Ahhh, the holidays, when guest rooms are occupied, homes are filled with the fresh scent of sugar cookies, and gifts for the (grand)kids have doubled in cost from the year before.
We look forward to it all year long and then... we look forward to it ending, because even sugar cookies get old. And contrary to what history has taught us so far, “holidays” are not actually synonymous with “stress.” There is a better way.
It’s all in the approach. With a few changes to how you manage guests, dinners, parties, and gift-giving, you might just be able to eliminate a significant amount of stress. It can be the difference between a month spent recovering and a month spent basking in the glow of a well-earned victory.
Here are 9 ways to help you take on the season. You can do it. Let’s begin.
Besides buying awesome gifts, one of the biggest holiday pastimes is getting the home ready for entertaining. It’s time-consuming and can be dirty and exhausting. And unfortunately, it’s important, because that neighbor two doors down might as well be the health inspector. The solution: Treat yourself with an early present and hire a cleaning service.
If you have the extra funds or at least can justify it as an early present to yourself, hiring someone to do your dirty work can be the best holiday shortcut you can take. But if you decide to take on the cleaning yourself, check out our helpful 5-Day holiday cleaning guide.
2. Meal Prep
Just like cleaning, preparing a holiday feast can be quite the task. Sure, it’s worlds better than doing a whole-home cleansing, but it’s still stressful and cuts into “me time” considerably. But how do you feed your guests without putting in so much effort? Well, there are several solutions.
- Meal kits: Companies like Blue Apron and HelloFresh send boxes with meal options that have pre-portioned ingredients and a step-by-step cooking guide.
- Uber Eats: This is an even easier option. Simply place your order online and relax until your ready-to-eat hot food shows up at your door.
- Potluck party: Sharing the work only seems fair. Assign guests a dish or beverage to bring. Maybe you provide the main course or just a clean venue.
3. Holiday Card Costs
We live in a digital age, so why not take advantage of it? This year, DIY your greeting cards and cut out the cost of a professional photo shoot, seasonally-themed 5-by-7s, envelopes and stamps. Use your (hopefully smart) phone, set the timer and take a handful of family photos.
Next, pick your favorite and use your phone's editing features to add a holiday border and text/emojis. If your phone isn’t that advanced, there are apps you can download to create the holiday design you’re looking for. When you're all done, send out your season’s greetings via text, email or post to the social channel(s) of your choosing.
4. Overspending on Gifts
There are a number of ways to save while shopping for gifts they’ll truly love. Like downloading apps for specific retailers, which will often have the top deals front and center, just one click away. Also, shop between December 10th and 18th, the period proven to offer the best bargains of the season.
If you’re a faithful Amazon shopper, you can use several tricks to save even MORE money. Take the Honey browser extension, for example. It automatically searches for coupon codes for your in-cart items, and it's free. You can also use camelcamelcamel to track price changes on wish-list items.
5. Paying for Shipping
Make sure to mark December 15th on your calendars. It’s “Free Shipping Day,” which a number of retail giants participate in. And the cherry on top: Most deliveries are guaranteed to arrive by Christmas Eve.
“Free Shipping Day” participants include Kohl's, Best Buy, Amazon, LEGO, Target, JCPenney and more. To get the full list, check it out here.
And if you're worried about getting everything wrapped in time, click the "gift wrap" option before you order. Otherwise, prep yourself for a wrap-a-thon the day before Christmas.
6. Last-Minute Shopping
Not only does last-minute shopping add unwanted stress, but it also costs you extra. Studies on sale trends have found that prices don't drop at the last minute and may actually go up on or after December 19th. Retailers know they can count on TONS of down-to-the-wire shoppers who will have no choice but to pay more.
Also, shipping costs can skyrocket. Experts advise getting all your online shopping done by mid-December. Otherwise you run the risk of having to pay for expedited shipping, which can seriously add to the price of your gifta.
7. Buying an Ugly Sweater
Ugly sweater parties are still alive and well, but buying one has always been a cost that some can’t justify. So, how do you get in on the sweater fun without spending a ton on something you will never wear outside the house again? Make your own.
How to make an ugly sweater:
- Step 1: Grab an old sweater or pick up a used one at your local thrift shop.
- Step 2: Find some wrapping paper and some old holiday decorations.
- Step 3: Design the ugliest thing you can imagine.
- Step 4: Sew or glue-gun on a few bows, tinsel, paper snowflakes and an ornament or two.
Voila! Ugly sweater.
8. Social Distraction
It’s hard not to be glued to your favorite social platforms to follow what your friends and family members are up to over the holidays. But in an effort to appreciate the real things in life, like the time you'll be sharing with those people in your guest room, log out or power off.
At least for a little while. You don't have to be dramatic about it and make a big announcement or deactivate your account. Just don't sign in for a few days. Maybe even a week or even two. You might be amazed just how relaxing it can be. Plus, it'll help you live in the moment AND be polite to those around you.
9. Overdoing the Family Time
Yes, the previous section talks about valuing face-to-face time with loved ones, but too much can be counterproductive. Family gatherings can be overwhelming. Old issues like who really broke the window that day 30 years ago can resurface. Or a niece makes an innocuous joke about something it’s apparently too soon to joke about.
That's why it's important to take some “me time,” no matter how much you love your house guests. And make sure to do it before it’s too late. As soon as you sense conflict rearing its ugly head, take a walk, go for a drive or explain you’ll simply lose your mind if you don’t find out how this book ends, and you can only read in bed. With the door closed.
At Last, a Season of Joy
There you have it. Well, enough of “it” to last you through the holiday season and leave you excited for next year. And just remember, no matter what happens, your New Year’s resolutions are right around the corner.
Good luck. Have fun. And be merry!