Preparing for the Holidays

A mile-long gift list, fighting over parking spaces at the stores, a shrinking wallet, stress from having too much to do and not enough time to do it – these are just a few of the holiday challenges that do not bring good cheer. However, couple that with a dismal economy and the fact that the average family has already had to tighten their belt this year, and the holidays can be even more challenging. To get the most cheer out of the holiday season, both emotionally and economically, consider these four tips to maximize joy with minimal time, money and energy.

Put your dollars on a diet
I would guess even jolly Saint Nicholas will be tightening his belt this year, as visions of soaring debt levels and disappointing unemployment rates dance in holiday shoppers’ heads. Balancing any post-recession family budget requires some serious shopping sacrifices. Whether it involves saying “no” to some of your kids’ wants, not throwing a big celebration for every event or simply clipping more coupons and dining in more, everyone is trying to maintain their lifestyle with less available money. This holiday season is an opportunity to be kind to your pocketbook, finding less expensive ways to be even jollier and share that joy with loved ones.

Develop a doable budget
It is important to acknowledge that holiday spending from now until New Years entails much more than just buying gifts. Consider all expenses that go into the preparation, planning and even recovering from the various events and gatherings, and build these into a budget that you can stick to! Don’t forget the hostess gifts for parties, the luncheons with girlfriends, the postage for cards and the bows, boxes and wrapping paper. Following a budget can help prevent holiday spending remorse come January.

Shrink your stuff not your spirit
Here’s a challenge: take a stroll through your home and notice all the stuff. Take a peek in the closets, garage and those high kitchen cabinets. I bet you find more unneeded, unused things than not. The “stuff” in our lives can be emotionally and financially draining. Do you really need or want to receive more itchy sweaters or useless appliances? Let your close friends and family know you are satisfied with minimal gifts, if any, this year. Consider cleaning out some closets and making a donation to a coat drive or other holiday charity. Your spirit (and wallet) will rejoice.

Give for a greater good
Does your father-in-law really need another tie? Will the pajamas you picked for grandma really warm her heart? You can still give a unique and personal gift to loved ones while also giving for a greater good. You can acknowledge a cause they are passionate about by making a donation to a charity, non-profit or other cause that he or she supports. Making online donations not only saves time and energy, but also lets your loved one know you support what is important to them. Your friend or family member will feel honored and celebrated that you thought of their values and passions and made a difference for others with a greater need.

You can do more of what is truly important with less time, energy and money spent this holiday season! Celebrate this time of year with gifts of love and truly giving back to others. The only cost is the reward you will receive.

If you find holiday stress overwhelming and lingering into the New Year, professional help, such as counseling, can help.