December is supposedly the most wonderful time of the year, but too often it leaves us broke, stressed, and exhausted.
The good news is? If we enter the season with intention and make enjoyment and meaning the priority, December can be stress-free.
Here’s how in 8 easy steps:
When kids return to school, brainstorm, and begin drafting a list of who you will give gifts to.
This should include everyone you anticipate gifting to, no gift is too small, so include folks like:
- The bus driver
- The soccer coach
But remember: you do not have to be everyone’s Santa! There’s no obligation to give gifts to anyone, so you don’t have to feel forced to gift everyone.
And, if you keep this year’s list for reference next year, this planning step will already be done next time around.
Do you have a big family? Consider keeping things simple and practical.
Ask what folks need or think of the things that you’d want as gifts. You can even set a dollar limit.
To make things simple, you can also break your plan down by relationship.
For the acquaintances
Get folks in the same category the same gift.
For example, all neighbors get a bottle of wine, all co-workers get soaps, all service providers get gift cards. This cuts down on having to come up with individualized gifts.
For close friends
Do a White Elephant or a Secret Santa exchange.
You can also do an intentional re-gifting exchange —it’s quick, easy, and environmentally friendly.
Simply choose a like-new item that you already have, such as:
- A favorite book
- An unopened bubble bath
- A scarf
And re-gift! Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re useful, but they are always easy.
Plus, the drawing itself becomes an event — folks are often excited to see what they get each year.
For your kids
Limit your kids to 4 gifts: a want, a need, something to wear, and something to read.
A controversial opinion? Let the grandparents spoil them.
Then, all you have left are stockings, which can be filled with simple, small gifts and candy. This makes it easy enough to pick things up here and there throughout the season.
Get cards out on Thanksgiving weekend.
If you don’t already have an address list, make one! Then, keep it for next year.
If you don’t have a list, simply keep greeting cards on hand. As you receive cards from others, add addresses to your list and send a response.
Pro-tip: Create printable labels. This means no more time-consuming addressing envelopes by hand.
Another option is to post your Christmas greeting on social media or send it to your email contacts. Christmas is a great time to go green!
Think about gifts year-round, and do as much shopping as possible online and early.
Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday should be the end of your shopping, not the beginning.
Sure, they may save money, but is your sanity worth it?
I grew up in a family that had spectacular holiday food. Unfortunately, we also spent the whole day working in the kitchen.
I prepare my family’s meals daily — spending all day in the kitchen is not a holiday!
If we’re honest, there’s a good chance everyone isn’t all that excited to eat the leftovers for a week anyway.
Instead, consider asking your family to help you pare down the menu by choosing:
- a special main dish
- two to three sides
- a dessert.
Another controversial suggestion: consider eating on paper plates. It’s likely your guests won’t care as much as you think.
By shaving down the food prep and dishes, you’re not only saving money but increasing your opportunity to rest and spend time with loved ones.
Reuse those gift bags you already have first!
Reusing gift bags is both a cheaper and more environmentally conscious option, with another being reusable, cloth gift wrap.
Consider a “Santa Sack” for each member of your family
All gifts for one person are put in their labeled Santa Sack, which means no individual wrapping.
Wrap as you buy
As you start to buy your gift early, wrap them as you purchase instead of waiting. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck wrapping everything on Christmas Eve. Wouldn’t you rather be drinking eggnog and watching a Christmas movie?
Keep each person’s gifts in a designated area
Keeping everyone’s presents in a predetermined area or labeled box means you won’t be stuck digging through clutter to find what you need.
Limit the number of events you attend. Some events are simply mandatory, but not all. Sometimes just the kids’ school events alone are enough!
Attend a maximum of two events per weekend. Everyone knows the holidays are jam-packed, and your friendships shouldn’t hinge upon whether you hit every party.
That way, if you’re not in a rush, you are more likely to really enjoy the events you do attend instead of rushing off to the next one on your list.
If your family is like mine, you make the holidays happen. For those of us that are Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy — we deserve to enjoy the holidays too.
Planning ahead, keeping things simple, and preparing as you go along are key elements to getting your holidays squared sooner and with less stress.
A final pro-tip: Don’t forget to get yourself something.
You can share what you want with loved ones, but instead of waiting to see what pans out on Christmas, invest in yourself.
Even if it’s as simple as a massage, a hot bath, a glass of wine, or best of all — a holiday season that’s actually enjoyable.
Ready for a calm and stress-free holiday? Check out Healthline’s Season of Self-Care, your go-to destination for the latest must-have health and wellness gifts for your loved ones – and you!