Another holiday season is upon us, and that means it’s time to spend a small fortune on gifts, spend untold hours baking holiday treats, wrap a truckload of presents, transform your home into the perfect winter wonderland, and entertain like Martha Stewart on steroids (safely masked and socially distanced, of course), all while balancing your regular responsibilities of work and family.
But do the holidays really have to be such a source of gray hair and frayed nerves? Not if you choose to simplify the season, and, believe it or not, it’s in your power to do so. Here are some simple suggestions that will help you tame the holiday chaos:
Target your gift and food shopping
By planning your purchases ahead of time and making a few targeted trips to specific stores, you’ll eliminate much of the frustration that usually accompanies holiday gift and food shopping. Plus, you’ll burn a lot less gas driving from store to store and searching for empty parking spaces. Better yet, do your gift shopping online from the comfort of your own home—where the only thing you’ll have to park is your behind. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are already in the habit of shopping this way.
Don’t rev up your debt
No friend or relative would want you to take on additional debt in order to buy them some dust-collecting keepsake or ill-fitting garment, yet many of us do just that at holiday time. We break our budget to ensure nobody feels left out. No doubt, many of the people we’re buying for are doing the same thing for us—spending money they don’t have so we have a gift to open. Why not discuss the idea of setting holiday gift spending limits with your friends and family or, perhaps, limiting gift giving to children while putting a moratorium on gifts between adults?
However, make no mistake; the monster of unnecessary gift giving is not easily slain. While some will be quite open to the suggestion, others might be a little (or a lot) more resistant. Start the conversation with people who are most likely to be receptive to the idea. Tell them the only thing you want this year is their presence, not their presents. Since some people will already have completed their holiday gift shopping, you might want to get the dialogue started this year and actually implement the change next year.
Skip the annual gift fad
Every season there’s that certain toy or gadget that we’re convinced our kids simply can’t live without—well, at least until next year when that item will have been completely forgotten and replaced by the next hottest thing. If buying the season’s most sought-after gift for your child means waiting in ridiculously long lines or forking over a king’s ransom, tell your child not to expect to see that item under the tree this year. Think of it as a good opportunity to teach him or her the value of postponing gratification.
Back off the baking
The holidays just wouldn’t be the same without your gingerbread men—and your eggnog snickerdoodles, apricot foldovers, cream cheese dainties, and triple chocolate biscotti. But is it really necessary to spend the entire month of December preparing a barrage of baked goods when we all eat much more than we should during the holidays anyway? Simplify by selecting just a few family favorites that you make from scratch and, perhaps, round them out with some store-bought goodies or cookies baked from ready-made dough.
Limit party size
If you usually throw a holiday party for a houseful of people, consider hosting a much smaller event this year—perhaps just family. With COVID still surging (as of this writing), you really have the perfect excuse to limit your party size this holiday season without hurting too many people’s feelings.
Cut back on holiday greeting cards
This one can get touchy because you certainly don’t want to phase anyone out of your life and the annual holiday greeting card may be the only form of contact you have with certain individuals. But if there are some who haven’t reciprocated in the card exchange or made any other effort to stay in touch for many years, it may be time to tentatively cross them off the list.
Use discretion when you decorate
Last but certainly not least, don’t think you have to keep up with the Joneses just because their yard is lit up like a landing strip for the holidays. When it comes to holiday decorating, less really is more—not to mention, a lot less aggravating. In fact, something as simple as a wreath on your front door and, perhaps, some electric candles in your front windows, can make the perfect holiday statement. Besides, what goes up must come down. The myriad light strings and holiday figures that you put up on a mild day in late autumn will have to be taken down on some frigid, blustery day in winter.