How to Survive the Holidays

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The holidays. The most wonderful time of the year…right?

Then why does it bring with it so much stress and anxiety?

Tell me I’m wrong. Have you never had anxiety about getting someone a gift just because you know they are getting you something? What about feeling your blood boil as someone cuts you off sliding into the parking spot you’ve been waiting patiently for? Never dreaded seeing a certain family member you’re forced to see only on holidays?

Well…if none of those things have happened to you, this one certainly must have. Have you ever gotten your credit card statement in January and thought, “Holy stuff! How the heck did we spend this much money on Christmas? No way am I doing this again next year.”

Next year comes and surprise, surprise guess what happens? The same holiday routine. Why does this happen to so many people every year? People go through each year doing the same mindless stuff they did the year before. No plan to prevent them from falling into the same trap they do every single year.

We, on the other hand, absolutely love the holiday season! I’ll tell you why. About 3 years ago, we talked with our families and explained that we wouldn’t be buying gifts for anyone until we paid off our debt. It was a difficult conversation to have because my family loves to buy gifts for everyone. That’s their love language. We told them that we would humbly accept gifts if they so felt the need to give, but we wouldn’t be giving anything in return until our debt was paid off. It’s a weird concept at first, but after the first year had passed, my family seemed much more open to the idea. Now, they love the idea! Specifically mentioning the amount of stress it saves them from having to spend time trying to find a meaningful material gift.

For the last two years running, our family has been traveling to Florida over Christmas to spend time together here. We happen to live in a beautiful area, so that works out to our advantage. We help cover the cost of travel since we don’t have to do any traveling ourselves, but now we all get to spend time together instead of being stressed out about high pressure consumerism. That’s the best gift in my opinion.

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Another reason why I love the holiday season is because we now have more free time since we don’t have to spend it buying gifts for the family. With this free time, Jessie and I can really celebrate and reflect on the year and all of our learning and growing we did as well as our successes. We use this time to look to the future as well. We talk about our your upcoming goals and aspirations, and then we design the plan to make those a reality.

This time of year is absolutely crucial. A lot of people tend to put everything on autopilot. With people taking vacations from work and traveling to see family, focus on goals can get lost pretty easily. And that is a slippery slope. If things start going on autopilot from Thanksgiving, which tends to mark the kick off of the holiday season, until after the new year, a lot of ground could be lost quickly.

The heavy spending that seems to come hand-in-hand with the holiday season could absolutely destroy all of the work put in to achieve goals all year if the proper attention isn’t be paid.

A few days ago, I overheard a lady say to her friend, “I went a little overboard on Christmas. I maxed out my credit cards again, but I don’t feel guilty since I paid them off this year.”

How awful! Could you imagine spending the whole year working towards a goal only to allow one holiday unravel everything? Not only did this destroy the end of her year, it’s put her in a significant hole starting the new year, essentially wasting two years of financial progress.

The moment we started having conversations with friends and family about our plan for Christmases moving forward, our joy around the holidays saw a dramatic improvement. We started looking forward to the holidays. We knew when they were over, we were going to feel rested and hearts were going to be full from spending time with the people we love instead of spending money.

Here’s a few ways you can really change the trajectory of your holiday season!

1. Talk to your family.

Like real conversations. Don’t be afraid to go deeper than the current weather trends. You might find out they have the same anxieties about the holidays as you do. That may open the door to come up with a new strategy for gift giving that saves everybody some time and money.

2. Give quality time.

This alone will improve the holidays tenfold. As members of my family grow older and I no longer live in the same city as most of them, I find that quality time together is invaluable. The holidays are the perfect excuse to make these get-togethers happen. Pretty soon we’re all going to wish we had more Christmases to spend with those people, not more stuff.

3. You Time!

This is super important to me. I love having quiet time to reflect on the things that have gone well over the course of the last 12 months and areas of opportunity to grow in the future. I love to spend time looking back to find lessons I can apply to better myself next year.

Set aside one day for you, or 8 hours, or 4, whatever you can get. Go for a walk in the park, hangout at a coffee shop alone. Unplug. Be still. I love to be still. Find an environment that makes you feel relaxed, and just go sit and be still. It can really help the mind recharge very quickly.

4. Make a plan.

So often this time of year surprises us. It seems to snatch away a month of our lives in a flash. Making a plan will allow you to go through the holidays without having the stress of reactionary decisions when the time starts flying. Make a plan for 2019 now! Now is the time to make these plans. That way when the first of the year turns over, you aren’t scrambling from the holidays trying to figure out what 2019 is going to look like for you. You have your plan ready to deploy and you can hit the ground running.

What’s my health going to look like next year? What do I want to accomplish financially? What relationships do I want to grow? Who do I want to help?

Start gathering the answers to these questions that allow you to put your goals in place so that the chaos of the holiday season doesn’t derail the beginning quarter of the next year. I recommend tracking one measurable in one area you want to improve. If you want to improve financially, start tracking your net worth or savings rate. Your health, start tracking your BMI (Body Mass Index). Your relationships, the number of times you go to a networking event. What you track will improve.

These are just a few ideas on how to improve the quality of the holidays. Every situation is different, but we are personally doing these things and our holiday seasons have been outstanding. We truly look forward to this time of year because we started taking control of our time and resources.

How are you going to own this holiday season and design it the way YOU want? We’d also love to hear your ideas on how to make the holidays less overwhelming! Feel free to comment!