Monday, November 10, 2014

Ways to Have a Happier (and more giving) Holiday Season

Ways to Have a Happier (and more giving) Holiday Season

If you are like me, you begin getting into the holiday season as soon as the Pumpkin Spiced coffee arrives back on the scene and there is a little chill in the air. Suddenly the trees are shed of their colorful leaves and the sweaters come out of storage. All too quickly we begin to make our Christmas lists and thoughts of Thanksgiving are brushed aside as we begin to busy ourselves. It seems that this time arrives earlier and earlier each year.

While we should be relishing in our first seasonal break, turkey and football, the clock begins to move at dizzying speed as retailers stock their shelves with holiday décor. Christmas trees are for sale while Thanksgiving items are being sold at discount prices on the next isle and remnants of Halloween costumes litter the clearance racks.

What does this mean for the consumer? It means that we begin to feel pressure – pressure to shop and shop some more. Pressure to get everything on our mile long list and pressure to buy for everyone we know. Thanksgiving becomes a blur of eating and the next day brings Black Friday and all of the craziness that it entails.

With a little thought and careful planning, we will not get caught up in the hustle and bustle and will be able to enjoy what the Christmas season is really all about – giving to others and enjoying quality time with family and friends. There are several ways to achieve a happy and joyous Christmas season without going broke and without feeling like you didn’t get a break at all.

Create a budget and do not waver
Christmas does come at the same time each year! If you being in January budgeting for the extra costs of Christmas, you will not need to add up unneeded credit card debt. Make a list for who you are buying gifts for and set limits. One option to prevent buying a present for everyone in your entire extended family is to have a name drawing and buy only for the person you choose.

Calculate hidden costs
Hidden costs of the holiday season can include elevated electricity bills due to guests and/or holiday décor, gasoline costs from sitting in heavy traffic and endless trips to the store, shipping costs if you procrastinate, additional grocery costs due to visitors, parties and large meals as well as giftwrap, Christmas cards and stamps. Remember to add these into your budget.
  
Shop for well thought gifts
Many of us can get caught up in the “sales” including Black Friday. But, these shopping trips can lead to overspending and impulse buying. Really give thought to the gift buying process. Give gifts that will truly mean something to the recipients. Think about what would make someone’s life easier like a subscription to a dinner preparation center like Dream Dinners in Cumming or a prepaid maid service. Also think about that person’s hobbies or something they have always really wanted to do but haven’t.

Also put thought into where you shop. Some businesses use part of their proceeds to help others and pay it forward and many are Buy One, Give One companies. Some examples are Toms Shoes and Sunglasses, Blue Silk Scarves, Burt’s Bees, Blanket America, Roma Boots, Noonday (jewelry), Sseko (sandals/purses), Tukula (accessories), Better Life Bags (Detroit based), Not For Sale (T-shirts), Hydros (water bottles), Krochet Kids (clothing), Sevenly (clothes), Barnabas Clothing, Hiptipico, Red Earth Trading Company (jewelry), and The Honest Company (organic baby care items).

Local places that give back include: The Boutique by No Longer Bound (http://nlbboutique.com/) on Peachtree Parkway where all of the items are created or built by men recovering from addiction, Ten Thousand Villages at The Collection which helps eradicate poverty in developing countries, and  Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee located on Post Road.

By choosing to shop for gifts with these companies, you are helping to give back to more than just the gift recipient.

Donate to local charities or Sponsor a Charitable Organization
There will be countless opportunities to donate money and items to local charities during this time of year. We may feel the pull to donate to every cause, but this is unrealistic. As a family, choose one or two charities to participate in for the season. Remember that donating does not only include monetary donations. Donating of coats and clothing from your own home or donating of toys can also be an option. Serving at a local food bank also cost nothing and is a great way to get involved. These donations of items you already own and giving of your time also allow your children to see how rewarding giving to others can be. A comprehensive list for Cumming and Atlanta can be found at ForsythForFamilies.com. Many local churches also have ways to help and donate.
Other charities that will keep you giving all year include sponsorship of an International child through Compassion International (http://www.compassion.com/) or World Vision (http://www.worldvision.org/).
You can also order your Christmas cards through an organization such as Children’s Healthcare, UNICEF, ShopDiabetes.org, Cards That Give and St. Jude’s Recycled Card Program.
Take time for yourself to alleviate stress

Don’t feel pressured to attend every holiday party you are invited too. Take some time to just relish the season with those who are the closest to you. Enjoy the lights of your tree and the warmth from your fire for a little while.

If you follow these guidelines and your holiday season becomes more about giving to others than rushing from store to store to get that last minute gift, you really will feel that you have used this holiday season to do something good for others and you will not be focused on what your holiday could’ve been. 

Disclaimer: Holiday and Christmas were used in this article, but many of these ideas can also be used for your family even if your family celebrates something other than Christmas such as Hanukkah.





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