Friday, December 3, 2010

It's the most wonderful time of the year... sort of.

The Christmas season is a time of celebration. A time of praise and worship. A time of togetherness and giving.

And a time to be really happy, right? Uh... wrong.

Is it just me or do people get crabbier during the holiday season?

And some of it, I do understand. Things get harder, take longer and are more expensive during this time of year, making everybody feel a little Scroogey.

Our entire lives, we've heard that you shouldn't let the hustle and bustle of the season steal your Christmas cheer. But the reality is that it's impossible to completely avoid that hustle and bustle, either. All the cooking, decorating and shopping still has to get done somehow.

So this year I tried some new things in an attempt to decrease my holiday stress:

1) Get Prepared. I began planning my shopping list in October. I made an excel spreadsheet containing the people who I needed to buy for and a separate word document of gift ideas for each person on my list. By the time Black Friday rolled around, I had my holiday shopping list completely planned out.

2) Black Friday Shopping. I have never done Black Friday shopping before this year. Well, never for anybody other than me. :) I typically hit the mall about 2 pm after all the serious shoppers had gone home and I'd find myself a cute pair of boots or a new dress or something. Historically, I've used Black Friday as a time to gather gift ideas since I hadn't planned ahead, wasting the post-Thanksgiving sale opportunities.

3. Online Shopping. Here's what I discovered in my Black Friday research: Unless you are talking about a doorbuster item, you can get all the same deals online that Friday. And let's get real, the chances of scoring a doorbuster are pretty small. I wish I had the patience to camp outside of a Best Buy for 6 hours in the freezing cold, hoping to get one of the two $200 laptops that they have, but I just don't. Instead, I slept until 8:30 am and got tons of great deals online. And, with free shipping. I did 80% of my shopping online and only paid a total of $4.99 in shipping charges. I made one trip to the mall and one trip to Target to pick up the other 20% of my gift items.

4. Fun Stuff Makes You Happy. With all my shopping done, I had plenty of Thanksgiving vacation time left over to devote to fun stuff - like decorating. :) I spent all day on "Black Saturday" decorating my home for the holidays. When my house feels happy, I feel happy. Now I can enjoy the rest of the month doing fun family Christmas stuff. Yay!

5. Name Exchange. I love nothing more than buying gifts for my family, but it's important to remember that some people don't have that luxury. So, we decided to draw one name to buy for and spend the rest of our gift budget in donations. Wanna know how to spread some joy this year? Make a needy child's Christmas dream come true. It's an awesome feeling. And, you buy less items (or at least items from a wish list, so you don't have to come up with ideas), which decreases shopping stress. Total win-win.

With all my shopping and decorating done, all I've got left to do is ENJOY the holiday season.

So this year, I'm spreading some Christmas cheer... and letting others spread their Christmas scrooge.