The holidays are approaching and with them comes inevitable stress about gift buying, family celebrations, and the impact on our finances.  Many people plan the “perfect” holiday season: gifts purchased and wrapped early, the house decorated perfectly both inside and out, and all of your holiday baking will be delicious and phenomenal!  Then we find we are disappointed with the entire holiday season because we could not reach the level of perfection we imagined.   The reality is that gifts are expensive and we often don’t know what to purchase for someone, making those perfect cookies takes time we may not have, and we cannot compete with the picture we envisioned for our house and yard.

This year stop competing with yourself and develop  more realistic holiday plans.  How much money do you have for gifts and postage? Many people buy all gifts with credit cards delaying the awareness of how much was spent.  Communicating your financial abilities and resources with your family will help to offer a more realistic picture of your resources for family holidays.  Resources include our time. Take an honest look at your calendar and plan times for cookie baking and decorating.  Decorate once and leave everything alone! Get kids involved in cookie making and decorating.  Make holiday traditions instead of aiming for perfection.  Everyone loves sugar cookies decorated by children.

Consider some of these ideas to decrease your stress and increase you enjoyment during the holidays.

  • Consider a family vacation instead of gifts for everyone. Get all the family involved in decision making.  A family trip eliminates purchase and wrapping of gifts and helps kids learn about importance of family and memories rather than material things.
  • Have a cookie exchange with family or neighbors.
  • Have a “decoration exchange” with someone and enjoy a different look this season. This also allows you to have “new” decorations without cost of purchasing.
  • Utilize the gift wrapping services available at most malls. Frequently non-profit groups will wrap gifts for donation. Help both of you this season!
  • Consider “adopting” a family in need instead of gifts for each other. Consider working at a community holiday dinner for those who may not have had a dinner otherwise.
  • Use social media to send holiday greeting rather then holiday cards eliminating time and expense of postage.

Part of our role as parents is to teach our children responsible financial behaviors.  This may include setting limits on number or amount of money spent.  Discuss “sharing” a gift if it is too expensive for one child.  Help kids with a “secret Santa” or drawing names to further teach lessons on money, making choices, and developing skills in wrapping and keeping secrets.

The most important stress reliever will be to have realistic expectations; nothing will be perfect but will be enjoyed anyway.  Don’t plan on family members “getting along” at a holiday dinner if they usually argue at every opportunity.  Allow yourself to neglect something due to lack of time or money.  Remember the true purpose of the holidays and don’t let yourself become distracted by commercialism  or materialism.  Take time to celebrate the true meaning of the holidays and communicate this to your kids.

If you are feeling increasingly stressed or depressed, consider seeking help and talking with someone about how you feel.

Kim offers a free 10-minute consultation on her Virtual Therapist Network site. Kim accepts most major major insurance companies and even offers a sliding scale for those in lower-income households.

Kim works in Bradley, Illinois and as an On-line Therapist (Video over the Internet) to help her clients verbalize their issues, learn to view things differently, and feel comfortable with their decisions. Just as there is not one correct answer in life, there are multiple ways to find a solution in counseling. Kim will work with you to find the most appropriate solution for you. Please contact Kim at her Associated Counseling office in Bradley Illinois or on-line at the Virtual Therapist Network.