Surviving the Happiest Time of the Year

Every year I eagerly anticipate Christmas. But then I remember how much there is to do! Decorations. Gifts. Church and school programs. Parties. Pictures. New clothes. Caroling. Baking and cooking. Family get-togethers.

If you’re wondering how to get it all accomplished and still enjoy the holiday, try these time, energy, and sanity savers I’ve discovered to help you have a truly Merry Christmas this year.

1. Plan ahead.
You smart ones did this year’s shopping at last year’s after-holiday sales. However, even if the rest of us don’t get around to it until after Thanksgiving, there’s still plenty of time to find some great bargains.

2. Estimate your expenses.
Don’t start with a wish list of gifts for your loved ones. Instead, begin with a dollar amount that won’t put you deeply in debt. List all the people for whom you need to buy gifts. Estimate costs for everything else—cards, tree, extra food, postage, wrappings, decorations, special holiday charitable contributions. Then total the amounts. Now you see what’s left to spend on gifts.

3. Refrain from grandiose schemes.
Sure, your 16-year-old would like a computer; your 10-year-old is begging for the hottest video game system. But splurging now may mean financial problems later. Consider gifts that cost little but are much appreciated: vouchers for a special activity or a night out, a jar of homemade jelly, a craft, or offers to drive an elderly neighbor to the store.

4. Be organized—and realistic.
You have limited time, money, and energy. And your daily responsibilities don’t stop during the holidays. So you have to learn to budget all your resources—not just your money—to make it through.

5. Mark your calendar.
Keep a large calendar handy for the whole family to use. Make sure all parties, get-togethers, programs, concerts, and events are posted. Say no when you’re too heavily scheduled.

6. Help should be received as well as given.
Christmas is not just a time for you to show off, proving you’re Supermom or Superdad. It’s a time for the whole family to work together. Even little ones can put paper snowflakes on windowpanes or popcorn chains on the tree. “But it’s easier to do it myself!” we fuss. Yes—but not half as rewarding.

7. Invite friends over for informal get-togethers—instead of “big doings.”
Try evenings of popping corn, charades, decorating cookies, watching old home movies or classic comedies, or caroling with hot chocolate afterward. Why not plan hayrides or ice-skating if you live in the country? Potluck refreshments are also a fun way to cut down on cost and effort.

8. Shop smart.
Work from a list and stick to it. If you shop from catalogs, make sure your selections will arrive in time. Do as much shopping in any one store and location as possible. Wear comfortable shoes. Keep your list up-to-date, marking off items when purchased. Once home, wrap, label, and put everything in place as soon as possible.

9. Remember that traditions are half the fun.
The holidays are a wonderful time to keep family traditions alive: old recipes, homemade goodies, singing around the piano, special church services, reading the Christmas story from the Bible.

But just because Grandma baked constantly during the holidays doesn’t mean baking is the best use of your time and energy (or waistline)! Find a way to adapt the tradition to your life.

10. Mail your cards and packages early.
Get your stamps early, then address and sign your holiday greetings during spare moments. Set aside until later those needing personal notes. Be sure to use a list of names so you don’t miss anyone or send a duplicate. If you can’t get your out-of-town packages ready in time for normal mail service, consider Priority Mail, Express Mail, UPS, Federal Express, or another carrier. Be sure your packages are well wrapped and taped; those in sturdy boxes handle best.

11. Savor the season.
It will be over before you know it. Don’t fret about what you can’t do, but rejoice in what you can.

Many years ago a homesick young wife was out on the road, headed for a strange city. When she got there, all the motels were full. So she had to spend Christmas Eve in a rundown barn that kept out the rain but not the smell.

No cranberries. No fruitcake. No stove. No table, chairs, bed, or sheets. Nothing!

Except love. For there in a stable, Mary and Joseph had the most joyous Christmas ever known, welcoming into the world the Saviour of the world.

Keep that your focus this holiday season, and everything else will fall into place.