Tips for a Peaceful Holiday Season

Christmas is often the best time of year, but it can also be one of the most stressful. All of the family functions, driving from house to house, and baking dozens of Christmas cookies often wear us down, but I think we can all agree that the most stressful part of Christmas is shopping for all the presents.

So what is the solution? To give up the commercialism of the holiday and just enjoy it as the day of Christ’s birth? Tell that one to the kids! The key of a successful holiday season could be somewhere in the middle. Instead of worrying so much, you could leave yourself more time to appreciate the holiness of the holiday by being clever about your gift giving.

Basically, that means knowing how to give the perfect Christmas gift with the least amount of stress. Sounds like a Christmas miracle right? Not necessarily. First and foremost, you must remember not to wait until Christmas Eve to do your shopping. Even waiting to the last-month rush to shop can be a big mistake. That’s when you’re most likely to bump into other angry, miserable, and worried shoppers, just like you who are out there trying to find the best deal on the perfect present for each and every family member.

Instead, start shopping as soon as you have an inkling of what your loved ones wants. The key to knowing what a perfect present would be for somebody is to listen to them. Over the course of the year, when shopping with them, or going out to lunch, listen for clues to things that they really want–but would never buy for themselves. Keep an eye out for these things and buy them, even if it’s May and Christmas presents are the absolute last thing on your To-Do list. Or, start a Christmas list with all the names of your friends and family and ideas about what they may love. Since we are now in the age of the internet, you may even find it helpful to start a Favorites folder of gift ideas that you find throughout the year while searching the web.

By buying gifts throughout the year, you’ll be nearly finished in December and able to spend more quality holiday time with your friends and family, without the worry of your entire shopping list. Another good thing to keep in mind is that someone might be at your Christmas party or holiday get-together that was not on your original shopping list. Avoid feeling uncomfortable by buying extra presents, like candles, Christmas decorations, or DVD’s for just this situation. That way everyone has a present to open from Santa.

The perfect gift doesn’t have to be an object, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be for a close loved one. Another way to give the perfect “present”–and regain some of your lost Christmas spirit–is to volunteer during the holidays. You could do something as simple as wrap gifts for people at your local shopping mall, or you could volunteer to dole out food at a soup kitchen. Whatever it is, volunteering can help you remember the truly important gifts in life.

Last but not least, whether you’re volunteering or shopping, remember that money isn’t everything–but it’s pretty important for your general welfare, so don’t overspend at the holidays. You don’t want Christmas to be forever known in your heart as the time you go into debt. Spend within your limits and within reason.

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