12 Things To Do To Make Holidays Less Hectic, More Meaningful And Cheaper

Women preparing Christmas dinner table.(Photo: Betsie Van Der Meer, Getty Images)

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Christmas is less than two months away and that means hectic, crazy, expensive times are drawing nigh.

But maybe, just maybe, the holidays don't not have to be that way. Perhaps this year will be different!

My advice is to start ASAP to make an overall holiday plan for yourself and your family. Take time to think about what you and your family collectively want the holidays to be and then go for it!

Here are some ideas to help make our 2016 holidays less hectic, less expensive and hopefully more meaningful too:

Scale back the doins. If you want a simpler season, you just have to agree to NOT plan so many activities. It is so easy to get overbooked before you even get started. Get out a calendar and start marking things on it so that you can see what is coming up. If it looks like too much, just say NO to some of those options!  Think back to the last few holiday seasons and identify the events and experiences that you really enjoyed and the ones you are already dreading. This is the time to drop the dreaded ones once and for all and put your energies toward the meaningful ones. The trick is to realize that sometimes doing less can mean enjoying more.

Life and Career coach Pam Brown says to "evaluate your holiday rituals

. Which do you do because you think you "should" and which do you really enjoy?"  She said she once coached a client who found that she began dreading the holidays, a time of year she used to love. "Over time she had piled on more and more rituals. I invited her to talk to her family about which activities were important to them. It turned out quite a few of those traditions weren't meaningful to the children; they were just playing along because they wanted to make mom happy. My client drastically pared things down and now she loves the holidays again!"

Professional organizer Beverly Grant takes it a step further, suggesting that you deliberately creating space on your holiday calendar. "When planning holiday parties and family gatherings, give yourself at least 1-2 days between every event," she says.

Know and stick to your budget: Make your gift list fit your budget, not the other way around.  Do not under any circumstances borrow money for Christmas shopping.

Decorate less. Now is the time to get all of those decorations out and look through them with an eye toward downsizing. Grant suggests asking your family to "pick their 3-5 favorite ornaments, door hangings or sentimental items that make them happy during the holidays.  Only decorate this year using those items." Then donate the rest to a charity or thrift store and let "your family share their holiday spirit with others." Or if you have a whole lot, have a popup decorations sale, and sell it to make a few extra holiday dollars.

Make it about more about giving than receiving: If you want to shift your holiday focus away from all of the materialistic madness, talk about and think about giving instead of receiving. It can be as simple as asking children what they are "giving" loved ones this Christmas as opposed to everybody asking them "what is Santa bringing you" for Christmas. Or ask family members to talk about their most memorable Christmas, of having your family brainstorm ideas for ways to help others during the holidays.

Do for others: Try to get your family to agree on a service project that you can all do together. Adding volunteering to your calendar is a good way to enjoy working together toward a common goal and feeling good about your efforts to help the less fortunate. Your gift of time and energy can be a lot more meaningful than just writing a check, especially when children are involved and can connect with the mission you are supporting through the volunteer effort. Another perk is that you can't spend much money while you are busy volunteering.

Buy fewer gifts: I know that it is hard to cut people from your list, especially if the exchanging of gifts has been a longstanding tradition. But if money is an issue, or if you are at the point where you know that neither of you "need" anything, just  tell the folks on your usual gift list that you want to change the way that you exchange gifts. Consider family gifts as opposed to a special gift for each person in a family. Ideas include games, memberships, tickets, etc. It can save you money and end up being a better gift for the group. Some other alternatives are to give to charity in the names of those friends or relatives or to simply agree to not give each other gifts any longer, and substitute a lunch date or other outing where you can spend time together instead of springing for that obligatory gift.

Brown says a good place to start cutting is the office:

"If you enjoy giving gifts to co-workers, then by all means do it. But if you are buying or making gifts simply because you know co-workers will give you gifts, resist the urge to reciprocate. You'll save money, time and sanity. Simply saying a sincere "thank you" is enough. If you can't bring yourself to skip the office gift giving, consider making a modest donation to the charity of your choice, in honor of your colleagues."

Cut expenses now to create more holiday funds: If you need to free up more money for the holidays, cut little expenses now  —  do your own nails, forego eating out, make your own coffee.

Be disciplined: Keep your focus when shopping, sticking to your list and not being tempted to buy things for yourself, while you are out there in the stores. Statistics show that as many as admit to buying "gifts" for themselves while they are out Christmas shopping.

Get ahead: Make some meals like casseroles, or soups, ahead of the shopping/partying season and freeze them so that you have ready-made healthy tasty dinners on some of those super busy days, when you would otherwise be tempted to overspend by eating out on your way home.  When you head out for your shopping days, load up a cooler in your car with drinks and snacks so that you don't have to spend extra money to keep yourself hydrated and snacked up.

Also think ahead and get your family picture set up now, and get started on those holiday cards. I never thought I would say e-cards are ok, but I am saying it now, at least for some people on your list. First of all they are free, and second of all they are so easy that you can send them to so many more people than you would ever have on a traditional Christmas card list. Then reserve your "real cards" and stamps for extra special people who are either not on email, or ones who you want to send a personal note to as part of your holiday greeting.

Make it a potluck: Make your entertaining potluck style, where the guests all bring a dish. This makes hosting a party so easy and inexpensive.

Save receipts: Keep all of the receipts for the gift you purchase. I put them all in a box until well into the new year, just in case an exchange or return is required. These days you really need an official receipt, to get your money or full credit back.

Find free things to do during the holidays:  Read Ms. Cheap! I know it is shameless self-promotion, but my "Ms. Cheap Guide to the Holidays" will run on Nov. 27, listing all kinds of free things to do between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.

Hope all of this helps you stay cheap this holiday season!

Reach Ms. Cheap at 615-259-8282. Follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/mscheap, and at Tennessean.com/mscheap, and on Twitter @Ms_Cheap, and catch her every Thursday at 11 a.m. on WTVF-Channel 5’s “Talk of the Town.”

Life coach Pam Brown and professional organizer Beverly Grant are having a "Reclaim your Holidays" workshop from 6:30-8 p.m. on Nov. 9 at Fifty Forward Martin Center in Brentwood. Cost is $49, which includes some discounts on followup consultations and some door prizes.  Details: pambrownlifecoach@gmail.com     

Source : http://www.tennessean.com/story/life/shopping/ms-cheap/2016/10/28/12-things-do-make-holidays-less-hectic-more-meaningful-and-cheaper/92005402/

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