Guest post: The Secrets to a Stress Free Christmas

Ah, Christmas. Christmas is a glittering, magical time, full of gleeful gluttony, sparkling snowflake decorations, bulging stockings, hearty warmth, and familial love. Well that’s one side to the festive season but what about in the run up to Christmas when the first of December hits? There is no getting away from the fact that Christmas can be immensely stressful, but there are ways and means to mediate the chaos to fill everyone with festive cheer – most importantly, yourself! Let’s do this together, sector by Christmassy sector:

Gifts

Do gifts have to be a massive secret? Why should you grope around in the dark, weighing up which state-of-the-art fountain pen (which works in outer space) best represents your father as a person? Let’s blow this thing wide open: the stress of choosing and buying presents can be drastically reduced by asking people what they want.  It really is that simple! Children get to write Christmas lists – why shouldn’t we all? Its’ fun and you’re guaranteed to get things you actually want or need! Perhaps not everyone wants to break the tradition of gifts being a surprise, but you might be able to convince a few to write you out a clear, concise list so that you can easily pick out what your family are going to love, rather than having to invest in a very unreliable crystal ball. For those that love convenience, shopping online would be highly recommended for this purpose. It’s quick and easy, and you don’t even need to put your Uggs on.

Jim the photographer on Flickr

Image courtesy of Jim the Photographer on Flickr.

Food

What if I told you that no-one really needs to lock themselves in a kitchen, slaving away over the course of several long days to prepare a delicious multi-course Christmas meal for the whole family? Yes indeed, its delegation time. When sending out those Christmas party invitations, why not personalise them not just with names, but with friendly requests like “please bring a pound of perfectly-seasoned Brussels sprouts” or “would you kindly bring the mince pies? All-butter pastry, please, if you can.” This can efficiently spread the cost, responsibility and effort. Or, why not do something different and host a Christmas themed pot luck dinner? You run the risk of ending up with 9 plates of pigs in blankets, but there’s a lot of potential fun to be had, and hey, at least you’ll all be well-fed!

Failing all of this, why not exchange shelling out for the whole shebang for a luxury stay in a hotel? It would take care of almost all your feeding problems, at least, and at this time of the year there are a lot of festive hotel offers around. Shop around a bit and you could find the perfect solution to your holiday woes. Just remember to tell Santa where you’ll be!

Money

You don’t have to bankrupt yourself to have a merry Christmas. It’s an old cliché, but it is the thought that counts. Don’t get dragged into the Christmas spending fever; it’s not necessary. Instead, keep a strict budget, and focus purely on what you think each recipient would personally appreciate most. Most importantly, if you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money; no reasonable person could ever fault you for that. Do not spend on credit; it’s just not worth it. You’re not “paying it forward”, you’re just getting yourself in more debt, which is not a very enjoyable Christmas present to give to yourself, is it?

Save yourself from stressing out about money by saving through loyalty cards. Most supermarkets, for example, offer some sort of loyalty card where you can collect points throughout the year. Why not save them up and you could have a cost effective Christmas meal for the whole family.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation!

If you are planning on having an elaborate Christmas celebration, the key is to plan well ahead. To prepare for the gift-giving, throughout the year, if you see a little something which you think would be nice for someone, go ahead and get it! Squirrel it away somewhere, you’ll thank yourself later. Just don’t forget where you’ve put your stash! To prepare for the inevitable culinary onslaught, you could prepare certain items well in advance when you have time, then freeze them in readiness for the big day. Finally, in terms of financial preparation, well…is anyone ever really ready to pay for Christmas? Probably not, but if you can tuck a little something a way each month during the year, by Christmas time you’ll be relieved that at least some of the burden is covered by your little festive money-pot.

So come one, come all, fellow pseudo-Scrooges! Let us not allow ourselves to see Christmas simply as crushing expenditure, a trial to endure, forced festivity – with a little forethought, everyone (even you!) can enjoy Christmas. So sweep up those pine needles and get going!

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