Putting the Jolly Back into Your Holidays

Published Monday, November 15, 2010 2:20 PM

Cooking. Shopping. Decorating. Hosting. The holiday to-do list can easily be overwhelming. Don't burn your holiday candles at both ends; prevent burnout with careful preparation. Doing so will save you time and money and put the merry back into the season.

Make Your List, Check it Twice: Grab a binder or notebook and list all that needs to get done. Plan your menus and recipes and create shopping lists. Ditto for gift-buying and card sending. List it all, making wallet sized versions for when you're out and about. This way you can remember who you need to buy for and what's already been purchased. Sticking to lists helps prevent costly impulse purchases and unneeded duplicates. At the end of the season, store the notebook with holiday decorations to pull out the following year for an easy jump start.

Time Blocking for Stress Reduction: The holidays require a lot of "elving" time before the fun begins. Take your planner and schedule time for shopping, wrapping and baking. Be sure to pencil in all parties and religious celebrations as well as any holiday volunteer time. And remember that many hands make work light. Consider a wine and cheese wrapping night with girlfriends or invite family over for a day of baking. Finally, be sure to pencil in down time for exercise, mediation or a simple, restorative nap.

Tackling Holiday Cards: Stationery makers often offer discounts for early card purchases. Place an online order now for best prices as well as a head start. Rather than suffer through a hand-cramping-all-at-once-writing-of-the-cards, take the total number of cards you are sending and divide by the days remaining to the holiday. Write the cards during down times such as doctor's office waits or at the car repair shop. Spread out the cost of cards by purchasing the stationery one month and stamps the next.

Shopping With Ease:  To save time and money, hit the computer instead of the malls. Many retailers offer free or reduced shipping. If you must head to the stores, try to do so early on the weekend or schedule an after work shopping night when stores are open late. The crowds will be smaller. Or consider shopping local mom-and-pop merchants who often offer perks such as free wrapping and helpful customer service. No matter where you shop, stick to a list to avoid costly impulse purchases.

Baking and Cooking: Again, an ounce of preparation prevents a pound of holiday stress. List-making and early shopping let's you take advantage of money-saving sales and coupons and will ensure you have all ingredients on hand. Make double and triple batches in the weeks ahead to freeze. And stick to simple dishes or consider potluck meals. Spread the work over as many days and (helpers!) as you can.

Celebrating with Meaning: Before the holidays begin, take time to assess what they mean to you. Do you value time shopping with friends or baking with your daughter? Is volunteering at your place of worship the season's highlight? Do you love taking in a holiday show? This season, say no to what is extraneous and emphasize what makes the season special to you. Too often our calendars fill with meaningless activities; this season stick to celebrating what matters most to you.

Wishing you a healthy, happy holiday season!


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