When the leaves start to turn and the evenings get chilly, for many people, that can only mean one thing – it's time to get stressed about Christmas. But before you start jacking up the cortisol and shave a few more months off your life, maybe this year is the year things change.
What if there was a way to relieve the stress of the festive season? Instead, glide onto Christmas like a pro? This post explores some tips for vaporising seasonal stress and making your Christmas cruise control.
It's time to create a year to remember for all the right reasons.
1. Get organised
Santa is such a genius at this. Make a list and check it twice. He was really onto something when he came up with that one. You may have an excellent memory, but it is always a good idea to get everything down on paper or digital, whichever works best for you. There are so many ways to make lists it can boggle the mind. However, the best one by far is the one that makes sense and works for you!
Write the tasks down and, ideally, a budget amount beside each one.
2. Keep an eye on the time
Calendars are perfect for leaning into this time of year. You can easily track and make timelines for when things need to be done. For example, set a date on when gift shopping needs to be done by marking it in the calendar. If your neighbours have a yearly get-together confirm the date and get that noted there too. Keep your trusty calendar up to date, and you'll stay on track.
Having all commitments written in one place can help you to see everything at a glance, avoiding mix-ups and missing outs. Plus, you get your head space back for more important things, like having fun!
2. Don't wait until the last minute.
Leaving anything to the last minute is rarely a good idea. Instead, take the time to start early, know what you are looking for and keep your list close to hand.
Early preparation gives you the time to buy thoughtful gifts that mean something. It also gives you time to find the right gift at the best price, too, a win-win all around.
3. Make a Christmas budget and keep to it.
It is so easy to overspend at Christmas, scarily so! Whether it is the decorating budget, gift budget, or entertainment budget, it doesn't matter. Take the time to figure out how much you can afford without stressing about your money. Once you have this done, your next challenge is to stick to that budget.
If you need some extra motivation to help you stick to your budget, remember this...
You would never want a true friend to put themselves in debt or under pressure to buy a lavish gift for you. Extend yourself the same courtesy. Friendships run so much deeper than material things.
4. Christmas food budget
I decided to separate out the food budget as it is a significant financial and physical stressor at this time of year.
So let's deal with the giant mince pie in the room, shall we? Food waste is exceptionally high at Christmas. We tend to stock up, 'just in case'. According to stopfoodwaste.ie survey:
"Irish households produce over 250,000 tonnes of food waste per year, at a cost of €700 per household."
'And households throw out €1.5 billion worth of grub annually - peaking during the festive season when thousands of Christmas dinners are dumped to the value of around €42 million.'
That is a massive amount of food and resources going to waste. It is a total waste of resources and energy, labour, and time put into getting this food to your home, only to be dumped. It is also the financial implication of this wasted food is eye-watering.
So save yourself all that extra time and money, stick to the shopping list, and be wary of special offers on things you wouldn't usually buy or use regularly. These are prime suspects for ending up in a bin.
Every carrot counts.
5. Minimalist-minded decoration
Christmas decorations are the best and bring a smile to everyone's face. The shiny baubles and twinkling lights are integral to what makes the season feel so special.
I read an article in a major Irish newspaper recently. It was talking on how this Christmas was all about decorating the whole home. My breath caught in my throat! With the year that's in it, with so many of us stuck to the pin of our collars, this is a terrible idea in my book or any normal person's book I would think.
You only need to decorate the main areas of your house to have a beautifully festive home.
Focus instead on the most used areas, like the kitchen and living room. These are the areas where people gather the most. Make your efforts count by focusing on getting the best out of these, and it will take the pressure off having to decorate huge areas that no one sees and therefore can't appreciate.
You will get the same effect and enjoy the appreciative comments this way while also saving time and money.
6. Wave goodbye to clutter before Christmas.
Unwanted clutter is like the Grinch of Christmas. No amount of decorating or fancy fairy lights can cover up that two-year-old stack of magazines that everyone keeps falling over.
Take a No Spend Day, or two, to sort out unwanted items donating or selling where possible. Get the kids involved by enlisting them to gather their old toys and donate them. Try to make a game of it, and suggest they donate two preloved toys for every one expected Christmas toy. This will make it easier for them to pass on their old toys for a good cause.
You can also use the time to clear out your wardrobe, garage or that cupboard under the stairs. Get a head start on the new year by embracing your inner minimalist before the season kicks in.
7. Downtime is a must
This is a key factor when vaporising that seasonal stress. As much as we all love the bustle of Christmas, downtime is essential too to recharge the batteries.
It does not matter which part of the day or week you take to yourself as long as you carve out that time and use it solely for yourself. Read a book, drink a leisurely tea before the kids wake up, put on some relaxing tunes and let your mind wander in no particular direction.
Remember what the Christmas season is about. It is okay to start this habit early and often.
You have my full permission.
Christmas is a time of reconnecting, merriness and being grateful for love and life in our world. You want to reflect on the season with fond memories and good times. Don't let the month go by in a blur. Be kind to yourself and reduce seasonal stress.
Slow down and think about what you really want to do this season. Don't get caught up in the bustle that you forget to enjoy the people you're doing this for. By starting early, you'll be able to have a merry—and much less stressful—Christmas.
Doing this, you give yourself a fighting chance of arriving into the new year stress-free, debt-free and ready to take on whatever fun challenge lies ahead of you.
More money, more freedom, more happiness,
I'll be sharing more money-saving tips and money mindset tips with you soon, so stay tuned! In the meantime, make sure you are subscribed to the Smart Money Times Newsletter and get ahead with money.