Surviving Christmas Break

Snowy Tree Farm Truck

Christmas is a wonderful time of year. Full of peace, love, family, food, and stress. Over the years, I have stressed to the max with presents, food, numerous Christmas parties, more food making, kids bouncing off the walls, the elf on the shelf (which drives me to drinking) work schedule completely thrown off, budget for food and presents ( I could mention that one about three more times), etc. I have read countless articles about how to reduce stress, how to organize all your food prep, how to organize your budget, etc. I find it hard to stick to any of them. Keeping track of time and money, in the midst of the chaos doesn’t seem to help, but only adds to the stress.
So, over the years, here are few things I have learned about managing stress during the holidays. Some of these suggestions are pretty common. However, many of us tend to blow them off and figure we will just manage. After all, that is what most busy parents try to do, cope or survive. But I want to do more than survive. I want to enjoy my time with my kids, not panic about my budget, spend time organizing and making space for new toys and clothing, etc.
Here are a few suggestions that I try to follow:
I am OCD on cleaning and organizing. I hate clutter and at the holidays, the house seems to fill with more stuff. Decorations, toys, books, clothing, food, etc. So starting in Nov. 1st take a few days (maybe 4-5 that month) to go through each room. I go through my kids’ clothing, sort out what can be donated and what I can resale. I purge the toys and books. This take out the clutter and makes space for new items. I am always surprised how many multiples we have of the same toy, book, shirt, etc.
After Christmas, I take another 2-3 days and go through cabinets, linen closet, my clothing, games, etc. I set a goal in Nov/Dec to take out a number of bags of donated items and I post on a local garage sale site items that are in good shape that others may buy. I make about $100 doing this. This money goes into a jar for trips for us as family. Last year, I sold 5 bags of clothing and household items (bags were Walmart sized plastic bags). Make this manageable and realistic. Don’t think that in 2-3 days you can purge your whole house and carry out 6 huge garbage bags. Start out small and work your way up. AKA, set realistic goals.
Food: I love to bake. I start baking and freezing Christmas cookies in Nov. in air tight containers. So when people come over, or I use for gifts, I can just pull out an assortment and put them on a pretty plate and there you go. I usually make about 6 different kinds of cookies. A day or two prior to Christmas morning, I will make a breakfast casserole and freeze it. Then I pull it out early and put in the oven for an hour or two. I also order small cakes that freeze as treats. I purchase up lots of wine in Nov. and Dec. so I am not dropping $100 on wine a week before Christmas. I also will purchase Christmas paper plates and plastic silverware to use around the holidays so I don’t have a sink full of dishes all the time (I don’t have a dish washer).
Budget: I start buying Christmas presents in July. I know I am crazy but this spreads the cost out and the stress on my budget over the course of 6 months instead breaking my budget over the course of one month. For bigger gifts, I will save up the cash, and pay for items cash in hand instead of using credit cards. So last year, I saved back $100 each month for 4 months to purchase my son a refurbished IPad and the best protector money could buy. I also wanted to get him an iTunes gift card too.
These are a few tips that help me survive the holidays so I can focus on making memories, enjoying my time with family and friends, and not feel suffocated by clutter, budget, and food making responsibilities. I still struggle to follow these from time to time, but I do try. I would love to hear what suggestions you have, or what works best for you over the holidays. Feel free to share!

Happy Holidays!

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