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
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
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
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
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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