The holiday season has arrived! For some of us, this is the most wonderful time of the year. For the rest of us, visions of credit card debt and to-do lists dance in our heads. In order to prevent a stressful holiday season, follow these five simple guidelines:
1) Plan ahead: The holidays are the same time of the year, every year — so there’s no reason to treat the season as an unexpected burden or expense. If you are celebrating with others, determine early on who will play host this year. Communicate as much as possible to avoid last-minute arrangements. Create a realistic budget for gifts, entertaining and travel. But remember, a budget is only helpful if you can stick to it!
2) Shop early: Take advantage of annual discount shopping days and consider seasonal specials. Not only is winter the best time to score steep discounts on exercise equipment and televisions, but you can also purchase off-season merchandise, such as summer apparel and garden accessories, at a fraction of the usual cost. Use the Internet to help you shop around for your wish list items. Websites like PriceGrabber.com, Nextag.com, Bizrate.com and Pricewatch.com allow you to compare prices from several different retailers and link to the price that best suits your budget.
3) Get creative: Nothing says “I care” like a gift from the heart. Taking the time to decide what your recipient would appreciate, followed by crafting the gift means you put a lot of thought into making your loved one feel special. There’s a catch, though — gift making takes time, so don’t spend too long browsing homemade gift ideas on Pinterest.com!
4) Travel stress-free: If you’re traveling this season, understand your airline’s limitations and rules for checked and carry-on baggage. Prepare for your trip by checking the weather at your destination and packing accordingly. Be smart about traveling locally, too. In a crowded parking lot, make sure you drive slowly, triple check for pedestrians and other cars, and park strategically.
5) Enjoy yourself: All of your hard work and effort for the holiday season will simply not matter if you do not have a good time. Enjoy yourself, your friends and family. Squeeze some exercise into your busy schedule if time permits — this will provide you with a stress relief and an endorphin boost. And if the stuffing hits the fan, just breathe.
Lauren Webber is an AARP Communications intern.