1. Focus on The Reason For the Season
Thanksgiving is about sharing quality time with family over good food, being thankful for our many blessings and acknowledging the relationships that we cherish. Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, a special gift to mankind. New Year’s Eve is the celebration of a year coming to a close and a new year full of possibilities. Although some may try to wash the holiday season in commercialism and mindless entertainment, don’t fall for it! This is an important time of year. Keep God, family and faith at the center and you can’t go wrong.
2. Choose People Over Possessions
Gift-giving is a big deal during the holidays and there is nothing wrong with that, but I plan as many social functions that are not gift-related as I can. Hosting or organizing a potluck, game night, trivia night, ornament craft party, holiday movie marathon or baking party allow you to connect with those you love, while doing something holiday-related.
To keep gift expectations reasonable, pulling names, organizing secret gift parties with a dollar limit or white elephant gift exchanges, where someone’s trash can become another person’s treasure, are ways to have fun without spending a lot of money. These activities come in handy with large families or groups where individual gift-giving could break the bank.
3. Have a Thankful Heart
Don’t be the Grinch! If you cannot afford to buy gifts for everyone, give Christmas cards with a heartfelt note instead. When I’ve been low on cash, but had a lot of cards to give to extended family or co-workers, I delivered hand-written cards with quality chocolate or candies to simply say, “thank you.” If a person has touched my life in a special way over the last year, I use it as an opportunity to let them know.
If someone wants to bless you, let them, even if you didn’t get them a gift. Keep a few blank Christmas cards and/or thank you cards and envelopes in your purse, work bag or desk. That way, if someone catches you off guard with a gift you weren’t expecting, you can show your gratitude by writing out a card before you forget.
4. Give Without Expectation
I make my Christmas list based on what is on my heart to give. It isn’t based on who I’m expecting to get gifts from. If you are giving gifts in expectation of keeping up appearances, making a statement or getting something in return, your heart is in the wrong place.
Give freely, sincerely and without needing reciprocity.
5. If You Don’t Have It, Don’t Spend It!
Thanksgiving to New Year’s is a period of about 40 days. It makes no sense to go broke trying to please everyone. When January 2nd rolls around, it’ll be time to head back to work, cars will need gas, rent and mortgages will need to be paid, electric bills and gas bills will be due and refrigerators will need to be re-stocked. The best way to start of the new year is with money in the bank and peace of mind.
So don’t max out your credit cards or take out payday loans out of desperation. As a child, I remember my parents sitting the five of us down one Christmas to explain that things were tight and my three oldest siblings and I wouldn’t get any gifts. My youngest sister was too young to understand so we all chipped in to make her Christmas memorable. It made us a bit sad at first, but we survived. There is nothing wrong with telling friends or family that you are on a budget and won’t be spending a lot of money this year.
6. Create Cherished Traditions
My husband and I have been able to start new traditions that are being passed down to our daughter. We decorate the tree together, make ornaments to add to our family collection and open gifts together. Most of the ornaments, ribbon and other decorations on our tree have sentimental value.
If you didn’t grow up with traditions or just not the type you want to continue, that’s okay! Start making positive memories today and share those things with your friends and family. Before you know it, you’ll have a few traditions that everyone looks forward to year after year.
7. Give of Yourself, Your Time and Talents
The best gift you can give to anyone is often the hardest gift to give, yourself. Giving of yourself requires patience, time, dedication and planning. If you sing, go visit a nursing home or children’s hospital and sing to patients. If you are artistic, give out hand-drawn or painted Christmas cards to the homeless. Serve meals in your local shelter or help out in the church food pantry. If you find the holidays to be a difficult time of year, this is one of the best ways to get over the hump. When doing something selfless, it’s easy to forget about your own problems and sometimes, they may seem pale in comparison to what someone else may be going through.
8. Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
You are not your mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, best friend or cousin. You are YOU! There is nothing wrong with that. There will always be people in your life that want to try and make you feel small because you don’t have what they have. Maybe you are being pressured because you don’t have children or aren’t married. Maybe you are constantly being measured against someone else’s accomplishments.
Just be you. God makes no mistakes.
9. Schedule Self Care
It seems like I look up from my Thanksgiving dinner every year and my calendar is filled through the first week in January. There are so many social events, parties, lunch dates, work functions, fundraisers, galas, family gatherings that I agree to attend and many more that I decline. I have to be intentional to put myself on my calendar or I know I’ll get burnt out.
So go and do this right now: Get out your phone, calendar, planner or whatever you use to keep organized. Schedule a least an hour a week of “Me Time” for the next four weeks. It may seem silly now, but you’ll be glad you penciled it in.
There are only two rules: you have to protect the time and honor it. If it gets moved, reschedule it right away that same week. The second rule is that you can’t spend your “Me Time” running errands, doing grocery shopping or working. Do something by yourself for yourself during this time like get a manicure or pedicure, watch a movie, get a massage, walk in the park, read a book, go out for coffee or ice cream, take a nap or get a haircut. This will help you stay grounded and sane.
10. Ditch New Year’s Resolutions
Every year, fitness clubs make millions in their first quarter from good-intentioned people who either buy or are gifted gym memberships and don’t follow through. Like clockwork, people promise to do outlandish things starting January 1, only to fall short when reality hits. If you haven’t done it yet, what makes you think you will do it in January? Why wait until January to get fit, go back to school, start eating healthier or get organized?
Try this approach instead: Identify one thing you want to start or accomplish in 2017. Then define 4 simple things you can do toward that goal. Now, schedule time for those 4 tasks on your calendar over the next four weeks – one task per week. Research shows that it takes 30 days to start a new habit. By the time the 4 weeks are up, you’ll be well into January and should be on the road to your accomplishing your lifestyle change.
Have a Christmas and holiday season full of purpose and great memories!