What do you love about the holidays? Is it buying, giving, and receiving lots of presents? I suspect not. Most people would say that being with friends and loved ones is the best part of the holiday season. The festive atmosphere for the last two months of the year gives us license to let down our hair a bit and party, all in the name of the season!
Sometimes the holiday season also evokes other feelings in people – anxiety, stress, and sadness, to name a few. While I can’t claim a cure for sadness, I would offer thoughts addressing the stress and anxiety people feel this time of year because of money. It is my contention that with a little planning and a large dose of honesty, we can reduce the financial stress that the holidays often bring to our households. Consider the following ideas.
Be honest. Make an honest assessment of where you are financially before the full-swing of the season hits. Be up front with your family and friends if you need to reduce your spending this holiday season. If your beloveds and friends balk at your inability to buy gifts, perhaps you need to rethink those relationships! Even children, in my opinion, will understand the situation and adapt if you treat them as mature individuals and shoot straight with them.
Get the kids involved. Speaking of breaking the bad news to children, enlist their help to find ways to enjoy as many free or inexpensive activities as you can to during the holiday. From my experience, kids will come up with excellent suggestions!
Encourage potlucks over restaurant meals. You can be more relaxed at home, and of course you will save loads of money by not eating out to celebrate.
Find cheap entertainment. Scour your local news sources for free or inexpensive activities. See the lights in neighborhoods that really do it up. Walk around your downtown area and stop in somewhere for a hot cocoa.
Play games. Play games as a family or challenge your friends or other family members to a game night. We do this regularly, and it is one of my favorite things to do. Trash talking (among adults only, please!) is a bunch of fun, and everyone is extra jolly this time of year. (Adult beverages do assist on that front.)
Do a jigsaw puzzle. This family activity can last multiple nights if you have a large enough puzzle. Put on some Christmas music, and make special beverages. Kids love traditions, and they especially love the sort that only come around once a year. So, consider creating a special beverage that you prepare for the holiday season every year. For us, it is Wassail. For the kids, we combine Wassail mix with hot apple cider. For adults, we heat up red wine.
Watch Christmas movies at home. Add some popcorn and cider, and you have a cozy, fun evening. Simple. Fun. Done.
Decorate creatively. Make decorating for the holidays a family creative endeavor. Hike in the woods and find some greenery you can snip to make centerpieces or drape on your mantel. Nothing is simpler than decorations that recycle right back into nature after the holidays.
Bake cookies! Or engage in any sort of special holiday-inspired baking. Whether with friends or family, this can be a fun evening. If you don’t want more sweets tempting you at home, bake for others. Donate your efforts to the fire or police station, or to local homeless shelters. You could consider baking dog biscuits and donating them to the local animal shelter. (You might call first to confirm these facilities can accept such donations.) No fancy ingredients required. Simple cookies are inexpensive to make.
Just remember to plan ahead. If you come up with creative entertainment, you won’t have time to fret about your finances. Keep things simple and be sure to communicate your intentions and situation with the people you love.
Now it is your turn – what have I missed? What simple and inexpensive activities do you enjoy at this time of year? Share them below.