Keeping Up During the Hectic Holidays
by Lisa Moore
For some people the holidays can be a real goal-buster, creating havoc with budgets, organizational skills, and the waistline. Some people plan the whole year for the season, yet others wait until the last minute.
Regardless of the style of preparation, many feel overwhelmed and fatigued by the time the holiday spirit arrives. With careful planning and organization, your domain, checkbook and waistband will survive the holidays. Here are just a few tips that will help make the holidays joyous again.
Wrapping Things Up- Remember grabbing all of those tubes of paper on clearance last year? It is time to find them. While you are searching find your scissors, tape, name tags, boxes, markers, a pencil, and bows. If you send your gifts by mail add packing tape and newspaper or other packing materials. If you use the USPS pick up a few free Priority Mail and envelopes and boxes. (Pick up some holiday stamps, also.) Place this in a box, container, bag or anything else that can hold all of your items. After you have your wrapping supplies together place it in an area that will be easy to access and find.
As you buy or make gifts, wrap them and with a pencil on the back of the name card write lightly (so you can erase it, if you have curious gift receivers) what is inside the present, and cross them off your list.
Start filling you holiday mail packages early. This will free up some storage space and make sure your gifts get to your family and friends with time to spare. Check your local parcel service for holiday deadlines.
Heating Up the Holidays - Remember that nice platter your Aunt Fay gave you three years ago? It is buried back in your cupboard. Last holiday, you wanted to use it (at the last minute) and couldn't find it. This year go through your cupboards and find your relish trays, deviled egg plates, turkey trivets, and all the other items you only use once a year. Place these items up front so that you can find them if the need arises. I know Aunt Fay will be glad you did.
Meal planning can be a big source of stress. Plan your menu, shopping and supplies list well in advance. See if there is any dish on your menu that you can prepare ahead of time and freeze. Plan your attack, locate the dishes, pans, tools, ingredients and preparation area before you start working
Don't overcook. This is hard on your budget and it promotes over indulgence. There are many wonderful resources (some right on the Internet) that can help you plan a menu and will give you the amounts you should cook per guest. Try centering your holiday around something other than food. You waistline and budget will benefit from this too.
The Gift of the Gift List- Santa has a list and he checks it twice, maybe you should also. I am not talking about being a Scrooge, but if you are giving gifts to you cousin's friend's daughter's child, you might be able to cut back a little.
Many families have found ways to reduce gift giving. Some have even removed the unwrapping frenzy from the holiday line-up and replaced it with other meaningful events. Others have chosen to donate to charities instead of exchanging gifts. Be creative, there are other ways to show that you care for someone. What do you think Grandma would want - An hour visit or a new foot toaster that won't be paid off until next holiday?
Card Sharks - Have your computer help you. Make your own address labels - the post office will love it too. Organize all of your addresses, stamps, pens, and stationary in one area. Mail out the card as soon as you are finished with it.
Every year, I used to search high and low for the perfect card to send out. I would shuffle from store to store to find it. One year we were moving and I was not able keep the tradition. I went to an office supply store and bought holiday stationary for less than three of the fancy cards. I wrote personal letters to close family and newsletter form to other friends and family. The feedback was very positive. Plus, I received some wonderful letters in return.
Cookie Cutters - Watch your budget when you bake or make crafts for gifts. For example my sister-in-law decided she would make her niece a dress for the holidays to save money. She thought she could make a dress under $20. (There was a $20 limit on the gifts) The dress ended up costing near $30. The dress was gorgeous but the reason she had made the dress was because she was trying to save money during some hard times.
When you buy craft items or baking items, ask yourself "Can I make this? (Example: gift bags to place baked goods) Are there any free resources I can use? (Example: a church/community center's craft room that might have access to sewing machines, craft tables, cutting boards etc) Is there something I can recycle? (Example: old clothing for material and buttons) This will save you money and help our environment to boot. Can I borrow or buy it second hand? Try a hobby shop bulletin board, a thrift shop, want ads, and craft shows.
Realize what you need to organize - Don't wait to locate - Start early in the season. Many of times we over spend and duplicate items because we fail to find an item we stashed away in a hide-a-way. If you aren't sure you know your entire secret hiding places start your quest early, and place these items in an area that will be easy for you to access, when you are ready for them. Then relax and enjoy the festivities.
We're still paying off last Christmas and worry how we'll afford the holidays this year without charging it again! Tell us: Yes, we could use help getting out of the debt trap we're in! or No, debt is not a problem for us but I'm always looking for ways to trim my family's expenses further!