As a transition coach, I get lots of calls from clients around the holiday season, with people stressing out over the pressure presented by this time of year. From feeling like they have to find “the perfect gift” to scrambling around to locate the gifts they decide upon to figuring out how to afford it all – well, it’s no wonder some people groan when they hear that first holiday advertisement or see tinsel and Santas in the stores - before Thanksgiving!
So here are some ideas that might just help you have the most worry-free, high-bill free holiday season yet.
1. Give YOURSELF as a gift. When I think about what I would REALLY like from the people I love, I can tell you that it’s not even a contest between spending time with them and anything else at all. I would love nothing more than to spend a day just hanging out with my family or my friends. But everyone’s schedules are overpacked, don’t jibe or that “someday” just never arrives. So make up 12 coupons with various things on them like “good for one coffee hour in January” and “nachos and a movie at my house in February” and bundle them together with a one page printout of a year’s calendar and a red marker and give it to them with the caveat that the two of you will choose the days and mark them on the page. Of course some of the dates will change when you schedule things this far in advance but things that are scheduled and have to be rescheduled are far more likely to actually take place than something that needs to be scheduled in the first place.
2. Give Of YOURSELF as a gift. Are you a great cook? Do you love to garden? Can you polish silver like no one’s business? Are you a great knitter? Is housepainting or carpentry your niche? Give someone a “project” that you know they can’t or don’t have time to do themselves. You can create a little themed package that reflects your gift; give them a stack of your best recipes, an apron and cute pad and pen and have them make a list of the things they would like you to make for them. Or get an inexpensive tape measure, a small bottle of wood glue and a magazine on storage solutions and give them the time needed to make that built in bookcase they have always said they wanted. Or, do the people on your list have needs that you can fill without needing any special talents? Do they have little kids and could use a night out? Do they get snowbound every year because they can’t shovel their walks? Would they just fall over with joy if you offered to drag their trash cans out to the curb for a year? Sounds silly, but if a gift is truly for the person receiving it and not the person giving it, you would be amazed at what people would love to get!
3. Use your skills and talents to MAKE your gifts. If everyone weeps tears of joy when you bring your grandmother’s fudge to a party, spend a weekend and make batch after batch to give to everyone. Customize individual packages for specific people with added ingredients and the packaging. Even if your friends DO talk to each other, if your fudge truly is the best they’ve ever had they will ALL be thrilled. Knit easy scarves out of crazy colored yarns or funky textures. Make a stack of cards that people can use for any occasion. Frame a special photo and use handmade or store bought elements to embellish the frame that enhances the photo. Buy a basic anything and embellish it using your special talent. Anything that you put your heart into WILL be appreciated!
4. Start shopping NOW. Yes, there can be tremendous discounts as the holidays get closer but most stores offer some sort of price protection guarantee and even if they don’t, you can usually do a return and an immediate repurchase. Spreading out your shopping over several months rather than have to cough up all the cash at once not only helps to smooth your cash flow but not doing last minute shopping with panic purchases will save you money in the end.
5. Start a Christmas Club early in the year OR stash the cash now. Layaway plans have made a comeback this year in a big way but you really need to read the details to know if it’s that good of a deal. Some places require non-refundable deposits on items that you put on layaway and if you miss or are late with a payment or opt NOT to purchase the item, you can lose that deposit. Some carry enormous penalties in the form of finance charges for late payments and some don’t allow you to get the lower price on the item if it goes on sale. Instead of paying someone else to hold onto stuff for you, take the money you would be putting down on these items and stash the cash somewhere it’s not easy for you to get to. Open a special account at a no-fee institution (I love the NMTW Community Credit Union!) and DON’T get an ATM card. Drop any windfall you get into the account and pull out and stash even as little as $10 a paycheck. By the end of the year, you will have a nice little nugget. In fact, if you plan NOW for next year you can spend the year honing whatever skill or talent you want to use to make gifts for people and use the money you save to purchase the raw materials. DOUBLE BONUS!
6. Give in the NAME of someone. Find out what cause or organization is close to your recipient’s heart and make a donation to it in their name. Heifer International is one of my go-to places because a gift to them keeps on giving. You can make a special card that reflects the mission of the organization to give to your loved one.
Use these tips can help you plan for a less stressed holiday season. Check back in the future for more tips on organizing your time and plans to make things even smoother!