Nov 122010

The holidays are upon us, and it can be a very stressful time in many people’s life. It does not have to be though, and with a few tips you can avoid the stress, the financial panic and the negative parts of the holiday season. Most often we put more stress on ourselves than we need to, and our family time gets lost in between the stress and hustle of the holiday season. It is easy to get caught up, and a reminder to slow down once in a while can be necessary.

1. Pay cash! Don’t use that credit card! There is nothing worse than having to foot the bill for Christmas in January, and even if you do not think you feel the financial stress of the credit bill during the holiday season, it will still be nagging you deep down. So get rid of the unnecessary stress and pay cash!  
2. Save up early! Put a little cash aside each month, even $20 will do, and if you start in January you will have plenty of cash to use by the time the holiday sales start. I earn gift cards online all year round, and then by the time the big sales start, I pull them all out, and I have to spend very little out of pocket.
3. Set a budget! If you set a budget for your holiday spending, both your gifts, party expenses etc. you are more likely to come out ahead with less stress. Be realistic, and stick to your budget by using coupons, shopping sales, and shopping online. Do not wait until the last minute, as that will increase your chances of overspending.
4. Start early! The best time to shop for Christmas is in January. Of course you cannot by the most trendy gifts in January, but there are still great deals to be had for very little. Shop the sales. If you start early, you are very likely to come across a great deal or coupon for the product you need. The same thing goes for holiday decorations. I love after Christmas sales, and I usually set aside $15-20 to spend on holiday decorations, for that I can usually get at least $100 worth of decorations.
5. Raise a frugal family and keep expectations low! Most often parents actually create their own stress by trying to outdo themselves every year. Raise frugal children, don’t let them watch all of those commercials, and do your best to keep the toy magazines out of your house. If your children expect to get the latest high tech gadget or $100 toy each year, the holiday spending can easily get out of control. 
6. Plan ahead! Don’t let everything get down to the last minute. Take your holiday photos early, so that you can take advantage of the great deals on holiday cards when they get there. Edit your holiday card list; you do not have to write a lengthy letter to every person on the list. However, dropping a little personal note in your Christmas card is always appreciated. 
7. Plan out your Christmas menu early, this way you can take advantage of sales. Be flexible, and make sure to stock up on flour, butter, sugar and keep holiday ingredients in advance. If you buy flour at $1.50 instead of at $4, you can stretch your money far.
8. Keep your plans simple! Most often we feel obligated to attend every single holiday party we are invited too, but if we do so life can very easily get complicated. In exchange you will have a stressed out husband, cranky kids, and you will have no left over energy for your own family. Keep your holiday plans simple and enjoy your holiday season.

9. It does not have to be perfect! Holiday parties are great, so are beautiful decorations and wrapped presents. However, the holidays are not about perfection, the holiday season is about spending time with the people we love. Less goes a long way if everyone at the party is having a great time, and I am sure that your guests will remember the great conversations much longer than the matching napkins.

10. Take time off! I don’t mean just time off from work, but time off from the holiday rush. Take your kids to the park, for a walk on the beach (if you are in Florida like me), go sledding on a hill or just make a snowman with the kids. These are the times your children will remember, and most likely they will soon forget all the holiday parties you attend.
The holiday season can easily add unnecessary stress to your holiday life. I personally think it is important that we take a step back, look at our family and see if they are happy. Create happy memories by spending quality time together as a family; you do not have to go to Disney World to do that.

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Tiny Prints blogging program, making me eligible to get a $75 Tiny Prints gift certificate! For more information on how you can participate, click here.” 

* The photos are of our homemade traditional Danish ornaments. My dad is a Christmas tree farmer, so the live Christmas tree is always the star in our family.

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