Is it just me, or have you noticed that the kids have barely gone off to school and there is snow flying on the TV commercials? I’ve just gotten Thanksgiving done with and already the commercials are letting me know it’s time to start planning for the Christmas holidays.
It’s almost enough to put a scare into a body and Halloween hasn’t even arrived yet!
That being said, I recently read Statistics Canada’s 2015 edition of Christmas… by the numbers, and it reminds me the holidays really can be an expensive and stressful way to end the year!
But it doesn’t have to be.
With a little planning, even the most festive, hectic, joyous and expensive of annual holiday seasons can be celebrated in a frugal, fun-filled, stress-reduced and cheerful way.
How Do You Want to Celebrate This Year?
The best way to start planning is to have an end result in mind. When you think back years from now of this Christmas, what memories would you and your family like to have putting smiles on your faces?
Ask yourself and the gang what is important about the holiday season?
- Being together as a family?
- Visiting family and friends?
- Celebrating the birth of Christ?
- Giving Gifts?
- Getting gifts?
- Being charitable with time and/or money?
- Participating in the School play, community carolling or church activities?
- Do you have any favourite traditions that are done every year?
- Is there something done every year that sucks?
- Any favourite treats?
- Any treats you would rather not see on the cookie plate again?
Write down anything that received enthusiastic likes and use these as a focus to begin planning. Also, make note of what received passionate or apologetic dislikes and consider removing them from your annual celebration plans.
You can use this Christmas Brain Storm page to get the ideas down:
Get Real with Your Christmas Spending
The 5 biggest budget busters during the holiday season are(with some examples):
1 Gifts – for the ‘big day’ as well as office, teacher, secret Santa, postal carrier, hostess, home made and other assorted gifts.
2 Entertainment – this includes visiting and the travel to get there, parties, Nutcracker Suite Ballet, Christmas vacation, new DVD movies or music CDs.
3 Food – the ‘Big Day Meal’, treats, restaurant meals, baking, candy canes.
4 Decorating – The tree, extra electricity for lights, candles, ornaments.
5 Cards – Postage, shipping, class cards, office cards, teacher, secret Santa, neighbours, postal carrier, physician, people who don’t quite make the ‘gift list’.
Now brain storm some ideas for each of the above items. Try not to spend more than 10 minutes with any of the categories.
Look at your brainstorm ideas and cross off anything that wont work with your list of what is important to your family about the season.
With what is left on your list start a budget. You can do it on paper or print out this one to get you started:
Bearing in mind the time you have until the celebration and feasting get underway, and what you may or may not have saved already, are the numbers realistic? How do they stack up when sitting side by side with your paycheque budget?
If you need to tweak things, now is a good time to do it. Your goal is to keep your holiday spending down, but your enjoyment of the season up.
*** Quick Reality Check *** With the 2 budgets side-by-side, can you ‘Do’ Christmas – as it is planned in front of you – if your credit card was frozen in a block of ice until Santa arrives?
Get Real with Your Christmas Time
There is only 8 weeks between Halloween night and Christmas week. It may seem like a long way off, but it is the same amount of time as the kids had off for summer holidays. Did yours go by quick too?
After money, time seems to be one of the biggest stress factors about the holiday season. Places to be, extra shopping days, volunteer work, the job that pays the bills, cleaning, cooking, decorating – Oh Crank!
Adding a calendar as part of your Christmas planning can help keep you and your family from over extending yourselves. When planning your time through the holiday season, keep your priorities straight by again referring to the first list you made about what you and the family consider important during the holidays.
Feel free to use this calendar to jot down some of your Christmas
6 Pointers to Help You with Planning Your Time
1 Remember, it’s OK to say “No”. – Most of the sudden requests for your time will come from folks who did not take the time to plan their own. “No” is your reward for planning ahead.
2 Choose a theme for your holiday décor – You know what you have put away in boxes and what you have around your home. Instead of taking out all of your Christmas decor, choose a theme and pull out only those items that will fit it.
Try colours (red + white, blue + silver, purple + pink), snowmen, gnomes, a favourite movie (Darth Vader in a Santa hat anyone?) Or your favourite beverage (Pop cans were hung, by the chimney with care…).
3 Mix Christmas cleaning with Christmas decorating – There are 8 weeks between Halloween and Christmas. Assign each area of your home it’s ‘Week’. That week concentrate only on that part of your home for cleaning and decorating. Then the next week move on to the next area.
Packing up your decorations can work the same way. Why can’t Christmas throw pillows and nutcrackers be out on Valentines Day?
4 Block out days to do nothing – The same with ‘No’, days that have no plans are for relaxing and simply being. These are your reward days for planning ahead.
5 Prep and freeze some of your holiday baking and meal – Most cookies, pies, vegetables, fruits and other items freeze well. Prep a little bit as you can ahead of time and pop it in the freezer.
My Dad lives down State-side and celebrates his Thanksgiving in November. My Step-Mum will do up extra pies, appetisers and the like while she is preparing her Thanksgiving supper and freeze the extras for Christmas.
6 Shop with a List – This goes for gift shopping, crafts shopping, grocery shopping and any shopping. A list not only saves you time by reducing browsing, it also save you money by curbing impulse buys. Putting your lists together ahead of time you have an opportunity to watch for sales on what you need.
Get Real about Christmas Stress
Stress happens. The holiday season, though annual, is not an everyday thing. Sometimes our expectations for the ‘perfect’ celebration are unrealistic whether we demand it from ourselves or from others.
When things don’t go the way we want we can feel let down, frustrated and overwhelmed.
Some common stress triggers during the Christmas season are:
- Not being able to afford more expensive gifts for your loved ones.
- Christmas dinner not being up to your expectations.
- The family arguing.
- Family members not wanting to participate in traditional events.
- The house isn’t clean enough.
- Over extending your time and/or budget.
You know yourself better than anybody. By identifying what events or happenings are common stress factors, you can come up with coping methods to reduce those feelings of anxiety and overwhelm.
Make a list some of the stresses you had last year or in the years before and come up with a few coping strategies for each one. Below is a worksheet to help you do this:
6 Tips to Keep Stress Down
1 Review what you expect from the holidays. – Remember what reality has been in the past despite your best efforts. Look again at the list of what is important to you and the rest of your family members and plan around those things.
2 Take ownership over just those events and to-do’s that you have direct control over. – If you have to rely on others to complete projects or behave in a certain way they may do things different than what you would like. That’s OK. You just do your thing, your way.
3 Don’t do more than what you can honestly handle. – This is a big one especially when you work full time. Christmas will come whether you are ready for it or not. If you need some help, ask for it, if you have to say ‘No’, say it.
4 Keep your Christmas budget within your means. – The holiday stress doesn’t always stay in the holiday season. If you finance your Christmas with credit, that stress will follow you when the bills come in and as the interest for your loans compound. Stick to your budget.
5 Have some coping methods ready to deal with your stressors. – Kids fighting? Go throw snowballs at a tree. Cookies burned? Go listen to holiday music with the headphones on.
Coming up with some coping methods before they are needed will help you to feel a little bit more in control when things get out of control. It will help to bring down your stress levels, even if just a little, and give you a clearer head to overcome the obstacle.
6 Give yourself permission to say ‘skip it’. – If weather, time, family stubbornness, or anything is preventing you from leaving on time or your budget just can not wiggle enough for something, it’s OK to take a pass.
Take a little time now to think about Christmas planning. Nothing needs to be set in stone right at this time. After all, the snow may be flying on those TV commercials, but Santa hasn’t shown up in them yet!
When do you start your Christmas planning? Do you think October is too soon? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Title – Stock Media – cc0
*** Please Note *** I am not a Finance or Mental Health professional of any type or affiliation. The information in this post is largely based on personal experience, and the experiences of those whom I love most in the world. It is offered for informational and entertainment purposes only. If you feel overwhelmed about anything holiday related, please seek the help of a professional. Your phone book or Social Services Agencies can point you in the right direction.