Well, is that time of year again — the time when we decorate our homes with the latest holiday trends and create delicious new recipes to top the ones from the year before. It goes without saying that for those of strong faith, this is a beautiful-holy season, but sadly, it is also the season when we spend money we do not have (or have little of), and it is also a fun time to wear ugly sweaters without being judged.
Of course, we know well that Christmas is more than all of that. It is up to us to keep the joy of the season front and center regardless of how many cookies we have to bake, gifts we have to wrap, and parties to attend. I found a system that helps me get through the holidays without breaking my spirit or my wallet. So, take a seat and glean through my list of do’s and don’ts to help keep your sanity through the most wonderful (and busy, and expensive) season of all!
- Do plan ahead – Don’t leave everything to the last minute. This only creates more stress than what’s needed during the busy season. Personally, I shop all year round and keep the items tucked away until it is time to start wrapping them.
- Do get a storage trunk – The trick to #1, however, is actually remembering where you stored all of the gifts you’ve bought throughout the year. That’s where a trunk comes in handy. If you don’t have a walk in closet, attic, basement, or large car trunk for storing the gifts you’ve collected before Christmas, I would suggest buying a large storage trunk with a lock where you can place the smaller items without fear of little (or big) hands finding them.
- Do shop online – as much as possible. I know that part of enjoying the season is heading to the mall for those last minute items, but trust me on this… it is just as exciting to see the FedEx or Amazon guys come by with boxes of goodies you have ordered from the comfort of your home. And it might even be safer!
- Do get yourself a wall or desk calendar – Phone calendars are great and convenient, but sometimes you just have to put your eyes on a large-sized physical calendar that shows you the whole month of events you need to plan for to prevent double booking yourself and/or unwanted last-minute emergencies.
- Do decorate the home first – (I typically decorate the day after Thanksgiving) then wrap, bake, go, and do whatever else needs to be done without worrying about an unfinished Christmas tree, lawn decor, etc.
- Do budget wisely – Be sure to set a holiday budget and stay within that budget (I know, this is hard), set aside an amount for emergencies or miscellaneous. There are ALWAYS unexpected things that need to be taken care of. With that being said, it is also wise to set a gift budget per person. How much will you spend on your parents, spouse, children, friends, co-workers, etc.? This will help you stay on budget.
- Do exercise – Don’t stop during the holidays. Your body will thank you!
- Do arrange for helpers and delegate some tasks – This doesn’t just apply to who’s bringing what food items. but also hosting, prepping, wrapping, driving to events, picking up and dropping off items, responsibilities for the family holiday events, work parties, charity events, school and church responsibilities, pageants and parties, etc.
- Do label everything – Get yourself a label machine and use it well to get yourself organized during the holidays and especially after when things need to be put away. You can thank me later!
- Do put a personal touch on the holiday – nothing says “you are special” as much as personalized cards, original gift wrapping, homemade goods, handmade gifts, etc. Gifts do not need to be expensive, but they should be thoughtful.
- Do try new recipes – Be open to doing SOME things differently each year. This keeps expectations and excitement high throughout the holiday season. For example, I always try a different menu every Christmas Eve.
- Do stick to a theme – If it’s a Christmas wonderland, don’t add the grinch decor. If it’s a country Christmas, don’t add modern elements; it’s too confusing.
- Don’t “over” anything! – Don’t overspend, overdo projects, overeat, or overwhelm yourself. I know it’s easy to do, but if you learn to say “no”, organize and pace yourself, this won’t be a problem.
- Don’t charge everything – People tend to max out their credit cards shopping for the holidays. The problem is that when we borrow, we keep spending with little to no respect for boundaries. Then, when it is time to pay up, we realize we went over budget and the suffering begins.
- Don’t compete with others – In the end, trying to keep up with the Joneses will break your bank account and leave you feeling defeated, whether your house has the best decorations or not. Simply focus on what matters for you and your loved ones.
- Don’t go to everything you are invited to – Sometimes, for peace of mind, you’re better off staying home in your pajamas, watching Hallmark Christmas movies. Just saying…
- Don’t judge – People may do things in a different manner than you — especially those from other cultures. Just tell yourself, “it’s not wrong, it’s just different.” -And learn to be okay with that.
- Don’t ignore the real needs around you – Be present and give where it is really needed.
- Don’t drive under the influence – I know. Every year is the same thing, but it is worth repeating because it’s still a real problem, especially during the holidays.
- Don’t forget to call home – No matter how busy it gets for you, a simple call can go a long way to bridge the distance with your loved ones.
- Don’t leave your Christmas lights on all day – No one wants to be surprised with a super high electricity bill come January!
- Don’t be sloppy – Just because it is the holidays, it doesn’t mean you live in your pajamas all day long the entire month. Clean up, shave, get a haircut, and Dress up to impress. Why? because you never know who you are going to meet, and besides, your attitude improves when you dress nice. Trust me on this one!
- Don’t forget to praise and affirm – those who cook, serve, clean and go beyond the call of duty to make you and the family feel loved and extra special during the holidays.
Enjoy your stress free holiday season!