By Jodie Lynn
Holiday stress can take the joy out of the holidays quicker than any other natural emotion. Since women are still the largest group of individuals who plan for the holidays, they are the ones that are hit the hardest.
Plan ahead and organize to alleviate holiday stress for the whole family by getting the kids involved!
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.
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. This provides you with an opportunity to reevaluate the situation and maybe call and reserve a specific item at another store before you brave the weather, traffic and other shoppers.
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 2004 Holiday Receipts on the outside.
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.
Since this is the time to gain weight, remember that kids cannot always say no to certain foods rich in fat largely in part because they taste so good. Consider what you need to have around the house for the kids to snack on and only allow a nibble here and there of special food. Compare notes and make a plan that you are comfortable with for your family keeping in mind my personal motto: "easy to add weight on...but very hard to get off."
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. Write every detail up and mark it off as it is done. It doesn't matter how small it is, it still counts and feels great when you get to mark it off. The kids love to help with this task as well as will stay busy for hours making and marking off lists.
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.
Alternatively, take a family trip. There's nothing better than to take several loaves of homemade cranberry bread, pumpkin cookies or fruit pies to a nursing home that the kids have helped you bake. Let them help to pass out the food and enjoy those smiles from senior citizens. Giving to others fills your heart with incredible warmth and makes a huge impact on your kids by allowing them to see firsthand how their special made gifts bring pleasure to other people -- as well as see you smile.
Last tip: Seeing you smile sends a loving message to your kids that the holidays really can be cherished and fun.
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