The holidays are upon us and with that can bring stress related to overspending,
overcommitting, feeling the need to have the ‘perfect’ holiday and the dreaded weight gain with all of the holiday yumminess. We’ve discovered some things along the way that we do intentionally that have helped us decrease some of the above stresses.
1). Have a holiday budget and pay for it in cash. It’s estimated that Americans will spend 600 billion dollars over the holiday season and with that typically comes the January hangover of paying off the credit cards that were used to spend that 600 billion. Be intentional to prevent overspending and that hangover by having a holiday budget and paying for it in cash. We make a list of everyone we want to buy gifts for. We actually have been saving up for Christmas since last January (a practice we highly recommend by putting aside money each month into a savings account earmarked for Christmas. While it’s too late for this year, instead pick an amount of money that you can budget for in December and use that amount). We take that amount and divvy it up amongst the list, putting a dollar amount for each person we want to buy something for, holiday decorations/wrapping paper, food/entertainment, any expenses related to travel (such as gas and dog boarding) and we always have a miscellaneous category for an unexpected expense or if we find the perfect gift for someone and it costs $35 and we’ve only budgeted $30 for them. And then stick to that budget. Find gifts that fit the amount you have budgeted not find the perfect gift and then figure out how to pay for it. When you’ve spent that amount on someone, stop looking for them!
2). Gifts don’t always have to be bought. We live in a country where everyone has a lot of stuff. Considering half of the world’s population lives $2 per day or less, if you are reading this post, you have access to a computer and the internet and probably aren’t worried where your next meal is going to come from. So buying yet another gift for someone might not be what they need or want. Consider giving your time this holiday season, making a homemade gift or connecting with someone via phone or snail mail. Sometimes a person would rather be invited to your home for a meal or to just take a walk with you. Spending time with that person might be the best gift you can give them. Or make a homemade gift. How much more personal and meaningful is a gift that you’ve thoughtfully considered and spent time making vs. a gift card to a random store that that person may or may not like. If the person lives far away, making time to pick up the phone and calling the person to connect can be an amazing gift. Or consider thoughtfully writing a letter or card to let the person know how much they mean to you. My (Kimberly) mom was a first grade teacher for 18 years. A handwritten note from a parent expressing sincere gratitude for what my mom did for those kids meant a whole lot more than another apple mug. Most people remember you for the way you make them feel and not for what gifts you give to them.
3). Remember others this holiday season. The holiday season is not always happy for everyone. If someone has recently lost a spouse, child, sibling, other family member or friend, the holidays could be very lonely and sad. Perhaps you know someone who is living far away from home and can’t travel to be there for the holidays. Or sometimes, because of dysfunction or family arguments, spending time with family isn’t desired or even an option. Remember those people and ask them to be part of your holiday celebrations. Whether it’s inviting them to a potluck, having them come to your family’s holiday celebration or creating new traditions with your friends, family is what you make of it. A favorite quote I (Kimberly) wrote about family is this:
Family is so much more than the people you are related to. It’s the individuals you surround yourself with who love you, support you, and care about you deeply through life’s ups and downs. When you have that kind of relationship with someone, you will always be a part of their family.
If you know someone who has lost part of their family, can’t be with them or doesn’t want to be with them, invite them into your celebration of the holiday. You get to intentionally choose how and with whom you spend your holidays with.
4). It’s okay to say No. No, seriously, it really is. With the holiday season comes work parties, children’s parties, friend parties, parties out of town, parties in town, this tradition and that tradition which can be overwhelming. You don’t have to go to everything and it is okay to say no to things. And it’s even okay to say no because you just need an evening at home to chill out. Make a list of events (and if you are married, make this list together to make sure you are aware of all known requests for your presence), prioritize what matters to you, figure out how much you can handle (and being gone every single night of the week should not be on anyone’s agenda), say yes to the things you want to really attend and politely decline the things you do not want to. It’s as simple as that.
5). Don’t gain 10 lbs over the month of December and become completely sedentary. Let us guess – your New Year’s resolution is going to be – ‘I’m going on a diet. I’m going to exercise more. I’ve just eaten my way through December and I need a change.’ We get it. The holidays bring lots of really yummy food and drink and tons of excuses to overeat. If you live in the top 2/3rds of the US, it’s started to get really cold and is harder to get outside and exercise. You think – I’ll just make it up by my New Year’s resolution in January. Well, what if you were intentional this holiday season and you didn’t have to start with an extra 10lbs to lose? What if you watched what you ate, indulged in the occasional holiday treat (but only when it was something you really, really wanted and you savored every bite of it) but then cut back at other meals/times of the day so that you maintained your weight through this month? What if you continued (or even started if you don’t currently exercise) a fitness program so you weren’t starting from scratch in January? Walking is a fantastic habit to get into if you don’t already work out. Bundle up and talk a walk after dinner and enjoy the Christmas lights in your neighborhood. Find a group of people to exercise with so you have some accountability. Sign up for a late winter race so you have a goal in mind to train for. If you join a gym, try to negotiate for a free month in December and try to get their 2016 prices. Most places go bananas in January selling memberships and would be happy to sell you one in December when their numbers are low.
The holidays don’t have to be overwhelmingly stressful. Remember that YOU get to choose how you want your holidays, commitments, budget, and health to look like. But you do have to be intentional NOW about the choices you make if you want the desired result come January. Good luck!