop, get it get it!
5) Just breathe.
You will get through it. The holiday season is conquerable, despite all of the effort it entails…family portraits, Christmas cards, work pitch-ins, gifts for neighbors, gifts for friends, gifts for family, gifts for pets, gifts for co-workers, gifts for the mailman and UPS man (gotta give them some love!), traveling, hosting, Christmas trains, Christmas work events, church festivities and a partridge in a pear tree. Focus on having more fun and stressing less; and if that doesn’t work, go for a walk or a run. Try not to abandon healthy habits. Yet, if that does not work, see #1 above!
6) Stop the gift madness.
Gift giving should be fun! Yet, it can spiral into a headache or frustration if everyone is not on the same page. If you have a lot of family to buy for, perhaps an easier gift exchange can be arranged, such as drawing names or setting a limit that makes everyone happy. Or, consider donating to charities on behalf of family or friends, or buying whole family gifts (state park passes, lodge gift certificates, zoo membership, restaurant gift cards, etc.) instead of individual gifts for each adult and child. In the end, it definitely is the thought that counts, and stress is reduced when everyone is being thoughtful and mindful of reciprocity.
7) Delegate; ask for help.
If you find you have already hosted every year and want to change things up, put out the vibe to your family. Maybe someone out there has wanted to host for a while, but they didn’t want to hurt your feelings by asking to switch things up. Or, contrarily, if you are tired of traveling every year and want everyone to come to you, offer your house as an option for holiday festivities. Suggest a pitch-in if you feel overwhelmed by all the cooking and food prep. Excitedly ask your aunt to bring her famous brownies for dessert. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind and try make your life easier; happiness is contagious, and the happier you are, the happier those around you will be!
8) Keep it light and be realistic.
Remember the reason for the season. Breathe. You don’t have to do a million things ever, let alone at once.
In all of the glam and glitter and magnifico of the holidays, don’t forget to have fun, to enjoy your family and friends and to be thankful for your blessings. Oh, and to take advantage of “free shipping” offers online!