If you take just a few steps to stay sane at the holidays, it’s much easier to glide happily and productively into 2015, without that awful holiday hangover. No use in needing a vacation from your vacation!
I remember holidays past when I’d be at the mall, frantically shopping for 10 hours the day before my family Christmas celebration. I felt pressured, guilty, and stuck—I love my family but couldn’t seem to work out a way to show them and not channel my inner Ebenezer Scrooge.
These days, though, I shop early from the peace and quiet of the local coffee shop. I spend guilt-free from my holiday savings account and enjoy my drama-free holiday.
Here are my 9 practices that will surely help you stay sane during the holidays:
1. Make a List and Check it Twice
Santa’s not the only one to need to double check his list.
When you put a name on your gift list, name the present you’re wanting to give this person and put a dollar amount next to it.
Then, add the numbers together when you come to the end of your list.
Look at what you’ve set aside to spend on gift giving, and then revise down, ‘til your comfortable giving what you can afford to share.
2. Track your Gifts
Not just for UPS or Fedex shipping—keep a spreadsheet of year over year giving, so you can remember what you’ve wrapped before and can keep track of what you’re giving over the life of your relationships.
3. To Stay Sane During the Holidays, Give from YOUR heart
This season, really take extra care to check in with your self and make sure you’re doing what you want to do for the people you love on your list.
Don’t give out of obligation or guilt.
Know your self. Know your budget. Know your loved one. Offer what feels like a gift to all three.
4. Sometimes the best gift is in a good conversation.
Reach out to the people on your list before you go shopping.
Ask questions about the holiday season and what would feel good to do.
Maybe it’s getting together casually, or going out to dinner, or hanging out wrapping presents together, or getting coffee on a cold day.
TALK before you buy—the real gift is always in the connection to your loved ones.
5. Think about January.
Often, in the Black Friday frenzy and December countdown, no one thinks about January.
After the holidays are over, life goes on.
Think forward to January, and the kinds of on-going expenses that accompany non-holiday living.
Make sure you avoid the holiday financial hangover that often undermines your best financial intentions and forces you into a catch up game right at the start of resolution season.
6. Look for What’s Free
All through December, different groups will be offering different productions, concerts, stories, plays, visual displays.
Be sure to check out what’s FREE in your neighborhood, and invite friends and loved ones along to these offerings.
The gift of time and attention means more than anything that can get wrapped, unwrapped and tossed aside.
7. Make sure Gift Cards are gifts to the receiver
Double check that the person on your list really likes to go to the place where the gift card can be used.
If you’re giving a card instead of cash, rethink it.
Often there’s a charge for the user of some fraction of the gift card amount. Though convenient, if the restaurant isn’t in the town where your receiver lives, then it’s not really a gift, is it?
8. Personal Touches are the most heartfelt
If there’s something you LOVE doing, do it—and pass that love along as gift, or note, or cookie, or ornament, or some thing you made that gave you joy and pleasure in the making.
Sometimes the making can be the gift you give–and your loved one appreciates the time you spent while you made your gift offering.
And now one to grow on… (or perhaps it can grow on you)
9. Start a Savings Account for Holiday Spending
My absolute favorite and most important financial behavior tool that I teach in all my classes is this: Automate your Finances.
When you automate, your savings goals are reached and you have money when you need it for the things you plan for.
Every year, there is a holiday season.
This year, figure out what you spend from Thanksgiving through New Years and then open a savings account.
Take the amount you come up with, divide it by the number of pay checks you receive, and then set up an automatic transfer for that amount to get deposited in your Holiday Spending account.
Then, we’ll share a table in the coffee shop next year, and celebrate a sane and stress free shopping season!
Kate Ashford published a fantastic article in Forbes last month in which she quoted me on ways to avoid holiday over-spending.
In the comments below, I’d love to know your favorite holiday time peace of mind saviors!