Category Archives: Simple Life

8 Tips for Keeping it Simple at Christmas

Every year, Friends got a lot of mileage out of holiday angst in their Thanksgiving episodes.

There’s an expectation that major holidays are a time to celebrate with family and friends. And that’s not a bad thing. However, bringing together a group of people with a range of ideas and expectations as to how the holiday should be celebrated can lead to stress, discontent, and a less-than-stellar time of celebration.

A little planning will go a long way to minimize the relationship friction which can occur.

Here are eight tips to help keep things simple at Christmas.

  1. Find out the expectations up front. When you start planning who is going to be visiting at Christmas, find out what their expectations are.
  2. Coordinate everyone’s expectations. Create a master list. Figure out which expectations are similar; which are different; which can be done individually; and which are group activities.
  3. Decide what you are going to do. Create a schedule. You’re not going to be able to meet every expectation of every person. There’s only so much time, so put the time to the best use.
  4. Simplify the plans. The less complex an activity is, the more likely it will be enjoyed by all.
  5. Decide who will help with each activity. Let the visitors know that their help is needed if expectations are to be met.
  6. Don’t do everything together. If half the group wants to go skating and the other half to a carol service, let them go. Don’t try and force everyone to share all the activities.
  7. Do less. Figure out which things are necessary to do, which would be nice to do, which can be put off for a few days. The vacuuming can wait a couple of days so the group can go skating on Boxing Day.
  8. Enjoy. The whole point of getting together during the holidays is to enjoy yourself and each other’s company. Don’t fill the schedule so full that there’s no time to visit. Don’t make activities so complex that you’re exhausted at the end of the day.

Celebrations don’t need to be high-stress times. Figure out what’s important, plan, and plan early. Then sit back and get the most enjoyment out of the holiday.

How to Save Money on Christmas Spending

Work from a Budget

Make a list of everyone you plan to give holiday gifts to this year with an estimate of what you want to spend. Add a small buffer for unexpected gifts for people you forgot to include, or for people who unexpectedly gave you a gift and you feel you must reciprocate. A gift card or homemade Christmas baking works well for these situations.

Research Ahead of Time

Spend some time getting gift ideas for everyone on your list. Once you have an idea of what you’re going buy, comparison shop on-line.

Pay Cash

It’s easy to overspend when you’re charging purchases to your credit card. When the money is coming right out of your bank account, you’re more likely to spend less.

Organize Your Shopping Time

The easiest way to stick to your Christmas gift budget is to block out a couple of specific times to shop and complete it during those times. Browsing leads to overbuying. If you plan to shop online, make that one of your designated shopping sessions.

Don’t Get Sucked in by a Sale

That foot massager may be a great price, but does it fit your budget? Does anyone on your list want a foot massager? If not, leave the “bargain” behind.

Don’t Buy for Yourself

It’s easy to see things you would like, while you’re out buying gifts for others. Even if it’s something you need, ignore it. Your bank account will be in better shape if you don’t give in to temptation.

Track Your Spending

When you see the numbers adding up, you’re less likely to overspend. Your log can be compared to your budget to ensure that you’re sticking to your plan.

Shop All Year

Shopping under pressure leads to overspending. Keep your eyes open all year round for sale items that will work for your gift requirements. If you shop early, you’ll save money and feel less stressed as the holidays approach.

Use eBay and Craigslist

Often you can find brand-new merchandise at bargain prices.

7 Steps Towards a More Satisfying Life

Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, of the University of California, has conducted considerable research in the area of personal satisfaction. The following seven points summarize her findings.

There’s a lot of common sense wrapped up in these steps. Unfortunately, our calendars and to-do lists often get in the way of common sense. If you find you “can’t get no satisfaction”, try any or all of the following.

1. Count your blessings. One way to do this is with a “gratitude journal” in which you write down three to five things for which you are currently thankful—from the mundane (your peonies are in bloom) to the magnificent (a child’s first steps). Do this once a week, say, on Sunday night. Keep it fresh by varying your entries as much as possible.

2. Practice acts of kindness. These should be both random (let that harried mom go ahead of you in the checkout line) and systematic (bring Sunday supper to an elderly neighbour). Being kind to others, whether friends or strangers, triggers a cascade of positive effects—it makes you feel generous and capable, gives you a greater sense of connection with others and wins you smiles, approval and reciprocated kindness—all happiness boosters.

3. Savour life’s joys. Pay close attention to momentary pleasures and wonders. Focus on the sweetness of a ripe strawberry or the warmth of the sun when you step out from the shade. Some psychologists suggest taking “mental photographs” of pleasurable moments to review in less happy times.

4. Learn to forgive. Let go of anger and resentment by writing a letter of forgiveness to a person who has hurt or wronged you. Inability to forgive is associated with persistent rumination or dwelling on revenge, while forgiving allows you to move on.

5. Invest time and energy in friends and family. Where you live, how much money you make, your job title and even your health have surprisingly small effects on your satisfaction with life. The biggest factor appears to be strong personal relationships.

6. Take care of your body. Getting plenty of sleep, exercising, stretching, smiling and laughing can all enhance your mood in the short term. Practiced regularly, they can help make your daily life more satisfying.

7. Develop strategies for coping with stress and hardships. There is no avoiding hard times. Religious faith has been shown to help people cope, but so do the secular beliefs enshrined in axioms like “This too shall pass” and “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” The trick is that you have to believe them.