By Jodie Lynn
Plan ahead and organize to alleviate holiday stress for the whole family.
1. Going Away: make plans now: For many, holiday time means traveling, so get started as soon as possible. If you just thought of wanting to go away for the holidays, there's still a few good prices in air, bus fare or even a group cruise fare. When people wait until the last minute to secure tickets, sometimes, various companies have last minute cancellations due to weather and/or illness or simple change of mind from another would be traveler. Research the area of where you want to go before arriving.
2. Stay on Your Budget: There's no need to overspend. It might create a little extra work in the beginning to price out each item, but it will save a huge chunk of time in the end and you will be forever thankful. Researching prices of gifts online is one of the easiest ways to make comparable deals. If you find an item online and see that it is significantly different from the store price, you might order it from the online store. Things to keep in mind are the shipping and handling fee of an online store.
3. Better Safe Than Sorry: Try to begin shopping today. Make a list and truly check it twice before your shopping trip. Write down colors, sizes, manufacture names and even the names of stores who might carry the item you are shopping for along with a couple of replacement gifts should your first priority not work out. Avoid last minute shopping and trying to make quick and haphazard decisions that neither you nor neither the individual will appreciate.
4. Shopping Guilt Free: Go into a store with a specific gift in mind and stay on track. If the store doesn't have what you want, don't waste your time trying to replace it. Move on to the next item without feeling guilty. After you return home, take a little time to rethink what you might want to replace the unfound gift with and go out again another day.
5. Add a Tag or Initials to the Wrapped Gifts: Cut down on spending by using the same wrapping paper for many of the gifts, especially if they are leaving your house. Don't forget to tie or stick on tags with an extra piece of Scotch tape and/or turn the package over and jot down the initials of the person to whom the gift is for in the right hand corner.
6. Always File Your Receipts in a Safe Place: You never know if the gift is going to do or measure up to what you think it supposed to; so keep those receipts filed in a special place just in case. Eight-five percent of gifts are returned or exchanged. That's a high number, but isn't too terribly complicated if you have the receipt. Make up a folder and clearly write 2005 Holiday Receipts on the outside. For online stores, make sure you know about their return policies, especially if you are sending any type of plant, food or toy.
7. Keep a Running List of Names for Greeting Card Recipients: Make a list of each person you'd like to send out a card to. Get the kids to help address envelopes and even to put on stamps. Depending on how many cards you are sending out, it might be best to do this in steps so the kids will view it as Holiday joy and fun instead of work and dumb. That's right; delegate the card sending to the kids by separating the process into steps so no one will get overwhelmed.
8. Meal Planer: Always plan your dinner way ahead of time. Go to the store with ingredients written on a list for each dish. If it's a dish that uses heavy creams or other fat-laden ingredients, don't forget to either scan a conversion chart for healthy substitutes or look them up on the Internet to see just how good or bad they might actually be.
9. Utilize an Organizer: It's never too early! If you would take a few minutes to organize every couple of days now YOU WILL FEEL SO MUCH BETTER especially if you do a little delegation to other family members and don't put so many stressful things on any one day for any one person. Write every detail up and mark it off as it is done.
10. Take a little time for yourself: It should and must be done even if it's only a 30-minute lunch with a long lost friend; sitting down with a brief short book; watching a loved but often missed TV show, taking a walk, or even making a visit to a local nursing home.
Last tip: Seeing you smile sends a loving message to your kids. It's totally free and the holidays really can be cherished and fun.
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