Dec 13, 2014

Finding Peace and Having a Stress Free Holiday Season

The Holiday Season is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year filled with peace, love, joy and all of that other sentimental bullshit.  So why are we so stressed around this time of the year? If you host Christmas, it's probably all the stress of trying to make things perfect to have your family over but if you don't host Christmas, it's probably the stress of finding the money for the right presents and getting the right presents.  There are many, many reasons that people stress and don't actually sit down and enjoy the Holidays and I have some tips to try to avoid most of the stress.  

>> Helpful Holiday Timeline

Take your time Decorating

After Thankgiving is over don't try to rush Christmas, retail and the media do that enough for us with their Christmas trees out in stores before Halloween is even over.  Take the time to enjoy Thanksgiving with your family and then worry about getting your Christmas decorations out.  After all, you have to finish those leftovers and recover from your turkey coma, right?

A lot of people try to get the Christmas decorations up right after the Thanksgiving guests leave, but I say to wait a few days.  Give it three or four days to plan what you want the tree to look like, how you want to arrange your outdoor decorations and to take inventory of what Christmas lights work and don't work.  You don't want to be standing outside in below zero temperatures only to find out that half your string of lights are out, do you?  Frankly, that would suck and would piss me off beyond belief.  

Shop Throughout the Year

Don't wait until November to start Christmas shopping, it will only stress you out rushing around to find the right presents.  After all, they don't call it the Christmas rush for nothing, right? There are plenty of great sales and deals throughout the entire year.  Pick things up as you see them and put them away in a place that you will be able to find it come December.  There are times that I have taken advantage of the after Christmas sales on Dec 26th in order to shop for the following year.  As long as you know where you put the presents you bought in July, you're golden!

Plan Ahead

It's very important to plan ahead so you're not stuck at the last minute trying to think of ideas.  I am a big list person and I utilize my Bullet Journal, which you can read about here, in order to plan and organize different things that are going on in my life.  You can also find numerous printables on pinterest for this exact purpose that will also help you organize and plan the Holidays,  

It's important to plan ahead for
  • Gifts for family members and friends.  Just jot down ideas off the top of your head that you might want to get people.  You can always finalize this later.
  • Christmas dinner or Holiday get togethers.  Once again, just jot down ideas that you might want to cook.  Search Pinterest for Holiday appetizers/main dishes/desserts, that's my favorite place to get cuisine inspiration.
  • Plan decorations for both outside and inside.  Test your lights to make sure they work because you will also write a shopping list of things you need before you decorate.  It's important to take inventory so you're not stressed or blindsided by missing items when you begin to decorate.
  • YOUR BUDGET - This might be the most important so as always, save the best for last.  Sit down with all of your bills.  Write down what you make in a month, all of your bills for that month and with the figure that is left prioritize.  What is the most important thing you will have to spend money on?  That should be the most amount of money that you allocate.  Then you can go down the list of expenses/gifts and allocate the appropriate amount of money for each.  Don't leave yourself short either, then you will just get even more stressed.  

If you plan ahead and make lists, you will know exactly what you still need, what you have completed, and if you have time to add in any more tasks at that particular time.  If you don't want to write a list, download an app that can assist you.  My favorites are Any,do, Tasks and Easily,do.

Shop Deals & Save Money

If you are the most stressed about finances and presents there are ways to be smart about this.  Keep a look out for sales.  Leading up to Black Friday and even Christmas stores start to have some amazing sales, so don't just throw out those store circulars when you receive them on your doorstep.  Make sure you have your list of presents that you want for your children, friends or family and keep a look out for that item on sale.  It's also important to not purchase the item the first time it goes on sale, especially if the item is just slightly discounted.  The closer it gets to Christmas, the more sales there will be. (Just don't procrastinate!)

Black Friday is a great day to get some amazing prices on items you want, need or want to get as gifts.  You don't have to be a crazy person and go out right after Thanksgiving dinner because deals are staggered at different times throughout the night and early morning.  Just make a list of the deals you want, bundle up just in case there's a line, grab some hot chocolate to bring with you and head out to save money!  At least that's what I do...

Cyber Monday is also a great day to save money! Although, I haven't seen deals as good as Black Friday on Cyber Monday... But I digress...  Get on your bunny slippers and cozy robe, grab your morning cup of coffee and log on to shop the Cyber Monday deals.  You don't even have to get out of bed if you don't want to!

There are many other ways to find good presents.  You can shop flea markets, garage sales, Goodwill, Craigslist, online Faceboook yard sale communities, Thrift stores, etc...  You might think that these places wouldn't be good for Christmas shopping, but you can find some very unique gifts there.  You can also sometimes find brand named products still in their original packaging, it's all a game of luck, but it doesn't hurt to look!

Easy Gift Giving

Don't stress about finding the perfect gift because it probably don't exist.  I think the perfect gift could be a gift card, the recipient could then take that gift card and get exactly what they want with it and you don't have to worry about hoping they like the gift.  Another great gift could be something that you can make by yourself.  (Keep a look out for my DIY gift posts coming up in the next week!)  A gift that is handmade comes directly from the heart and is appreciated.  Trust me, I would rather handmade bath salts, lotions, candles, art; it shows that the person cared enough to take the time to create something for you.  Truly a one of a kind gift.

You could also get a unique gift basket.  These are found at Big Lots, Sams Club, Walmart, BJ's Wholesale, Costco and even some specialty stores and mall kiosks.  These gifts are basically already arranged and wrapped for you, just add a gift bag!

Santa Pictures with the Kids

Take this advice from personal experience; Don't wait too long to get your kids' pictures taken with Santa.  You will regret it when you see the lines!  Santa usually starts to come to the mall the weekend before or after Thanksgiving. (Depending on where you live.)  If you are going to go to a mall Santa, go early.  You will avoid the lines.  If you are on a budget and go see a mall Santa, ask about separate photos.  They will try to get you to purchase the package and may sometimes make it seem like the package is the only option, but it's not.  You can buy a single 5x7 and that's usually a good $10-15 less than the package.  You can always make copies for family members.  

If that's still too expensive for your budget, keep a look out for free events for kids.  Toys R Us/Babies R Us usually has pictures with Santa for free or for a small donation.  Many other community places such as town centers, churches, community centers, etc... probably have free pictures with Santa during their events as well.  Just look in your local paper, Facebook or just do an online search.  

Tips for Long-Distance Relatives

If you're sending Christmas presents to relatives that live in another city or state, the typical mail by date would be anywhere between December 10th and December 15th.  This will give a pretty decent margin for any error by the shipping company; who knows what could happen!?  You want your packages to get there on time, so send with plenty of time.

As for Christmas cards, I would say that the typical date to mail your Christmas cards would be December 15th.  Once again, you want to give a decent margin for postal service error or any delay in your Christmas cards getting to their recipients on time.

Use Shortcuts

If you don't have to bake a pie from scratch, don't bake a pie from scratch!  Is your party or dinner casual? Get Holiday paper plates to minimize your clean up! If you can buy store bought appetizers, go for it.  No one is going to punish you for using shortcuts to help keep your stress at bay!  

Have Enough Batteries

Nothing is worse than your kids opening that battery operated toy that doesn't have any batteries included.  Nothing ruins a perfectly happy Christmas morning like not having batteries for that long-awaited toy and having to deal with all of the stores being closed and an angry, crying, tantrum-throwing child on your hands.  Lesson learned? Make sure you have enough batteries on hand!