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Stress Free Holidays

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Can you believe it! What happens to the time? This year we here at SpaFromScratch want are goddesses to have the best holiday season ever. We are going to examine potential holiday problems, create solutions to them, and give you back that Christmas spirit that sometimes seems to fade over the years.

Problem 1:

Not enough money for gifts


Consider gifts that cost no money. Give a gift of service. Do a needed repair job for a friend. Offer to baby sit for an evening.

Present gifts that cost very little. A tin of cookies or other baked goods is one possibility. A house plant makes a lovely gift and will cost very little. If you plan it right, you can start a number of plants at home (cost = 0). Purchase nice pots from the Salvation Army or Goodwill store and you have a great gift. Another inexpensive option is to create spa gifts such as lotions, creams, bath bombs, bath salts, diffusers and linen or body sprays.  Remember, spa gifts do not have to be loaded with exotic ingredients to be awesome.

Some large families draw names. The name you draw is the one person you purchase a gift for and limits are set on the maximum you can spend.

Household gifts can often be purchased slightly used for almost nothing. Sometimes these gifts can be higher in quality than a similar new item from a big box store.

If you have made a gift list enough in advance, you can purchase on layaway. This is a good option allowing you to pay a little at a time until your purchase is paid off.

If you shop online for the majority of your gifts you will generally save money because products are less expensive. Some online merchants even offer free shipping. Also, companies such as Kmart offer an online layaway program.

Remember, if someone thinks you spent too much on their gift they may feel bad that you spent so much.

Problem 2:

Not enough time for the holiday tasks (shopping, cooking, cleaning, wrapping, shipping, etc.)


The best solution to this problem is planning. Plan to do a little each day and the holidays will keep you joyous instead of stressful. Don’t forget to plan trips to maximize your time. For instance, say you stop at the shoe store to buy that gift of slippers when you’re on your way to the grocery store to buy your groceries.

If you shop from a list, you will spend less money and time than if you browse for gifts. A list will also help you plan your trips for maximum efficiency.

Another solution is delegation. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for help during the holidays.

  • Trade baby sitting with a friend (frees up time for shopping)
  • Ask your kids and husband for additional help around the house
  • Share the gift wrapping task with your family
  • If you think of a gift item that needs to be picked up, have your husband stop at the store on the way home from work. Usually stores will set items aside upon request. This makes it a quick stop for your husband.
  • If you write Christmas letters have your family help. My husband addresses the envelopes and my son stuffs and seals them.

Problem 3:



Visiting relatives can complicate your life, but they can also bring a lot of extra fun into the season. Include them in your activities. Instead of thinking of them as guest that need constant attention and entertainment, think of them as family and treat them that way. They will love you for it.

Problem 4:

Personal expectations and expectations of others


Be realistic as to what you can accomplish within a given period of time. Also be realistic as to how much you can afford to spend. Avoid trying to cram too much into a time slot. To help you with this, calculate how much time you think any activity will take. Allow 2 ½ times that for the activity. For instance, if you think an activity will take 1 hour, allow 2 ½ hours to get it done. This allows for unforeseen problems such as having to shop longer than expected, traffic snarls, bad weather etc.

If you’re planning a party, keep it simple and it will be just as enjoyable for your guests and a lot less stressful for you. After all, the reason for the party is to enjoy the guests.

If you’re planning a formal party, allow plenty of time and plan the elements of the party well in advance. Good planning = less stress. If a formal party doesn’t fit into your budget, stick to informal parties. Chips and dip don’t cost much. Caviar and exotic cheeses are expensive.

Dinner parties can be great fun and reasonable if you have your guests provide a portion of the meal. Plan them well.

Problem 5:

People with bah-humbug attitudes


Attitudes are choices. You choose to enjoy the holiday season, but someone close to you chooses to consider it a pain. Your best bet is to leave the person alone. Don’t argue with him or her as this will just make the person defensive. Instead, let him or her see you having fun. Surround yourself with other people who share your attitude. Enjoy those wonderful holiday shows. Listen to Christmas music. Have fun.

I put Christmas lights in our bedroom and leave them on the whole season (Thank goodness for LEDs). They greet me every night when I open the door to go to bed. I love to lie in bed just staring at them and thinking about all the wonderful events of the day.

Problem 6:



Create a holiday schedule and follow it. Don’t be so rigid with it that it causes you stress. The holidays are filled with unexpected events. I remember more than one year when the power went out while we had a turkey in the oven. Also, kids will surprise you at the last minute about school holiday events. And then there’s always the gift you can’t seem to find anywhere. Be prepared for the unexpected.

Problem 7:



Depression during the holidays is common for a number of reasons. Lack of money, feeling overwhelmed, and the most insidious of all, a sense of loss or loneliness; these can all bring on depression.

First try and identify what is depressing you. If it’s a lack of money or excessive stress, the solutions we offer in this post will help. If your depression comes from a sense of loss, think about what you have. Get together with loved ones and friends over coffee or tea. Keep the conversation positive and on current events. Most importantly, watch your thoughts. If you find your thinking edging toward “the good old days,” divert the thought with something that is happening or soon to happen that brings joy to your life.

If you live alone, there’s nothing quite like donating some of your time to benefit others. Giving is wonderful therapy for depression. It also has the added benefit of allowing you to build some awesome friendships.

Always remember to be aware of all the wonderful things in your life to be thankful for. Though you may be missing someone this season remember that memories of them keep them in our hearts. Some memories even warm the heart. 🙂


Lori’s holiday schedule for 2011:

(Tue)November 22: Send Christmas party invitations and look online for Black Friday sales. Make Christmas gift list for local friends and family.

My family’s Christmas party is in lieu of individual holiday gifts for acquaintances and neighbors. Also so the party doesn’t seem quite as expensive, I have been purchasing no perishable foods since October.

I peruse the Black Friday sale ads online to save time and money. This also helps me build our gift list. I don’t know about you, but when I go to the store without a list I end up spending a lot more money than I intended. I LOVE to shop. 🙂

NOTE: If any gift looks difficult to find, I will make a note of it and start searching online for it right away. One year I waited a bit too long and finding Tickle Me Elmo turned into a big problem. This has also happened to me with winter items such as slippers (my husband has a particular brand that he likes).

(Wed)November 23: Shop for Thanksgiving and make some food ahead of time.

This year we are having a potluck type of dinner. Each person attending will be responsible for at least one item on the menu. Genera, ly those that cook have a specialty and enjoy the opportunity to contribute. My mom, for instance, makes the most amazing cranberry salad I have ever tasted. Contributions from those attending dinner will cut down on cost and time. Those that can’t cook are responsible for beverages, condiments, veggie tray, canned appetizers (olives, baby corn, etc.). Children can set and clear the table.

(Fri)November 25: Shop black Friday sales and write Christmas letter.

After a day of shopping, it’s time for my husband and me to sit down, relax and write our Christmas letter. We always send a Christmas letter with our Christmas cards. I know sending Christmas cards may be a bit old-fashioned, but we like the tradition.

(Sun)November 27: Time to decorate. Usually, we would do this on Saturday, but this year Saturday is my husband’s birthday.

Christmas lights always help get me in the holiday spirit. We elicit the help of other family members and friends. We always have plenty of holiday beverages and treats. It is at this time we also schedule to help our friends and family members decorate their homes. Projects like this are always more fun with more people. An added bonus is you may get those taller individuals that can help place tree ornaments and lights. 🙂

I make a list of any ornaments that need replacing and pick them up during this week.

Some years the weather is so bad that we can’t hang the exterior lights. My workaround is to pay a couple of local teens to do the job. You don’t have to pay much, and teens are always looking for a little extra cash this time of year.

(Mon)November 28: Stuff and address Christmas cards.

My husband is usually in charge of addressing and signing the Christmas cards. His handwriting is so much better than mine. While he is doing that, I refine the Christmas letter and print it out.

(Tue)November 29: Build Christmas shopping list for out of area friends and relatives. Mail Christmas letters.

This can be a lot of fun. Often I will sit with my mom in a coffee shop, and we will go over gift ideas. Even mental shopping is fun for me. 🙂

This year we are going to the post office and pick up their flat rate boxes. The goal will be to personalize the gifts and get them all to fit neatly in the box.

Mom just finished writing a great book on gift wrapping design. So this year my packages will have an extra special touch. Usually, my husband does all the wrapping. He’s not the best, but he’s better at it than me. After reading mom’s book, I am, for the first time, actually looking forward to wrapping gifts. 🙂

(Fri)December 2: Shop for gifts to be shipped and gift wrap.

This year I will meet mom for lattes and we will start our out-of-towner shopping adventure. Also, we plan our Christmas party menu. Fun, fun, fun!!!

Dinner will be take-out pizza followed of course by a Christmas special. 🙂

(Sat)December 3: Family day.

Bake cookies with my son for his teachers and friends. Date night with my husband.

(Sun)December 4: Family dinner (mom and my brother usually come for dinner on Sundays) and gift wrapping.

Mom will come a bit early so we can get all of the out-of-town gifts wrapped, boxed and addressed.

(Mon)December 5: Take boxes to post office for delivery

It is always a relief to know that my out-of-town friends and family will have their gifts by Christmas. 🙂

(Wed)December 14: Shop for any remaining Christmas party supplies

This day includes peppermint mochas with mom followed by shopping. 🙂

(Thurs)December 15: Hair salon and spa day for mom and me.

(Fri)December 16: Prepare some of the food items for the party tomorrow. Attend my husband’s office party.

Some of the food items can be prepared in advance and placed on trays and covered. We always hold the party at my brother’s house (he lives next door and his house is larger). This works out well because the cooking and preparing can be done at my house so I don’t have to worry about the mess. 🙂

(Sat)December 17: Christmas party at 7 pm

Today is party day. Early in the day, I will help my brother spiffy up his house and then work with my mom at my house preparing food for the party. My son will also be home from school and can help (Shhhh. He doesn’t know this yet.) I look forward to this every year. 🙂

(Sun)December 18: Party recovery.

After every party, there is always clean up.  I will help my brother clean up his house then clean up my house. The rest of the day will be spent relaxing. No cooking today. It’s all about the party leftovers.  🙂

In the evening while sipping hot cocoa, I will go through the gift list and see what I have left to make or purchase. With only 6 days left until Christmas Eve, I don’t want to forget anything.

(Mon)December 19: Last minute gift shopping.

This is the day where I will pick up any miscellaneous gift items left on my shopping list. I will probably take my son shopping on this day. 🙂

(Tue)December 20: Christmas dinner plans.

My mom and I will have to head to the coffee shop for another peppermint mocha latte. While we’re there we will plan a menu and build a list for Christmas dinner.

(Wed)December 21: Christmas dinner shopping.

Mom and I will head to the store for the Christmas dinner shopping.

(Fri)December 23: It’s stocking stuffer day.

Today my son, brother, or mom will come with me to buy perishable gift items and stocking stuffers. Our tradition is that everyone in our family pulls a family members name from a bowl and this is the person’s socks/he is responsible for. Others can contribute to the sock, but you have to make sure it’s ready and by the fireplace Christmas morning.

Take home Asian food is on the menu for dinner tonight; TV dinners if people have been naughty. LOL

(Sat)December 24: Last minute gift wrapping and Christmas dinner shopping.

It seems like there’s always something I forget. So today will involve getting up a bit early, checking my shopping lists and heading to the store if anything has been forgotten. My husband and I usually do this together. This will give us some extra time together. Usually, Saturday is our date night. 🙂

A dinner of simple appetizers is on the menu for tonight, along with hot buttered rum and eggnog.


We love Christmas!

Now go have FUN and relax.