5 Steps to a Happy Holiday Season

5 Steps to a Happy Holiday SeasonI hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and was able to take some time to be with family and friends! Now that Thanksgiving is officially over, and we are properly stuffed full of turkey and pumpkin pie, it also means the race to Christmas is on. Christmas has always been magical to me, but it is also a busy and stressful time of the year for many of us too.

There is so much going on that it is easy to lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas and turn into a Grinch or Scrooge who dims everyone’s holiday cheer. I never want to become that person, so I developed a holiday plan that keeps me organized, sane and able to sincerely wish glad tidings to all during the next few weeks.

How to Stay Sane and Joyful this Christmas

It’s my hope that these steps can help you create a memorable and enjoyable holiday season for you and your family too.

Have a Holiday Budget

First and foremost, you need to have a holiday budget in place. Otherwise, it is very easy to overspend and give yourself the gift of debt, which no one wants. And remember, there is no rule that you have spend a fortune on gifts or even give gifts, especially to other adults.

Break your budget into these six categories:

  1. Food: Are you hosting holiday parties and family gatherings? Or baking treats for both presents and celebrations? Estimate your food costs (I recommend being generous here) and don’t be afraid to asks guests to pitch-in to help lower food costs and the amount of work you need to do.
  2. Gifts: Determine how much of your budget you will set aside for gifts, then break it down person-by-person. Remember, gifts mean a lot more to kids, then adults. In lieu of exchanging gifts with friends, you may want to instead plan to get together in January and find a fun way to celebrate your friendship. Don’t forget to include wrapping paper, bows, Christmas cards and stamps into your budget.
  3. Entertainment: What activities will your family enjoy during the holidays? Plan ahead to block time on your calendar and buy tickets in advance (and possibly cheaper).
  4. Travel: Will be you traveling for Christmas or is everyone coming to your home? Figure out what your travel costs are, if any. And don’t forget that you may be attending more parties during December, so you may need to increase your gas and babysitting budget. If guests will be staying at your home, you will likely have increased food costs and potentially entertainment costs too.
  5. Decorations: Being able to buy decorations after Christmas when they are heavily discounted is ideal, but not always possible. Make a list of things you need now and what you can wait to buy until after Christmas.
  6. Holiday Emergency Fund: It seems like no matter how well you plan, something always comes up. It’s why I suggest setting aside a little extra for an emergency fund specific to the holidays. This way when things happen or opportunities arise, you at least won’t have to stress over paying for it or can say “yes” guilt-free.

Teachable Money Moment: Don’t keep all of this a secret from your kids. Let them know you budget for the holidays (although you may not want to tell them how much you have set aside for their gifts, especially if the big guy still visits) and ask them for input. Perhaps, they can help plan the menu for Christmas and look for ways to lower costs, etc.

Related Posts:

How To Create Your Child’s Holiday Gift list
5 Holiday Teachable Money Moments for Your Kids

Don’t Over-Schedule Yourself

Christmas was busy when it was just Chris and me, now with the girls — it’s even busier. I love the hustle and bustle of Christmas and am honored by every invitation we receive. I also know that I cannot say “yes” to everyone too. This can be hard because you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but it is more than okay to graciously decline an invitation or two or three. We like to map out our weekends in advance, so we know what events we have scheduled, where we have some open times and when we are not available. It’s also important to me that we schedule some down-time together as a family too.

Accept Help from Others

For women, in particular, there has always been a certain amount of pressure to do everything by yourself. We always wonder, “How does she do it?” Well, the answer is simple. She asks for help. There are some things on my list that I absolutely must do myself, while there are other things, like baking extra holiday treats, cleaning my house and so on, that I can delegate. Yes, there is a cost to having others help me, but there is also a cost to me if I try to do everything too. There are certain things that are a part of our family traditions that I do make with the girls, such as orange marmalade. But I also don’t feel bad for picking up some extra holiday treats at our favorite bakery either.

Focus on Family Holiday Traditions

This is so important to me. I hear a lot of people complain about how Christmas has become so consumer-driven and lost a lot of meaning. I don’t disagree, which is why we make such a point to emphasis our family holiday traditions. As the girls have gotten older, some traditions have evolved and others have stayed exactly the same. What matters to me is that the girls know what Christmas means in our home and how we honor that meaning as a family through our traditions. It’s my hope that one day, when they have families of their own, they will continue many of these traditions with their kids.

To Have Fun

Because we are running here and there and everywhere and have so much on our plates, it’s easy to go into task mode where you’re just checking things off your list. I understand because the holiday to-do list is long. But don’t get so caught up in making everything perfect or getting things done that you forget to have fun and enjoy the holidays too. The girls are growing so fast and I don’t want to miss a moment with them, so I remind myself to slow down and enjoy the moment versus thinking about what we have to do or go next. I am grateful for my family and our holiday celebrations and know one of the best ways to actually celebrate the holiday season, is to enjoy it and have fun.

Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas

Christmas is truly a magical time of the year from both the young and young at heart. Don’t let the busyness of the season rob you of your holiday spirit. These tips can help you stay on top of everything going on while stilling having fun.

How do you stay sane during the busy holiday season? Share your best tips in the comments below.


November 30, 2015  •  24 Comments  •  Christmas

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  1. Monday, November 30th, 2015
    Great tips, Shannon! It's so difficult to not over-schedule. Even if you are going to 3 or 4 events this Holiday season it can quickly become exhausting. My wife and I set up our Christmas present budget last night so here's to sticking to it!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
      Good luck sticking to your budget, DC! I'm sure you'll do great. When you know how much you have to available, it becomes much harder to knowingly overspend. :) And yes, it is very difficult to not over-schedule because there is so much going on and things you want to do. It's not easy but you have to prioritize or you will drive yourself crazy.
  2. Monday, November 30th, 2015
    I read a fb post recently where someone was giving away a Christmas tree "to anyone who is on a budget". I cringed, because no matter how much money you have, you should be on a budget! Everyone needs to plan where their money goes -- even if they have a lot of it.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
      Absolutely, Natalie! Unfortunately, people still tend to think budgets are for those who are struggling or in debt. While everyone, as you said, rich or poor, should have a budget to follow. You definitely want to know where your money is going!
  3. Monday, November 30th, 2015
    Having a plan and know it's okay to say "no" you don't have to committed to or attend everything this Holiday season. You want the season to be special no over scheduled.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
      You definitely don't have to say "yes" to invitation, even though it can be incredibly hard to do so! Like you, I want the season to special, not stressful!
  4. Monday, November 30th, 2015
    I definitely do not over schedule myself. I say no or maybe (unless they need an accurate head count in which I almost always say no) until that day. I think that's how so many people end up getting sick this time of year.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
      Very true, Tonya. Many people run themselves down and wind-up spending Christmas in bed with a bad cold or flu. Been there and why I try really hard not to let myself get too rundown and tired.
  5. Monday, November 30th, 2015
    Great tips Shannon! We do much of this to keep things relatively calm during the holidays. I love how you break down the budget into the different categories as it can be so easy for something that seems small to add up over the course of the month. Thankfully our extended family tends to travel during Thanksgiving so most of the time Christmas is relatively laid back allowing us to spend to spend time together as a family and focus on traditions we've created over the years.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
      Thanks, John! I've learned the hard way to not make one lump sum Christmas budget because you inadvertently forget something, and spend too much on presents. December is such a busy month for us between school activities, holiday parties and Taylor's birthday but we do our best to stay organized and focused on what really matters.
  6. Monday, November 30th, 2015
    Remembering to have fun and to still enjoy yourself is so very important. Too many get caught up in buying presents and spending money, when there are more important things to focus on.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
      Exactly, Michelle. There is so much emphasis on buying and receiving that people lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas. This can truly be the most wonderful time of the year, but you have to give yourself the space to enjoy it.
  7. Monday, November 30th, 2015
    I think it is definitely easy to get stressed out this time of year, which is why it is so important to have some "down-time". The world is not going to end if you plop down on the couch and have some hot cocoa and watch a movie or two. If you don't take care of yourself, you'll end up the worse for wear, and probably get sick :(
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
      Absolutely, Mackenzie. It is critical that people give themselves permission to relax and take a breather from all the holiday festivities. I know so many people who get sick from trying to do much and end-up missing out on the things that matter most.
  8. Monday, November 30th, 2015
    These are such good tips, and too easily forgotten. I especially liked the parts about budgeting for holiday food, travel, and activities; sharing with kids about the cost of Christmas (within reason); and not over-scheduling.

    I keep a Christmas budget spreadsheet with everyone's names, gifts, and price, and update it each year. Having the names and last year's gift ideas and total spent helps me have some starting point for each new shopping season.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
      Thanks, Kalie! Great point that once you create a list of people you buy for and how much you spend per person, you don't have to redo the list every year. Just make any necessary adjustments and you're set! Thanks for stopping by and commenting, I appreciate it!
  9. Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015
    One thing I LOVE about being self-employed is that the entire month of December is no longer stuffed with work events. I used to dread the holidays because I had a work event every single weekend for the entire month. Now I can actually relax.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
      Wow - your former workplace must have had a ton of parties! :) Our weekends are still jam-packed, but we try not to go overboard, which can be really difficult sometimes. As the girls have gotten older, their social calendars and activities have also increased, which you still have a few years to go with your girls, so enjoy those relaxing weekends while they last!
  10. Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015
    It is my goal to simplify. I was talking with my wife the other night and we couldn't think of things to get each other. Life is good and buying something just doesn't fulfill us. Time with family and helping our daughter to grow just brings the ultimate satisfaction. Seems kind of boring, but it really is what makes us happy. Holidays can be so stressful so we're just trying to keep it simple and nice.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
      Love that you and your wife have such open conversations with each other and know what makes you fulfilled and happy. Keeping it simple and nice sounds like a great plan!
  11. Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015
    This is just what I needed to hear. I definitely need to work on most of these, but I've got the budget down. :) The hardest thing for me is taking a break and not over scheduling myself.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
      With a name like Budget Blonde, I know you have your holiday budget mastered! :) I think over-scheduling is particularly tough this time of year. There is so much fun stuff to do and it can be hard to say "no" but give yourself permission to do so and prioritize what matters most to your family this Christmas.
  12. Friday, December 4th, 2015
    I am all about the importance of budgets especially during the holiday season. The last few years Will believed in Santa we told him that Santa had a budget per kid because there was no way he could get all of those gifts on one sleigh. Now we still have the budget and we apply it to the four gift plan 1) something you want 2) something you need 3) something to wear 4) something to read. My son never had a bad holiday on a budget.
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan