I love the holidays. Like really love them. When my husband and I moved to Denver and bought our first house, I was already planning how I could host as many gatherings as possible and flex my party hosting skills. I had visions of the Home Alone party Kevin throws to ward off the burglars — except mine included actual people and macaroni was not on the menu. But, shocker…that isn’t what happened. Spending way too much money, time and energy on things that really didn’t matter is what actually happened.
Instead of enjoying my friends and family (and frankly being grateful for everything), I spent the days leading up to the event stressing out about how clean the house was, deciding if the table runner matched (but not too much), and basically driving myself to exhaustion. And then once the day arrived, I was too concerned with making sure everything looked perfect the entire day that I would get to the evening and not remember a thing.
Things had to change because, well, I was really missing the point of the entire holiday and not recognizing just how much I had to be grateful for. So, I created some ground rules for myself to get through the holidays without busting my budget and feeling stressed out.
#1. I Committed To Martha Stewart Being Disappointed In Me
You know what I’m talkin’ about! I swear the first few years I hosted a holiday dinner, I was DEAD SET on making everything from scratch and having the perfect-looking table with dinnerware that was stylishly mismatched (you know the look). And every year, it resulted in me spending too much money on things I didn’t need, staying up way too late the night before, stressing the morning of, and being exhausted by the time I got to the actual dinner. So, I decided that if I was doing something that would make Martha Stewart proud…I was probably spending too much time and money on it. So that meant allowing guests to bring food (making a Google sheet for a sign up is perfect) and releasing my “made from scratch” dreams.
#2. I Plan My Regular Meals The Week Of And A Few Days After The Holiday
You know what happens the week of a holiday? Everything. Everything happens and throws you off your schedule. And then all of a sudden, you find yourself eating out (or not eating) and feeling awful by the time you get to the actual holiday. This, my friend, is impacting your time, your energy and your wallet. To avoid this, I plan my meals the week of a holiday the same as any week with an added “what can make this easier” question. Frozen veggies? Done. Crockpot? Done. Throw everything in a bowl meal? I love it. I also plan a few meals after the holiday because for me, I know I won’t want to leave the house (we don’t really do gifts in my household, so I don’t need to get out in the holiday sales madness). Taking 15 minutes a few days ahead to plan for your life around the holiday will be a game changer.
#3. I Schedule The Day Like Air Traffic Control
You would think I was landing hundreds of planes at JFK the way I schedule the timing of the food, but you know what? This is what allows me to relax. If I don’t do this, I’m constantly worried if I’m “supposed” to be doing something or if I’m forgetting to put something in the oven. Also, unless you have a double oven, it’s a game of Tetris to figure out how everything can get cooked and heated up when you have a giant turkey roasting. So, I write the schedule out on a piece of paper with a big Sharpie, and then I put it on the oven hood with a magnet. You know what is also great about this? Anyone who wants to help can see the schedule and pitch in if they want. And usually, they want to, because guests really love to be part of the action (and I love the company in the kitchen) — so make their dreams come true, friend.
#4. I Pre-Cook Like A MoFo
I used to be terrified to pre-make something because I feared when it was heated it up it wouldn’t taste the same. But you know what? I was the only one who could tell. Pre-cooking not only frees up more time during the actual holiday, it also helps manage the congestion in the kitchen and eliminates the “oh crap…” moment on the holiday when you realize you forgot an ingredient (if I had a nickel). I remember the first holiday I didn’t feel exhausted after dinner, and I didn’t even know what to do with myself. Actually, that’s a lie. I watched Elf and didn’t even fall asleep.
#5. I Plan My Workouts For The Week Of A Holiday And A Few Days After
I don’t make myself crazy about working out over the holidays, but since it is part of my weekly routine, I like to keep it as much as possible. This helps me stay grounded and calm…two essential ingredients to enjoying the holidays. Maybe I take an extra long walk with the dog or invite anyone to join me for a stroll after dinner. I just commit to moving and getting some fresh air, and that seems to make all the difference.
Having a house, food, friends, and family any time of the year let alone just during the holidays is a privilege. Having a job that allows you to take the days off to be with my friends and family is a privilege. If this is hitting home for you, decide to commit to focusing on the things that really matter to you this holiday season. And if you are really feeling it, go make a donation or perform an act of kindness to get in the holiday spirit.
Brianna Firestone is the founder of The School of Betty, a platform that empowers women to create better relationships with their money, time, and energy so they can build financial freedom and lessen stress. Download her 5 Actions to a Badass Money Relationship here.
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