• Structure your budget for the weeks between mid-November and the first working week in January.  An additional sanity-maker is to plan on an austere January, such as the 21-day Financial Fast suggested by Michelle Singletary in the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/31/AR2009123103495.html
  • Plan your time and mark holiday preparations on your calendar, setting aside blocks of time for food holiday food shopping and preparation, entertainment planning, travel, and gift buying and wrapping.
  • Negotiate with family members (including your spouse) about how many gifts and how much money you will spend on each other.  One of the greatest gifts my extended family has given each other is NO GIFTS.  Being freed from getting 12 gifts for the adults leaves time and money to focus on kids, as well as on shared experences, such as going to the theater, that no one will have to return or store.
  • Discuss with your close friends and family which holiday activities are the most important to you.  If you are traveling, plan visits with friends and extended family members in advance.
  • Simplify your plans.  For example, can you send out annual Valentine’s Day cards instead of holiday cards, so that you can use that time and expense for holiday activites?
  • Advertise your plans to your children, family, and friends.  If you are traveling back to your home town, tell your parents in advance when you plan to visit your high school or college friends.  Mention that you are sending out Valentine’s Day cards instead of Happy Holiday cards this year.


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