It’s November. The holiday season is officially here, and it can be a really stressful time of year. If you’re like me, late November into December is crazy. We go on vacation in December every year, and although I wouldn’t miss it for the world, there’s nothing like traveling during the holiday months to make your life a little crazy. So how do we keep our holidays as stress free as possible?
My first strategy for reducing stress is to prepare early. That means making lists and getting started early. We created a holiday budget last month, so that puts us ahead already. I like to start shopping early, if I have an idea of what I’m giving for gifts, I can take advantage of sales. This also helps me to stick to the holiday budget because I don’t want the stress of overspending added to my December. And once I’ve finished my shopping, I stop shopping. Period.
Clutter free gifts are my favorite to give. This saves me the time, money, and stress of wrapping, boxing, and sending gifts. This usually means giving experiences instead of stuff. Paying for a hotel room, donating in someone’s name, paying college tuition, paying a utility bill, paying for a pedicure. Babysitting during a friend’s holiday party or bringing a meal. Things that ease the extra expense and stress of the holidays for someone else, and make me feel like I gave something that helped.
Think about things your loved ones would use later in the year too. A lifetime fishing license for your state is something that can be used all year, year after year. I love to give annual National Park passes. It encourages people to think about getting out and exploring, and I believe that if the pass is paid for, they will think about going to more parks than they would have otherwise. You can order annual passes here: Annual National Park Pass
Make several freezer meals. These can be used on those busy days when you’ve been shopping or at a choir concert. But they also make a great gift. Take a dinner with a clever card to a friend and you’ve given them an extremely useful, clutter free gift. You can even wrap it in a holiday towel so that it looks somewhat wrapped up. I like to keep meals in the freezer all year round. We use them ourselves, but you never know when a friend or neighbor will become ill, need surgery, or just need someone to show that they care. Be sure to put them in disposable containers, they will thank you later.
Buy your baking supplies now also. When you get a free evening, make cookie dough and freeze it. When it gets closer to Christmas you can take it out and bake cookies. Also think about making extra to give away, as another clutter free, stress reducing gift. Think about how helpful it would be to have your cookie dough ready so that you can spend more time decorating them with the kids.
Start buying wrapping supplies, like paper, ribbons, tags, and tape, now. That way you can wrap gifts as soon as you get home instead of leaving it for later. Buy as many ingredients for your holiday meals as you can ahead of time. No one likes being in the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving, especially if you have guests at your home.
The important thing to remember this time of year is that your family wants to spend time doing fun things together. They don’t really care if you make your grandmother’s traditional strudel recipe if you’re a raging maniac because you don’t have time for everything. If you want to make homemade treats, make things that the kids can help with. Don’t be afraid to let go of some of your traditions, you can bring them back later when your kids are old enough to help you. Take the time to go outside and build a snowman. Go sledding, then drink hot chocolate. Take a drive to look at Christmas lights. Go see a live nativity scene. Bake and decorate cookies.
Plan ahead this year so that you can enjoy the holidays more than ever. And always, remember to stick to that holiday budget so that you can adventure later. Here are more tips for keeping your holiday within your budget: Holiday Gift Giving Made Easy(er)