I was at the dentist not too long ago chatting with the hygienist like I normally do. [It’s always good to be friendly with everyone you meet, plus your interaction with them will show you what kind of business they are as a whole. If a receptionist / front desk person is rude it is very unlikely that I will patron that business again. That always tells me that the owner either doesn’t really care about their customers because they hired someone so rude on their front lines, or the owner doesn’t make sound business decisions and you can expect poor work when you interact with him or her when the time comes.] The topic of the upcoming holidays came up, which is expected since we are weeks away from Halloween, and then the anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas follows shortly after. She made a comment about how expensive it gets this time of year. I mentioned about how I put money aside to I won’t go further into debt starting in August and September. She was amazed that I was so diligent about not over spending or relying on credit cards, how it is something she could never do. I told her that it was a lot easier than she realized and even putting away a little each week adds up a lot faster than she realized.
I realize not everyone has the time to sit down and pour over their budgets, or you feel you aren’t making enough to save. This is why a lot of companies push their layaway programs around now. The reality is, there are practical solutions to staying in the black this holiday season.
- Making a list (and sticking to it): Just like the song goes about Santa making his list and checking it twice, you two should sit down and make a rough draft list concerning gifts now (before Halloween) then a week or two later finalize that list and stick to it! Stores have sales around Halloween and well before Thanksgiving to either clear out any left over end of Summer or Back-to-School items. Take advantage of these sales with their coupons. Most places will accept competitor coupons. If you planned on buying a big ticket item, start browsing prices now. It will be cheaper now to buy it versus during the holiday season. You also won’t have to worry about anything being out of stock in late October or early November. If you have a larger family, work together with other family members to accomplish all of your gift buying. Different areas have different products and sometimes these items are cheaper. Ask around & shop around!
- Invest in yourself: The best way to save money is to stop eating take out or stopping at your local coffee shop for a cup. Fast food (healthy or not) is incredibly expensive. It’s more expensive to have someone else prepare your food or drinks than it would be if you bought the ingredients and made it yourself. Yes, you do have time to cook your own meals. You simply don’t feel like doing it (be honest). If you aren’t into meal prepping and spending all that time cooking once a week, after buying your meat section it up and season each one in its own bag differently then place in the freezer. That way you will have a different meal each night. This can work for a meal for one to a meal for a family. It’s not hard to season, seal, and freeze. Simple steps help add up to padding your budget.
- Delegate: We often hear this in the business world about delegating work to other employees so the process goes a lot smoother. This also applies to this time of year. Is your house the party house? Ask your friends and family to go pot-luck style this year – especially if everyone plans on drinking. Start a new tradition of making it a BYOB with your own special house cocktail as the main feature. This goes for decorating too. You may feel your family isn’t the best when it comes to decorating but handing off some tasks to them will help you from feeling overwhelmed (and staying up until 1am just to get the garland just right).
- Cooking / Food: Do not try and out-do yourself. I know you found a million and one things on Pinterest you wanted to try but please be realistic. Fondant is a pain to work with as is making your own cranberry sauce from scratch. Simple foods that taste amazing are the way to go this holiday season. Plan out your meals and utilize what is already in your pantry to create delicious dishes everyone will love. Just like there is probably a thousand ways to cook a turkey, a good cheat sheet, if you are unsure what to try, it’s my poultry cheat sheet: Garlic (powder), basil (dried seasoning), thyme (dried seasoning), salt, black pepper, oregano (dried seasoning [no, this will not make it an Italian dish]), sage (dried seasoning), and rosemary (dried seasoning). Depending on how big the bird is, you can be comfortable using 1-2 teaspoons each depending on your flavor preference. This is all rubbed on with olive oil all over until the bird completely coated. It’s a fun but messy project. As always cook the bird according to its weight and bam – delicious turkey (or chicken or tofu).
- Take moments for yourself: Remember you are only one person – no really, you can’t and won’t get everything done exactly the way you planned. If you need a quiet cup of coffee in the morning, wake up before your kids and enjoy it, or a glass of wine once they are in bed. If you don’t have kids, make time when you get home to turn off the TV, put on some soft music and relax. Your brain needs a break as much as your body does. Working out is a great way to achieve mental clarity but so is enjoying the silence.
With the holiday season rapidly approaching, I encourage you to plan ahead both with your time and money so you won’t over spend or put yourself further into debt. This time of year is meant to be a focus on family and loved ones, not worrying if your craft came out exactly like the picture you saw online. Embrace your flaws, aim to have a good time and eat a lot of great foods. You can worry about your diet in January.