Another holiday season — will this year be any different? With so much to do and no more time than usual, the following time-saving tips will make this year’s activities more manageable, more enjoyable, and less stressful.
Reduce, Rethink, Replace
Think about all the things you do over the holidays. By the time the holidays actually arrive, are you exhausted and unable to enjoy the season? Can you scale things back? Simplify? Can you celebrate in more enjoyable ways? Are you spending time with people you don’t really enjoy, or spending money for things you can’t afford? Think about it — there’s no law saying you have to keep doing what you’ve been doing if it causes you stress and misery. Take back your holidays by simplifying them. If you’re not enjoying something that has become a “tradition”, make this the year you replace it with something fun or more meaningful.
Make use of all those catalogs that show up in your mailbox. Ask your family to look through their favorite catalogs and come up with some gift ideas. You don’t have to fight the crowds at the malls, friends and family will be happier with the gifts you’ve given, and no exchanges are necessary.
Internet shopping has become the choice of many for any kind of shopping, especially during the holidays. I have found the Internet particularly helpful and time-saving when I know exactly what I want to buy. When it comes to things like toys, books and music, it makes sense to order through the web. You reduce stress by avoiding waiting in lines, dealing with traffic, and with grumpy sales clerks.
Make a List
When it is time to head to the stores, begin by making a thorough list. Jot down names, sizes, favorite colors, and information about people’s hobbies or collections. Carry this list with you while shopping, then hang onto this list and file it where you can find it. When birthdays or the next holiday season roll around, you’ll still have this helpful list.
Keep Paper and Pencil With You
If you’re browsing from store to store, make sure you have a small sheet of paper or two in your purse or pocket to jot down where you saw something that you might want to go back and purchase. Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to go back and buy something, and you can’t remember where it was! When the store has multiple floors and departments, make a note of a landmark or two within the store that will lead you quickly back to the exact spot to make the purchase.
Shop Early in the Season
If you can, shop early in the season. Create a deadline for yourself and stick to it. Not only do you get a better selection of merchandise, but then you can spend the rest of the season enjoying family, friends and holiday festivities.
Ideal Shopping Times
Shop early in the day, and shop on weekdays when possible. In the morning you have more energy and patience, and remember, so do the store clerks. The traffic is less on the weekdays, especially early in the morning, and parking spaces are plentiful. If you can, avoid the stress of the malls on the weekends. Visiting the mall on weekday evenings is preferable to a trip to the mall on a weekend.
Making a trip downtown during the holidays can be a great alternative to the malls — especially on the day after Thanksgiving. The selection is great and the crowds are in the suburbs at the mall. You can enjoy the festive holiday window displays, and make it a day by having lunch or dinner downtown. Some cities offer free or flat rate parking promotions on weekends during the holidays to attract downtown shoppers. Not all cities are alike, but if your local city has a nice selection of stores and boutiques, and if it less crowded on the weekends, you may find it a very pleasant holiday shopping experience.
Change Your Lunch Hour
If you work in a city, and you want to holiday shop in the city, consider taking your lunch hour during the morning or late afternoon. You’ll avoid fighting the noontime crowds.
Create a Baking Team
When it comes to holiday baking and cooking — collaborate with family and friends. If each person makes a large amount of one recipe, then shares with others, you end up with a nice variety of goodies with a fraction of the effort. Many people participate in cookie exchanges. Consider doing the same for things like pies, nut breads, fruitcakes, apricot rolls, side dishes, etc.
Computerize Your Christmas Card List
Make this the year you type all of the holiday card addresses into the computer. Using the label templates available in the word processing software, and the label stationery available at office supply or greeting card stores, the task of addressing all of those envelopes becomes faster and far more enjoyable for years to come.
Shop with a Buddy
Most husbands or boyfriends are not shoppers, but when it comes to holiday shopping they can really play a key role. When the crowds are heavy and the lines are long — he can wait in line while while you sift through racks and stacks of shirts and sweaters. He won’t follow you around the store looking withdrawn and miserable. Instead, you’ll deliver things to him as he waits in line. When you finish making selections, you can move on to the next store or department while he finishes up at the register. And if he takes along a favorite magazine, he can do some reading. Do you realize what a time saver and stress reducer this is for both of you?
If you don’t have a buddy to wait in line for you, be sure you take along a book or magazine. If you can focus on something positive rather than dwelling on how long you’ve been waiting in line or how slow the sales clerk is, you’ll have a more pleasant experience and make best use of the time.
Enjoyable Gift Wrapping
When it comes to wrapping all those gifts, rent a movie (or two), break out the gift wrap, ribbon, bows, scissors and tape, and attack it all at once. If that doesn’t work for you, consider setting up a gift wrapping station where you can leave the supplies out for a week or two instead of having to pull them out, put them away, pull them out, put them away.
Carry a Holiday Receipt Envelope
Keep an envelope with you as you shop. As you accumulate receipts for gift purchases, put them all in that same envelope. If exchanges or returns are necessary, you’ll save time and stress because you know exactly where the receipt is.
Make a Plan
One of the keys to managing your time and reducing stress throughout the holiday season is planning. As you plan through this holiday season, keep in mind that you are also planning for future holidays. Keep your lists in a folder that you can refer to again next year. Make a back-up copy of your address labels, print out a hard copy, and file them with your gift lists or menus. As you pack up your holiday decorations, throw away or give to charity things that are looking worn, or items that you did not bother displaying this year. And don’t forget to shop the day-after-Christmas sales to save money (and prepare for next year) when you buy wrapping paper, cards and other holiday items at substantial savings.
The holidays should be a time of fun and relaxation, not a time for increased stress. Every year, look for ways to simplify the holiday hustle and bustle, reduce the stress and increase the fun. Make this holiday season the first of many filled with more enjoyment, more peace, and more time to do the things you really want to do!
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