Guest post by Lauren of I Am THAT Lady
Christmas comes on December 25th each year, but why does it always seem to sneak up on us? The stress of shopping for four kids, thirteen nieces and nephews, and my extended family is enough to give me a stress headache! Once you add in cooking meals and deserts, all of the traveling, leftovers, and money that you have to spend – it’s just TOO MUCH!
About four years ago we decided that we had enough of the stressful Christmas season, and wanted to learn how to enjoy the reason for the season instead getting so stressed. We have been successful at having a stress-free holiday since then. We did this through starting a gift closet, planning ahead, budgeting; and in my extended family, we began the tradition of picking names and only buying gifts for a certain number of the nieces and nephews.
Here is how we created a stress free holiday:
1.) Plan Plan Plan.
Use a meal plan during these busy holiday months to get you through. Plan for unexpected company stopping over by having some pumpkin bread in the freezer, or have an easy Sausage and Egg Casserole already prepared and in the freezer before the busy time hits.
2.) Set a specific gift budget.
We decided that this year we would be spending $800.00 on Christmas, so the next three months we are setting aside $266 per month into a separate savings account. We track is using our Drag & Drop Budget Tool, and once we reach our goal we will take it out as cash and then use that for Christmas. If I find a good deal before Christmas, I have money to spend that is already set aside and won’t touch our monthly budget.
3.) Instead of buying gifts for everyone, pick names out of a hat.
We do this every year with my nieces/nephews and it works out great. We put all 14 names names into a hat, and each kid picks a name – that will be the person that the “kid” shops for that year (even though it’s usually the parent doing the shopping). Now instead of buying 14 gifts, we are only buying for four; and we can get them a nice quality gift. The kids like it because they get a gift that they really want, instead of a cheap dollar store item. We pick names in August, so that we have enough time to shop around and find good deals.
4.) Shop online for Christmas.
Skip the malls this year and shop online. We see many stores starting their Black Friday sales a week before it starts in the physical store. Amazon is also a great place to buy your gifts, and with free shipping with Amazon Prime you really get a great deal! If you want to know how to get the best online deals this Christmas, download my Free Black Friday ebook and it will walk you through it step by step.
5.) Put your phones in a pile by the front door.
Last year we started a rule during holidays – everyone must put their phone in a basket by the front door. This helps us really focus on each other and spending good quality time together, instead of of playing around on our phones. Spending time with people you care about helps alleviate stress.
6.) Most of all – remember that no one expects perfection.
No one expects perfection from you during the holidays, they just want your time and attention. Whenever I deal with the stress of being perfect during the holidays, it’s because I put it on myself. So instead of being perfect this year and spending all day in the kitchen, prepare a simpler dinner like homemade spaghetti sauce or Pot Roast. Have family bring side dishes and sit around the table and talk–this means less stress and more fellowship!
As we get closer and closer to Christmas seasons, remember to plan ahead, meal plan, freeze some meals ahead of time, set your budget, but most of all – don’t put extra stress on yourself by striving for perfection. Your family will remember the fun times had, not how perfect or imperfect it was.
I want to know what you plan on doing this year to have a stress free holiday?
Lauren Greutman is a mom of 4 busy kids. She is the frugal living expert behind IamTHATLady.com, where she finds great deals, offers meal planning tips and tricks and much more! Her passion is to help people become debt free and have a life with financial independence. Lauren also writes on MarkandLaurenG.com, where she and her husband provide a male/female perspective to money management. Money is the number one problem in marriages and the number one cause of divorce. As a husband and wife team, they passionately help couples get on the same page financially so they can build a strong marriage and family.
Many years ago, I opened a Christmas Club with my bank. I have $10 taken automatically out of every check and put into this account. It has helped tremendously to have that $520 come time for Christmas shopping. I use this money then for gifts for the niece and nephews and baking supplies, gas for the truck for extra traveling, etc.
The other thing my immediate family did was instead of everyone buying gifts for everyone else, we decided each family would give $50 and then we would give all the money to another family in need. We usually buy little things for each other, but nothing outrageous and its usually homemade cookies or something like that. I really think it has helped us to remember what the season is all about and not focus on our own wants. Christmas is much more quiet and subdued now which took some getting used to but has made a huge difference in our stress level and thoughts during this season.
I’m using Swagbucks to save up gift cards to help pay for presents! Our first anniversary is 12/21, our baby is due 12/23, and with Christmas on 12/25 it’s guaranteed to be busy for us! I want to buy my husband some special things and I’ve been keeping a mental list, now I just have to earn the gift cards to be able to pay for it!
I also have a separate savings account set up for Christmas. Besides having a small amount automatically deposited in it each month, I transfer the cash back I receive for running my debit card as credit, and I transfer the cash back that I receive from staring my online shopping at Ebates. http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=jW5oOEl%2B0Syhg%2FdA9dBR2Q%3D%3D&eeid=26471
Heather @ My Overflowing Cup
Our family participates in the Advent Conspiracy. (You can read my post called Christmas in July to see how we do it). Basically, we participate in a traditional name draw except that instead of purchasing gifts, we donate to the recipient’s favorite charity. We then present it in gift form for them to open. It is a wonderful time of year to focus on the needs of others. If we really want to give a gift, it is usually something small, thoughtful, homemade, or a service.
Instead of setting money aside, I just start buying one or two gifts a month in August and putting them up. I keep “wish lists” for each of my kids on Amazon where I’ll add things they ask for or things I know they will love and then I keep an eye on the prices since they will often drop significantly. One of my kids has a December birthday too, so this helps me be prepared instead of planning a birthday party and Christmas stuff all at the same time.
I make a list of everyone we want to give a gift to and I make notes under their name with things I know they like and any gift ideas for them. I try to come up with a few things I can make that I think would be enjoyed that don’t cost a lot. I then work on making the handmade items so they are ready before Christmas. It really helps me to plan ahead and start making things in Sept or Oct. I also try to plan any tasks that need done so I’m not trying to cram too much in at the last minute.
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