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Use This Time To (Mentally, Emotionally, Financially) Prepare For The Holiday Season

There's no time like the present to get your mind (spirit and budget) right.


Whew. Doesn't it seem like we just had a holiday season not too long ago? And here we are. In October. Eight weeks (give or take a few days) from Thanksgiving and roughly 12 weeks away from Christmas. Where did the freakin' time go? If you're someone who likes the cold weather, holiday movies and music and the delicious food that is oh so characteristic of the holiday season yet the planning and some of the people that come with it all can cause you to low-key hyperventilate, months in advance, I just wanted to offer up a quick cheat sheet that can remind you to mentally, emotionally and financially put some steps into place.

That way, this year, you can go through the holidays feeling more refreshed than drained.

How to MENTALLY Prepare for the Holidays

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Ask yourself what YOU want to do.

If there's one thing that the holidays and weddings have in common, it's the fact that so many times, people end up getting so caught up in other people's plans and expectations that they don't get to do what they really want to do themselves. While, in all actuality, you will probably have to engage in a bit of compromising over the holidays, don't lose sight of what you'd like to do during that time too. If you want to be friends rather than family, take a trip alone or even just chill at your house for one or both of the holidays, better to state that now and prepare everyone than A) totally blindside them with your plans or B) concede to what's expected of you while internally seething the entire time.

Put a weekly to-do list together.

October is here. Again, this means that November is right up the street and if you hang a sharp right, there's December. I'm not sure what it is that makes so many of us want to feel stressed out and overwhelmed because we waited until the last minute to get all that we need but that is so oftentimes the case. This year, decide to be revolutionary, to buck the system and to do a little bit at a time, each week, until Thanksgiving and Christmas arrive.

For instance, if you're hosting one of the days, set aside one week to purchase items that you may need for your guests, another week to clean the downstairs of your home, another week to do upstairs, another week to go grocery shopping, another week to cook, etc. Breaking things down into small projects will help to keep your anxiety levels low. It can also help you to do a more thorough job in each area because, since you won't be rushing, you can really think through what needs to be done in every category.

Pre-determine to only control what you can control.

Your auntie talking crazy (in someone else's home). Your parents missing their flight. Your car not starting. These are examples of things that, to a large extent, you are not going to be able to control.

Thing is, once you accept that as being a part of your reality, it can actually help to take a lot of pressure off because when you determine in your mind to do what you can do and let the universe handle the rest, it prevents you from getting all frazzled and bent out of shape.

Speaking of the car thing, if folks are staying with you, it can never hurt to encourage them to rent a vehicle. One more car for people to do what they want, so that they aren't solely relying on you is always beneficial.

How to EMOTIONALLY Prepare for the Holidays

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Jot down what your boundaries are.

Say that you're newly married and while you and your in-laws are cool overall, your mother-in-law has shown clear signs of being passively aggressively pushy and demanding, pretty much since you met your boo. You can best believe that someone like that is either going to try and intimidate you into surrendering to their holiday plans or guilt your husband so that you both give in. The point here? Setting boundaries are key. If you are married, you and your husband need to decide what your united front will be and then express it.

If you're single and the control freaks are other family members, whether it's a phone call or even an email with a heads up on what you will and won't be able to do, that is something that definitely needs to go down. Listen, for whatever the reason, a lot of family folks think that boundaries don't apply to them. You don't have to go along with that way of thinking. In fact, the better (and clearer) the boundaries are, the easier, ultimately, it can be for drama to not be (as much of) an issue. Figure out what yours should be for the sake of your sanity. Then put everyone on notice, sooner than later, so that they can emotionally…adjust.

Ponder your triggers and how to deactivate them.

Speaking of boundaries, something that's fascinating about the holiday season is people typically run on high energy and high expectations. The challenge that comes with both of these is they can lead to great disappointments, if you're not careful. That's why I'm such a huge fan of "trigger deactivation" — you know, really taking out the time to figure out what or who triggers you and why, so that you can come up with beneficial ways to not let it or them push your buttons so much.

Since a lot of triggers center around past experiences, nothing says a colossal trigger fest quite like sitting around a table on Thanksgiving or an evergreen tree on Christmas. That's why now would be a really good time to assess what really gets on your last nerve, why that is the case and then follow that up with ways that you keep "it" from getting to you too much. Because the reality is, you will probably only be around your trigger(s) for a couple of days; however, if things go way left when it comes to how you respond/react to them, the fallout could continue for years to come. Anyway, if you'd like a bit of assistance in this area, feel free to check out "How To Handle Folks Who 'Trigger' You".

Make self-care essential.

Why oh why do people decide that the holiday season is the best time to run themselves absolutely ragged? If ever there was the right time to make sure that your mani/pedi, massage, waxing, hair and whatever other self-care rituals that you are used to transpire, now until New Year's Day is definitely when you should make those happen. In fact, because the holiday season is when booking appointments can be an absolute headache, strongly consider hitting up the salons/spas now to schedule everything well in advance. One, so you won't have to freak out when they tell you they are filled up come November and two, so that you'll know to stash some money aside for yourself…because you deserve it.

How to FINANCIALLY Prepare for the Holidays

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Determine which holiday you want to spend the most money on.

This hack right here is super important because I've actually read that Americans, on average, spend close to $1000 just on Christmas gifts alone. If you spend that much on presents before even getting into travel expenses, food, stuff for yourself, etc., it's easy to see how folks can start off a new year in the hole. That's why it's super important to 1) create a budget that's specifically for the holidays and 2) decide which holiday you want to spend the most on because, just like you can run up a tab on gifts for Christmas, food can be super pricey on Thanksgiving too.

By determining ahead of time what you will and will not do, financially, and then holding yourself accountable (for instance, saying that you'll spend $500 in gifts and using your credit cards are absolutely not an option), that can provide you peace of mind that you're living within your means, so that you can start another year off on the right foot.

Put $50 aside per paycheck.

If money is super tight and you have absolutely no idea how you're going to make your coins stretch, I've got two tips. First, check out an article that I wrote last November entitled, "Coin Collection: 10 Easy Ways To Save $500 By Christmas". It's got some practical ways for you to store up some cash. If you don't wanna do all-a-dat, you can always discipline yourself to put aside fifty bucks per pay day. If you get paid on a bi-weekly basis, that can still give you around an extra $200 by Thanksgiving or $300 by Christmas.

Cop plane tickets now.

If you plan on flying out somewhere, did you know that you can get the best rates if you start checking for flights between four months and three weeks prior to when you have to leave? While I know there are a ton of sites that can help you to book last-minute cheap tickets, a lot of them come with long layovers and/or extra fees. You know, one time, I booked a roundtrip ticket for under $100 to see my goddaughters and I know it was because I looked a couple of months ahead. Anyway, for hacks on how to get a super inexpensive flight, check out Thrifty Nomads, "How to Book the Cheapest Flight Possible to Anywhere". It's got quite a few hacks that I think you will enjoy.

BONUS: An Effective Way to PHYSICALLY Prepare for the Holidays

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Shed a few pounds now. Proactive is always better than reactive, right? Keeping that in mind, did you know that reportedly, on average, we gain somewhere around eight pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day?

The sad part is a lot of us try and curtail this by either avoiding all of the foods that bring us so much joy during the holiday season or going on some sort of a starvation diet after the fact. This year, don't do either. Instead, determine to comfortably shed that amount of weight before Thanksgiving even comes by cutting back on sugar and carbs, exercising a bit more and shoot — drinking more water.

I promise you that whenever I want to lose five pounds or so, all I've got to do is replace whatever I typically drink with water and weight falls right on off. A lot of us don't realize that we're drinking calories via alcohol and juice, but we are but if you sacrifice those things now, that can mean more hot chocolate and eggnog without feeling any kind of guilty over the holiday season — and just how awesome is that?

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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