9 steps for a stress free holiday season! 

When November comes, my mind instantly goes, holidays are here! 

I LOVE the holidays. Candles burning, cozy fires, baking, decorating, and most of all extra family bonding. 
The holidays can be a messy, stressful time for people as well. Everyone’s got something that they can be stressed about. Majority of families go into a full blown panic over money they will be spending. Others feel pain over a divided family. And unfortunately, some will be mourning family members who are no longer with us this holiday season. 
When children are involved, we have to put our worries to the side and focus on the joy of the holidays for the happiness of our children during such magical time. That’s not always easy but we must do our best to put on a happy face the best we can. 
I love “aha moments” with my son. You know, the moments that make you stop in your busy tracks, get centered again, and get a reminder what life is all about. This has happened to me plenty of times since I’ve had my son but about a month ago, I was walking with him in our neighborhood in the stroller. I was listening to music and taking pictures of him on my phone. I was pushing him around, mostly for exercise for me and hoping a little fresh air would be beneficial for my baby the rest of the evening (you know, get a little energy out and sleep good). 

And then the “aha moment happened”. I watched my son who was 2 months old, watch all the trees blow, look up at the birds fly and then quickly to his side to see chipmunks run across the grass. He heard all the sounds and saw all the beauty  that we take for granted hearing and seeing. When I saw this, I turned off my music, and put my phone down. I looked around at all the things he was looking at and heard everything he was hearing. The song, “what a wonderful world” came into my head. I stopped the stroller and knelt beside him. We watched life slow down. I thought it was such an amazing moment, watching life happen through his fresh eyes. 
This is what needs to happen for the holidays. I need to forget about the hustle and bustle of holidays, strip away what the holidays have become, and focus on what it’s really all about. I need to experience the magic with my son like it’s the first time. 
For us, we are Christians so Christmas will heavily be about THE baby being born. But everyone has different beliefs and I’m not knocking on anyone for their different beliefs so we will talk more about all the other stuff that comes with this special time. 
Why? Why? Whyyyy have we let society victimize us into this merchandising phenomenom? Why have we taught our kids to have this endless list of presents they want and then try our hardest to get them all? Why have we stressed our selves out buying for our spouses when most of us have everything we need and a lot of what we want. 
I’ve been guilty of falling into this robbery of the consumers world. Everyone who knows me knows that I LOVE buying people presents and giving people presents all the time. It doesn’t even have to be a holiday. BUT I’m very aware of my finances and would never spend beyond my means. With that said, I still vote NO to retailers exploiting the holiday into this commercialized status game. It’s turned into a high profit business for sellers and the consumers get cheated of the happiness and gratitude. 
I wont be a victim of this Grinch who stole Christmas. 
By making the choice to be economical this year, I’m gaining holiday cheer and memories made with my family.
By no means am I saying that I wont be christmas shopping. I will be. I just refuse to take time away from my family by spending the next two months shopping and essentially taking food out of my kids mouth to please everyone I know. Funny but true little side note: Half the time, you probably don’t even please half of the people you shopped for. 

So here’s my plan of attack for starting my holiday season to keep it as stress free and economical as possible. 
1. Make a plan & communicate: Figure out your holiday budget. Remember, you don’t need to spend every dollar of that just because you have it calculated in. I almost like to challenge myself and see if I can do better than that. I talk to my husband about what he’s comfortable with. Then I like to reach out to my extended family and see what they want to do. There’s plenty of ways to cut down the cost like drawing names for a gift exchange. Communicate with your friends and family about what you’re all comfortable with. Some people may say they still want to shop for everyone, if you’re not in a place finanically where you can do that, you can tell them you wont be. If they still want to shop for you, they will. If not, the communication was open and no one has to feel uncomfortable when it comes time to exchanging. Avoid being the person who always says “they forgot the gift at home” and never gives one! Those people are the worst. 
2. Start early: Don’t wait til tomorrow or next week for everything. Don’t wait for December. I get a little too excited for Christmas so I’m guilty of already having a few gifts. I love when I have gift ideas that came from the heart and I see something that makes me think of someone specific. So I get it right away. But, I do like to start my Christmas shopping early so I’m not running around like crazy the two weeks prior to Christmas. 
(Side Note: For me, I’ve always stopped shopping for myself when November comes. It’s always been my thing. The only things I buy for myself once November comes is if I need an outfit for our holiday party or New Year’s Eve. Not everyone may be into that, but it makes me feel better about the extra spending.)
3. Stay organized: Make my list, check it twice (or ten times, lol). I already made my Christmas list for who I will potentially shop for in the notes on my phone. As I buy my gifts, I add to the notes typing in what I got. This helps me because I have totally forgot a little gift here and there that I bought and then when I’m wrapping everything, I’m like…whoa, I got way too much! I know it’s not tit for tat when it comes to spending but I usually like to get a little extra for my “single” family members because it totally sucks when you’re the single family member and have to buy for a family of four, five, six, etc. and then you get back a pair of pajamas and you’re like, cool thanks (haha). I know that people don’t mean to “cheat” you but they maybe forget how expensive it can be for you to buy for all their families. So for my single sister in law, who’s like Santa Claus herself, I know that all her hard earned money is going to not just her brother but then for me too and now our baby so I’ll make sure I get her something a little extra! 
4. Simplify the list: Ughhh, I’m a new mom so maybe I am out of line for saying this but REALLY? Your kid needs ALLLL of that? Simplify the list. What are you teaching your child? I watched this show that parents got advice about parenting from a non parent because they would tell the truth about the kids behavior, it was pretty funny. I am always mind boggled by the extent of money people will spend to have their kids look or be cool or to keep them satisfied. There’s always going to be the “new” “latest and greatest”, your kid doesn’t need it every year. Your kid is also growing, so why are they wearing jackets and boots that are more expensive than an adults…and getting the new version or multiple pairs every year? Make it stop, please! I DO UNDERSTAND how cute it is to see them wearing some of these cute things, cool..get them. But I’m talking more in the amounts or cost of them. You know they have boots that look exactly the same besides the tag on them, right? 
(Another side note: When I’m talking about the list, I’m talking about what you feel you need to purchase for your own kids. I LOVE lists for the extended family for the kids. My one sister in law is a planning and organizing guru, she has her daughters put together a easy Toys R Us Wish List, it was super helpful while shopping for them. I knew that they were going to love their presents because they chose them! BEST. IDEA. EVER. If you’ve never checked that out, I suggest it.  

Aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. are perfect people to buy those extra gifts because we want to spoil our little sweet hearts and get them something nice especially when we don’t get to do much for them besides birthdays and christmas). 
5. The gift of giving (back): Find a charity. Find a cause. A shelter. A soup kitchen. Something! Teach your kids about giving back to others. Explain to them that Christmas may be a little light because you are going to give prto kids who don’t have a family or a home. Or kids who are in the hospital over christmas. They will probably be really suprised when they see that most of those kids are just asking for socks and mittens. It’s heart breaking and really puts things into perspective. The salon I work at does a giving tree provided through Good Will. They bring a tree with all the kids names to pull off, I pick a kids name off the christmas tree for me and one for my family members with their requests and sizes, we shop for them, I take them back to the salon and Good Will comes and picks them all up on the due date. At my families restaurant we do some sort of giving like a coat drive, canned goods, mitten drive, etc. There’s SO much you can do. If you need help finding something in your area, feel free to send me a direct message and I will help you find something. 
6. Holiday activities: A lot of villages have holiday activities in their communities. Santa’s train that comes, church activities, ice skating, tree lighting, etc. Go look on your communities and/or surrounding communities website(s) and find the list of local activies for the holidays. You may not be able to take your family to a broadway show but there could be a cute play or musical put on by kids. It might not be the best entertainment for you but I’m sure your kids will like it. 
7. Teach & preach: Have you wanted to get religion into your families lives? or perhaps it wasn’t as important to you before kids but you want them to have a chance of having a relationship with God. What’s a better time than now? I know it can be intimidating going into a church where you either know nothing or know nobody. But, they will be happy to have you there. And if you did feel like you were getting weird looks or felt unwelcomed, they are the ones who are missing something there. Or maybe try another one in town. You will find a place you feel comfortable and happy. 
8.  Cut the cost of entertainment: Not every day has to be a party and not every thing has to cost money. Bring back good old fashion snow fun; snow forts, snow angels, snow men, snow ball fights, sledding, etc. Make Christmas crafts. Watch Christmas movies. Decorate the house together. There’s so many fun things to do at home without spending money. I often ask myself if I would spend the money that I do if it was me who had to work so many hours to make it. I try to be conscious of my husband’s time that went into the money he brings home before spending so loosely. It’s not just money on gifts you have to watch out for, it’s also days and nights of driving around to every entertaining event for kids adds up quickly over the season. 

9. Let it go & Give it to who you got: A big issue for many people over the holiday season is a divided family. If you’ve had an unresolved problem in your family, can you try fixing it? Or if you’re a little farther removed from it, can you help mediate a disagreement with others in your family? Or in worst case, let it go & push it to the side for the holiday season. I’m usually playing the role of the peace maker or “fixer” in my family. Since becoming a new mom, I am emotionally exhausted adjusting to my new life and just don’t want to do that anymore. For me, this year, I’m going to let it go and give it all to who I’ve got. Our family will be unfortunately mourning two family members this year for the holidays so for me, I can’t worry about missing people who chose not to be with us when I’m already going to be missing people that there was no choice to not have with us. You don’t have to be mad or fight, but if you must then just fully enjoy the company you do have and do not stress about anything else. 

I’m looking forward to writing more holiday blogs with holiday gift ideas for all age groups, recipes, activity ideas, etc. 

I’d love to hear your family’s traditions, recipes, or ideas for the season if you’d like to share, feel free to send me ideas! 
I hope this helped with a jump start to the season. 
Find joy in all of your journey, 

Leanne, spoiled Milk 


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