In my book “My Parent Plan” I discuss that making a plan before doing an activity will help gather your thoughts, consider options and make a strategy for best use of your time. Of course, holiday social and shopping time are one of the top activities that benefit from a plan. Here are some of my tips:
1. Time for Charity: Holiday time can be hard for everyone, but especially those in need. We decided early on to get our kids involved in volunteering with charities during the holidays. Whether it be collecting food for a food bank, cooking food for shelters or assisting with charity drives, there are many options to give to charity. We are excited this year to buy the food donation bags at our local grocery store for Thanksgiving and cook along with my fellow local community members for a homeless shelter on Christmas.
2. Time to Pay It Forward: Along with giving to charity, the holidays (and all year round) is a great time to pay it forward by helping family, friends and others that need assistance. I decided this holiday would be a good time to help some of my friends that are returning back to work learn computer skills. A few of my friends specifically asked me to teach them to use Microsoft Office because it is listed as a skill needed for the job they are interviewing for.
3. Time To Show Teachers and Family Service Providers Your Thanks: Holiday time is the time I like show the people that contribute to making my families life more special – special as well. Gift cards seem to be the most popular gift, but I suggest putting the receipt with the card in the envelope just in case the card has an error. I bought a gift card for a teacher one year and she returned it to me (thanking me and apologizing) because it did not work. I had to take it back to the store and to re-issue the card because I had the receipt. I felt bad, so now I make sure to get individual receipts for each gift card and include it in the gift. Another option is sending online gift cards.
4. Make A Social Plan: Holiday time is the best time to turn off spending time on your online networks and turn on spending time in real life social events. When you are with family and friends, try to do activities where everyone can join in. There are also many other options for holiday social events. One example is finding other people with similar hobbies. Our family is taking up indoor rock climbing and ice skating over the holidays and finding other families to come with us. There are local email groups and general sites like Meetup.org that provide groups and activities for every type of interest.
5. Make A Purchase Plan: In my book “My Parent Plan” I have a chapter on creating a Purchase Plan to identify the purchases you need to make over the year to figure out the best timing and family budget. For example, because we identified that an electronic drum set was on our family purchase plan for this year and realized it was expensive, we decided to give it to our boys to share as a holiday present. Our boys had to wait awhile to get it – but it is something they will really value at holiday time as a gift! Or my husband made a request months ago to have a work area in the garage to do building projects with our kids. So I looked at converting our broken down utility cart in the garage into a workspace by purchasing a garage system from an organizational store. That space will not only be a special present, but give year around joy. A post on Square mentioned gifts for the Junior Chef, which is a great idea because gifts that also support kids spending time cooking with family members is something kids will never get tired of.
Setting a family budget may also help balance the need to over-shop with what is really in the budget. Family and friends always appreciate a gift, but not if it is at the expense of a friend overspending past their budget. There are also ways to offer your time that in the end is most valuable thing, such as “drop your kids off at our house for movie night” or a “one hour how to play guitar” teaching certificate. Or instead of impulse buying items just to check off the list, research budget friendly alternatives instead.
6. Make A Shopping Plan: No matter what your holiday plans are, most people need to do some sort of shopping. If you don’t want to shop during the Black Friday weekend then don’t feel the pressure to do it. Shopping with the crowds can be stressful and you may not get the best deals. A post on CBS gave the following reasons not to shop on Black Friday (which I agree): ” Door-busters are mainly second-tier products , you can find some of the same deals online, you’re more likely to overspend, layaway may not be available and return policies may be stricter.” But if you do enjoy shopping over Black Friday weekend, join in the fun but try to still create a shopping plan to check as much off your list as possible. And make sure to wear comfortable shoes..
If you, like many this Thanksgiving weekend, are to busy to shop – don’t worry because next Monday is CyberMonday – the day that online deals are posted for cyber shoppers. Mashable posted about tips to shop discreetly at work for Cyber Monday. But really shopping at night during your free time will be just as effective – and not have the danger of losing a job that is needed to pay for the things you are buying! Deals are even online now so you can start by visiting your favorite online sites and general deals sites to look for their Cyber Monday (or Cyber week!) sections.
7. Make A Technology Shopping Plan: If technology is on your holiday shopping list, it is important to make a technology shopping plan. Because there are so many types of technology, the first step in holiday technology gift giving should be to understand the workflow of the people you are giving the gifts to. What technology do they already have? How old is their technology? What types of things do they want to start doing (such as getting in shape, getting into photography, listening to more music, making videos). When do they use technology, is it on the go or mostly at home? What’s not working for the technology they are using now?
Then once you understand their interests and workflow, the next step is to understand what technology the recipient of your holiday gift already has. Do they need more features and functionality? Would they benefit from an upgrade or a new device? Are there new accessories for the devices? Are their new colors or styles out for accessories they already have? Do they have specific activities that could benefit from a specific accessory (such as a waterproof sports earphones good for jogging)? Are there ways to personalize technology accessories to give it a personal touch (like a smartphone case that has a family picture or kid’s art)? Can a new device take the place of multiple old devices? For example, can an updated tablet, computer or smartphone offer more productivity and entertainment options then the multiple devices they currently use?
Best yet, for families it can be a great time to “pool” gifts to invest in technology that can benefit everyone. For example, replace an older TV with a new internet enabled TV to allow entertainment streaming. Replace an older family computer with a new computer that has a big enough screen to also watch movies online. Is there a specific teen in the family that may benefit from a smartphone to help manage their “own” schedule with an online calendar and using dictation apps to help write their papers? Then that would also help their “parents” by enabling their teen to be more independent. We did this with our teen by updating his phone from a regular phone to a smartphone (with a data plan) so he could use productivity apps for school and an online calendar to help manage his schedule. We had to make sure he followed appropriate smartphone online safety etiquette and family technology rules, but after we set that up it was a huge benefit not only to our son but also our family schedule.
8. Make A Plan to Live In The Moment: Most of all, take time during the holiday to live in the moment, take a walk, connect with your loved ones or meet new people. Kimberley Clayton Blaine has a great quote on the Simple Reminder’s website that I remind myself of on a regular basis -especially now with one relative that just passed away from Ovarian Cancer and another that is still fighting bravely. When I feel frustrated or get wrapped up in things that are not important in the “long term”, I remind myself that when waking up each morning it is a gift. I remind myself to treasure the moments with family and friends. I remind myself:
9. Make A Plan To Exercise: On the prior note of keeping perspective in life, I try every day to do some sort of exercise – even if that “exercise” is taking a quick walk, doing situps and pushups on the floor for 10 minutes, stretching or jogging. Even better are those special days when the stars align and I have time to take a hike with family or friends, go to a group class or working out at my gym. Days when I am with family, I try to find activities that the whole family will enjoy that is also exercise. But the reality of the holidays is that time is tight, so just fitting in some sort of exercise when I can is my mantra. Even if it means parking really far from the store to fit in a power walk in the parking lot!
10. Make A Plan To Just Breath: If you do every feel stressed, remember to just breath..