Staying Sane for the Holidays

The holiday season is often seen as a time when the ‘rules don’t apply,’ where we can eat, drink, and spend in excess. Any declarations of an attempt at moderation are met with ‘oh, but it’s the holidays!’ and someone trying to force a rumball down your throat. And lest you try to be sensible, you’ll be met with passive-aggressive accusations of lacking the proper spirit and being a scrooge. People feel entitled to be able to use the holidays as an excuse to spend more than they can afford to (and very few resist them temptation to pick up a few things for themselves while they’re getting gifts for others), eat foods that will have them complaining incessantly about the weight they put on, and end up setting unreasonably high expectations by overdramatizing every event. After all, it’s a ‘tradition’ – a word some people seem to equate with ‘keep doing something stupid because you’ve always done something stupid.’

Well, there is a way to balance out the holidays so that they are enjoyable without having the aftermath of overindulgence.

  • Look for ways to cut back on expenses now. Comparison shop for car insurance; see if you can change some of your service plans (get rid of premium channels you don’t use, reduce your cell phone minutes if you don’t use them, etc.). Now that Netflix has unlimited VOD through my Xbox, I cut back the amount of mailed discs I get, which saves me over $60/year – it all adds up!
  • Look at your 401(k)/403(b) plans, etc., and make sure you’re contributing the right amount into them.
  • Enroll in flex benefits or other plans offered by your employer. Many of these plans now offer credit cards so you don’t have to manage receipts and mail claims in. Don’t put in more than you think you’ll need; the tax savings don’t justify having to buy 300 bottles of antacids to use up all the funds.
  • Don’t break off of your normal exercise routine. If you don’t belong to a gym, start looking around for ones convenient to you and see if you can do a trial membership – many will offer really low membership plans next month, so hold off joining until you can get the best rate. If you dine out one night less per week, you’ll probably save enough to pay for your gym membership!
  • Know how much alcohol you can handle and how you act when you’re drinking, and set some boundaries for yourself. Some people are silly fun drunks, and some people are angry nasty drunks. Don’t ruin someone else’s enjoyment of the holidays because you can’t control yourself. If you think you need to drink to cope being around some people, don’t be around them, and don’t let anyone try to guilt you or pressure you into being around people that are toxic to you ‘because they’re family’ or ‘it’s the holidays.’
  • Plan your gift-buying budget ahead of time, and don’t buy someone some generic crap just because you don’t know what they’d like or want. Ideally, you’d have fished out some ideas from them well before the holiday season, but if you didn’t, then let them pick out a gift via something like an Amazon gift card. Point your friends and family to your Amazon wish list, and add items in various price ranges to make it easy for them to stay within their budget. If you know someone wants something outside of your range, see if you can pool together a few people to chip in for the gift.
  • Don’t attach additional significance to days and events just because it’s the holidays if it’ll stress you out or make you depressed. Accept that it’s okay to be who and where you are in life, and try to appreciate all of the great things you do have in lieu of dwelling on what you don’t (or trying to force yourself to have something you’re ‘supposed to’).

These are just a few ideas; feel free to share your own and start some new ‘traditions!’