Christmas is a joyful time of year. It can also be quite a stressful one. This is the season of giving, thoughtfulness and charity, but also of shopping for picky folks, working aggressively to meet year-end deadlines at work, and blowing your monthly budget out of the water.
Here’s a list of 13 ways I’m maintaining some semblance of sanity this holiday season:
- Begin making a gift list early. I started snooping on the wants/needs of my dear ones as early as this summer, and have been taking notes. Every time they mention something they want or need or are curious about, I wrote it down. This year, I actually had FIVE different potential gift ideas for my hard-to-shop-for mother, when I usually have zero ideas well up until the day before Christmas Eve.
- Create a reasonable budget. I’ve been putting away money for Christmas since the beginning of the year. This way, I won’t have to charge a bunch of presents or break the bank in order to give my family presents this year (for a pleasant change!)
- Begin working on your holiday savings early. We made it a point to use our reward credit card a lot this year for our weekly expenses such as gas and groceries, and even for some of our larger purchases. Even if the bill is paid off each month before any interest is accrued you still earn reward points, so there was little reason for us not to take advantage of the rewards program. By the first of December, we’d racked up enough points to claim hundreds of dollars worth of spending dollars.
- Start shopping early. By the time December 1st rolled around, I had 95% of my Christmas shopping already done.
- Shop online. Using the internet made it easier for me to find the best bargains for items on my gift list. The reduced time spent looking for parking or standing in lines is a bonus!
- Stick to your guns and your budget. Regardless of how enticing that heavily discounted 52-inch flat-screen tv is, I’m not getting it. No way am I buying my husband a puppy this year (no matter how much he begs or how cute the puppy is! We can’t do it this year!!)
- Consider buying joint gifts. My husband and I recently adopted a policy where we won’t buy each other individual gifts for Christmas anymore, and just focus on the children and gifts for the household. This actually works out well for us because we enjoy many of the same things – and just who would the Kinect for the Xbox 360 really be a gift for, considering that everybody in the house is going to play it? This cuts down on holiday costs and stress quite a bit.
- Ask what they want. One of the most stressful parts of the holiday season for me is figuring out what to get folks. This year, I just out and asked people what they wanted instead of trying to play mind reader.
- Expandable gifts. Even if you ask them – sometimes they just won’t know what they want for Christmas, or would rather be totally surprised. One way to make it easier on you is to buy expandable gifts – gifts that you can “add to” with future gifts. For instance, buying your father a BluRay player last year makes it easy to come up with something to buy him this year: BluRay movies. Buying someone an eReader on their birthday means you can buy them a nice new cover or gifts cards to purchase eBooks with for Christmas.
- Take time to just relax. I recommend White Russians or Mudslides.
- Make decorating easy. We cheat. We have a synthetic Christmas Tree that we use every year, that is easy to put together and lights up when you plug it in. No tree-searching or extra decorating required. We have artificial poinsettias that we take out of storage and put out next to the fireplace, etc. We don’t put up a lot of lights on the outside of the house anymore because the kids get more excited about the few we hang inside the house to their delight (which is much easier to put up and take down anyway).
- Call the year a wrap. I’m not going to sweat too hard over personal to-do-list items that aren’t done yet. Instead, I’m going to consider 2010 pretty much over with, and put my unfinished tasks on the list for 2011. I’m still going to attempt to finish this book I’m working on and maybe try to tackle a few other projects I’ve been meaning to get around to, but I’m not going to break my neck over them or throw a fit if they’re not done by December 31st.
- Rejuvenate. 2010 has been quite a year. If possible, take some time to clear your mind, body and spirit from the stress of the year by taking some time off from work to spend time with family, tending to yourself, and indulging in some activities you love. I’m taking vacation the full last 2 weeks of the year, and I plan to spend it writing, reading, playing games and getting caught up on some movies and my favorite TV shows.
How are you hanging in there this month?