what’s in your stocking this year?

The holiday season seems to come upon us faster each year. Tucked beside the 70% off Halloween masks are rows of  fuzzy, red stockings stuffed with the promise of a holiday filled with peace, relaxation, joy and the warmth of the festive season.

However, the stress of over- extended schedules, pressures to spend and outgrown traditions leave many to wonder what it’s really all about.   And with each new invitation, phone call, social obligation, and gift to purchase, it’s not hard to see how easy it is to quickly lose grasp of the true meaning of the season.

Choose a different holiday experience this year! Here’s three steps to clarify, plan and simplify your holidays.

Step 1: Create your ideal vision for the holidays and write it down. Be specific. Consider reworking current traditions that simply don’t work anymore and create new traditions that reflect your priorities… (i.e. We order take out Sushi every Christmas Eve so that no one has to cook.)

Step 2: Strategize 1-2-3

1. Budget- Create a budget that includes gifts, travel, activities and food.  Chances are that if you didn’t completely pay off your credit cards in 2009, you are still paying for last year’s Christmas!  More than anything, we all want our loved ones to be happy, be healthy and financially secure.  Sticking to your budget, regardless of what it is, is the key to long-term freedom. Your loved ones will understand and support you, as you would do for them.  It is not the perfect gift we crave, it is the soulful experience that we desire. And that experience is free!
2. Activities – Write a list of December  activities and break them down into categories; social commitments, kids’ activities, communication (calls and emails),  gift shopping, gift wrapping, grocery shopping, cleaning, and identify work projects you want to complete before the holidays.

3. Gift Giving – Create and review your gift exchange list. Consider whether the gift exchange is necessary or if there is an alternative way of expressing your gratitude for the relationship.

Step 3: Schedule and Implement

Take your streamlined activities list and block out specific time chunks on your calendar to complete each activity.  Work backwards from Christmas Day to determine what you need to do and by when in order to stay focused and organized.  Several unfinished tasks cause great stress. Group activities together.   ie: Specific days to complete work, all Christmas shopping and wrapping done over one weekend. Card writing done on one night, holiday phone calls or emails scheduled so that Christmas day is spent present with those in your home.

May your stocking be filled with the experience of Christmas that you desire!