It’s official: the holiday season is here—evidenced by all those commercials. Does just thinking about all the shopping, entertaining, and decorating and your ever-shrinking budget send you into a tizzy? Relax. With a bit of thoughtful preparation and some helpful parameters, you can achieve the look and outcome you want for you and your family—without being so stressed you can’t enjoy the season.
Want some tips to reduce stress and still enjoy the holiday season?
1. Spend Smarter
- Consider a budget. Don’t get caught shopping until you’ve given some consideration to how much you are able to spend. Think of those credit card bills in January. What can you honestly handle? If you love to shop, it may seem to take some fun out of it, but being faced with big bills in the New Year isn’t fun either.
- Be specific. Once you’ve put a realistic limit on spending, you know what you have to work with. Are you getting just a few high-quality gifts, or would it be better to get a number of less expensive gifts so kids and family have more to open? You decide what works best for you. Encourage your extended family to draw names instead of everyone getting gifts for the whole family.
- Make a list. You can make it very specific or general. Coming up with ideas of what your family would like gives you a starting point and helps you estimate how much you plan to spend on each person.
- Use only one credit card. This will help to keep track of purchases.
2. Shop Shrewder
- Start early. Don’t run the risk of being frustrated because they have run out of what you wanted. If you enjoy the hustle and bustle of last-minute shopping, save it for small gifts such as stocking stuffers or little treats. Get the bigger items out of the way first.
- Go online. You are savvy enough to know this can lead to finding things at a lower price. You can also research where to find something if you want to buy in person and save time driving from one mall to another.
- Negotiate. It may surprise you to know that it is possible to ask for a lower price. You never know until you try. If you are buying in bulk, one or more of the items could be slightly soiled. If you are in a small store that is owner-owned, they may be willing to bargain. They want the sale. Give it a try.
3. Entertain Effortlessly
KISS: Keep it simple, sister! As much as possible, simplify the event. Make part of the menu take-out items from your favorite deli. Ask some guests to bring their specialty; most likely they will be happy you asked. Invite a family member or friend to co-host. If a fine dining experience is a must, hire some help. Plan to do as much as you can in advance. Set up the table the day before and prepare as much of the menu ahead of time.
How about January? Some social events could be delayed until January. Consider which ones can be postponed. People’s schedules are generally more open mid-January. You may find more people can make it, and you will have a better time because you aren’t so tired.
4. Downsize Decorating
- Get the whole family to help. Rethink how you want the house to look based on the ages of your children. What can they do so they can be a part of the celebration as well? If much of your decorating is complicated and time-consuming, perhaps you want to pare things down a bit until your children are older. The point is to have FUN! And it’s no longer fun if you are up late at night working on hanging and arranging after everyone is in bed.
- Rein in. Count how many boxes you’ve taken down from storage. Sort out those items that you are tired of looking at or that simply look a bit tired. Donate them to a shelter or retirement home. They won’t think they look tired and will greatly appreciate “new” items to liven up the place. Decide to use some of the boxes and put the rest away. You won’t miss the decorations you didn’t use.
This year make your resolution BEFORE the holidays begin: More fun, less stress!
Use these tips to keep stress at a minimum and enjoy the holidays. Enjoy the holidays!
Janada Clark, MA, is a parent educator and teaches Love and Logic at Stanford and public and private schools. Her parent education classes are a well-respected resource for parents. Class information is listed on her website. Join her Facebook community and get your parenting questions answered within 1 day.