The holidays are upon us. How is it that stores start stocking Christmas decorations before Halloween even happens? To me, this is madness that just adds to the stress and pressure of the holidays.
But the holidays don’t have to be so stressful. Here are my 5 tips for a quiet, simple holiday season.
Avoid shopping in stores
Shop only for necessities, and do it at off-times, like early in the morning on a weekday or weeknight. Don’t set foot in ANY stores on Black Friday. See my reasons why in this post: 4 Little-Known Facts About Black Friday (and how to sidestep Black Friday madness).
If you have presents to buy, there are tons of great presents you can get that don’t require you to set foot into a store that could be overrun by other shoppers. In case you missed it, read my last post, 13 Best Gifts for Minimalists (which has great gift ideas for anyone really).
2. Don’t do the cooking
For years, Ryan and I have found an Indian restaurant that’s open on Thanksgiving and that’s where we’ve eaten. We started doing the same thing on Christmas, too. They usually have delicious buffets at reasonable prices, and all we have to do is show up. We often see large families there, and they are having a great time. Nobody is getting up to serve others, like commonly happens with home-cooked meals. Everyone is present to enjoy each other’s company.
There are plenty of options besides Indian food, if that isn’t your thing. You may have to make reservations in advance, but many restaurants have special holiday menus.
If you’d really rather be at home, there’s no shame in getting some help. Order the whole meal, pre-cooked from a grocery store. Or, have a potluck so you only have to cook one or two things.
Years ago, when I lived in a big house, I routinely cooked large meals for both holidays and dinner parties. While I enjoyed the cooking, the serving, the dishes, and the clean-up were exhausting. If you’re having a big event at home, it might be worth the money to hire servers, or just a cleaning service for the next day.
3. Make holiday travel easy
According to a Forbes article last month, the best time to buy plane tickets for this holiday season is 62 days in advance, with the optimal period being 21-110 days from your travel date. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days to fly, but of course the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is not a good day. Christmas lands on a Tuesday this year so I’d imagine the Wednesday after Christmas will also be busy. While holiday travel will still be busy and expensive, avoiding travel on these days should help a little.
Holidays are horrible for commute traffic as well. When I had to commute into San Francisco for work, I learned my lesson the first year when it took nearly 3 hours to get home on the day before Thanksgiving. After that, I took a bus to and from work on that day every year. It still took a long time but at least I didn’t have to concentrate on traffic. I listened to music or read a book.
If you’re an RVer, booking campgrounds during the holidays is especially difficult because they are full and more expensive. To avoid this problem, we are either in a campground for the month, or off the grid (boondocking) when any holiday comes around. Our secret weapon is free casino parking. For more tips, see my post about Affordable RV Travel.
4. Try meditation
Perhaps you need to quiet your mind so it can translate into peace around you. There are plenty of free apps out there that can help if you’re a newbie, or you can sign up for a class if you want some extra guidance and accountability.
I find that traditional meditation makes me very relaxed—so relaxed, in fact that I fall asleep. Which is great, but not really the point. So I use an amazing, free guided recording that also combines gratitude, forgiveness and visualization (all in 15 minutes). I talk more about it in my post: How I Use a Morning Routine to Reduce Stress.
5. Don’t celebrate the holidays when everybody else does
The shopping, the cooking, the travel…if you really want to do it, does it have to be at the same time everyone else does it?
Self-improvement guru Jon Butcher has a great tradition with his family. They live all over the place, and he, his wife and kids live in other countries for half of the year. So instead of trying to get together over multiple holidays, they decided to combine it all in a single event they call “Alladay.”
They get together (I think during the summer) in one place with the whole family. Easter egg hunts are done in Halloween costumes, and birthday cakes and Christmas presents are combined. That sounds like fun!
There is, of course, a less popular route, but one Ryan and I prefer. We don’t routinely celebrate holidays in the traditional way. We don’t exchange gifts, or plan elaborate meals. Often we’re not near family, so it isn’t a time spent with anyone but each other.
I love my family, but I’m not good with large groups. It’s very tiring. I’d much rather see people as individuals or couples. Trying to pick and choose which people we see during the holidays can get complicated. So instead, we forego the holidays and just see people when we’re coming through town for casual get-togethers. The pressure is off on everyone to provide gifts, make special meals, or wade through large crowds.
I hope this holiday season is peaceful for you, no matter what you choose.