The holidays are a wonderful time. The holidays are a stressful time. Both of these statements are true. With the right kind of attitude (and effort), you actually can have Happy Holidays!
The holidays can bring on financial distress and stress. We all want to give just the right present to our loved ones. Those loved ones don’t want to see us in money trouble just because of gift giving. Part of what will help is accepting your reality. If you have money issues during the year, you will have money issues at the holidays. Those issues won’t go away if you ignore them and spend needlessly. If you do, you’ll end up feeling bad that you didn’t behave responsibly, as well as feeling more debt pressure than you felt before. The key is planning. You have to come up with a budget before the holidays and all the preparations are right there in front of you. You need to be prepared all throughout the year. When you see something you know would be a good gift, buy it. Put it away in a spot you will remember. Forgetting where your hiding spots are is a two-time loss – you’ll lose the money you spent for the lost item, and you’ll still need to purchase a gift. Be realistic with your amounts. If you have to cut down, so be it. I have found that even simple gifts are well received with pretty wrappings – it shows you made an effort. A cute little upgrade to a bow is a candy bar or lollipop. Trust me, it goes over real well!
You also need to decide what stays and what goes. Maybe if doing a cookie baking exchange stresses you out, eliminate it. Suggest to the people involved that you have just a general get together – to eat cookies, not to make them. Then again, if this is a tradition that you truly enjoy, make time for it. And get rid of something else. The fact is that there is just so much time between Thanksgiving and Christmas – you can’t do everything, nor should you. If it doesn’t seem like there will be enough time to full on decorate like a Hallmark Christmas movie – accept that and put up a few of your favorite decorations. And then like they say in that movie – LET IT GO. The Holidays are a time to be together – you shouldn’t avoid being with family and friends just so you can hang Christmas lights. You don’t need a perfect new Christmas sweater or outfit. You can look just as festive with black pants or a black skirt and a green or a red blouse. If you want, even pair red and green together (not a usual clothes combination). Use sparkly accessories too. Being together and thankful at this time of year should be the focus – not what you’re wearing.
It’s also a good time of year to keep both your eating and drinking in check. It’s the holidays! It is a special time of year, so yes – you can treat yourself, and you can indulge in treats, etc. that you normally don’t have. If you go overboard though, it’s pretty much a guarantee you’ll feel bad afterwards. Normally, if you’re not a big drinker – don’t turn into one just because you’re at a party. Behave as a slightly more fun version of yourself, but keep your self respect. There will be no worse feeling than waking up the next day, wondering yet knowing that you were acting ridiculous the night before. The danger of overindulging in food isn’t noticed quite as quickly. A day in January might come and you’ll try something on to wear – and it won’t fit, or at least it won’t fit right. Though the treats and drinks were good at the time, you will immediately regret having them when your clothes feel snug. Our hospital has a program that a lot of people join at this time of year – it’s called Maintain Don’t Gain. It’s a really good idea. It keeps a lot of us honest. It truly does help in keeping people on track.
The holidays can be somewhat overwhelming with all the togetherness, especially if you’re not used to it. Or if you prefer time to yourself, even if it is just now and then. The fact that it is holiday time doesn’t change the fact that you still may need time to yourself. Maybe you won’t be able to keep up routines that you normally have. Being busy is not a reason to ignore what you want and need. I have always been a firm believer in treating myself good in addition to taking care of those around me. It’s like they say on airplanes – put your mask on first before attempting to help others. It is the same with the holidays, and life in general if you think about it.
Old traditions are wonderful. This is such a special part of the holidays – thinking back and remembering all the good times, and being thankful for them. You can put out cookies for Santa Claus long after you have non-believers in your house. It will always be fun driving around and looking at the lights and decorations in your neighborhood. Everyone can get their pictures taken with Santa – old, young and all those in between. For as important as your old traditions are, it’s always a good idea to add things to do. You can start some new traditions. It could be going to a different church for services. Maybe not on the actual holiday itself, but maybe just before. Why not start a goofy gift exchange? There are so many versions of these kinds of things. The internet is a good source of ideas for new holiday traditions.
Eating and drinking for my family has always been an important part of the holidays. My sister and I have always loved the special Stuffing my mother used to make, and the one special kind of Cookie she made at the holidays really signifies Christmas for us. I think it is important to have all of your traditional favorites. When I was raising my boys, they always loved these certain kind of rolls – it wouldn’t be a holiday for them if I didn’t make those. I think it is important to include your favorites, even if others could call them “unusual” at holiday time – or for fancy dinners. My sister loves ketchup, so no matter whether we are eating fancy or casual, on our table there it will be – a large bottle of ketchup. My middle son Kevin had been a picky eater when he was young. I was very laid back about it, which turned out to be the right choice. He grew out of it, and eventually developed a wide variety of food likes. Back then, years ago – he ate peanut butter and jelly. A lot. If I was laid back during the year, I certainly wasn’t going to take a stand on Christmas (or any other holiday). So while we all ate turkey, or ham, or prime rib – Kevin had his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was served on the same china the rest of us were using. Not typical, but it worked for us.
You have to take care of yourself. It is important to get enough sleep. You should eat right and try to stick to a somewhat normal routine so you don’t feel “off.” Don’t neglect to drink water – it is amazing how quickly a body can become dehydrated. Be as organized as you can be. It will make everything a lot easier for you. But don’t be stressed out over it. Relax and breathe. As they say, this too shall pass. And in line with taking care of yourself, treat yourself good. Buy yourself a Christmas gift. Since I was old enough to buy presents on my own, from me – I always included myself as a gift recipient of my own. If money is an issue, I get it. I would not want to take away from my loved ones in favor of myself, but the fact is…I matter too. If funds are tight, get yourself something small, something trivial, something fun – to make your own self smile. You are important as a gift recipient – don’t ever forget that.
The holidays will come fast, and they will go even faster. So, relax – if you can. Focus on all of the good in your life. Ignore the bad, if possible. Forgive and forget. Help others, by giving back. You’ll never have THIS holiday season again – make sure you enjoy it!