By GalTime Consumer Watchdog, Mary Schwager
'Tis the season to be AHHHHH! STRESSED OUT !!! Jolly? Who's jolly? I'm not jolly, I'm wondering how the month of December went by so fast! Was it all those holiday parties? Did too many martinis make me too tired to hit the mall? Now I've got how many shopping days left? Am I the only one feeling this way?
Please don't tell me you're one of those people who started their shopping last January during the post holiday sales! If you are, just go read another article here on Galtime.com. Well, actually, that kind of good advice I may want to consider next year and it's one of the tips Lisa Reynolds, RedPlum's "Mom Saver-in-Chief", recommends to avoid to the holiday mad dash. "While holidays are a very festive time, they can also be an equally stressful time. One of the chief causes of holiday stress is that feeling of simply not having enough time and overextending yourself financially, too. By putting some strategies in place, you can take the stress out of the season. A little planning ahead can help you wrap up some of the things on your "to-do" list ahead of time to keep your stress level under control."
Related: 'Green' Gift Wrapping Alternatives
Hmmm, repeat after me: "My New Year's resolution is to follow these tips, be organized, take Lisa's advice, which points out you don't have to spend a fortune on gifts and even entertaining. Take it away Lisa:
- Get organized and take notes. NO, it's not too late--- even for last minute gifts. Organization can save you time and money - something we are always short of around the holidays. Consider keeping a small notebook in your purse listing gift ideas, sizes, what you have already purchased and prices of potential gifts.
- Comparison shop online first. I love a good holiday blowout sale as much as anyone but it's important to know how good a sale is before seeing a markdown price or something promoted as the lowest price ever. Without those price comparisons in-hand you risk paying too much, even "on sale."
- Make a holiday shopping list; collect sizes now. This may be more for next year, but it's a great practice...so tuck this little tidbit away. Just like a grocery list helps keep you on task while shopping, start a holiday shopping list, too. Collect clothing sizes of anyone you might want to shop for this season.
- Search for coupon codes. Combine your in-store shopping with online shopping with savings. You can brave the mall and head to your laptop all in one day.
- Keep an interests' inventory. Try sending out an "interests' inventory" to update your take on what giftees are into. It's similar to the e-mail you get when a friend updates her address book-except this time you'll ask what books they liked this year.
- Shop year-round. Don't contain your holiday shopping from Black Friday until the holiday itself. Shop strategically. Stocking stuffers are good to stock up on year-round.
- Keep your pantry stocked with holiday-friendly staples. Food is always a part of anyone's holiday celebration. Like me, you probably have the items you are asked to contribute to festivities hosted by family or friends or certain recipes you know you will serve at some point during the holidays. Buy those non-perishable items now when you see them on sale.
Related: Holiday Homestretch: Less Stress, More Joy
- Simple touches. Simple things that make your party elegant and festive. Dim the lights, turn on some music, and light some scented candles.
- Name cards. Especially if it's family, involve the kids in creating fun name cards shaped like leaves, a hand-copied turkey, or a present and seat your guests. Or, purchase clear glass bulbs, fill with colorful paper or glitter, and write the person's name on the outside to serve as a name card. Encourage interaction among those who may not otherwise site next to one another.
- Borrow from friends. Instead of buying enough place settings for your party, borrow extra plates from parents or a friend. In need of a specialty serving dish? Ask if anyone you know has one. Give your party an eclectic look.
- Rearrange at no cost. Live the value lifestyle by redecorating with what you already have. You will be amazed the difference that removing clutter, shifting furniture, rugs and lamps can make. Make sure your well-defined space also serves a specific function - don't let your home office overtake your dining room. Interior redesigning has become a new profession within the design industry - give it a try yourself. You know your home best.5. Update and add new life with color. Oftentimes, fabric and craft stores will send coupons to their newsletter subscribers for 40-50% off a single item - several yards of fabric is considered a single item - enhancing your savings even more. Look for similar online printable coupons or those delivered in your mail or newspaper. Add holiday color by making your own pillow covers and other do-it-yourself projects that don't include sewing (seat covers or fashionably draping fabrics for a valance). Or, if you're feeling adventurous, buy a can of spray paint to freshen up an existing frame or vase to give it a new look.
- Dine out on a Dime. Treat your family to a nice holiday meal out. Restaurants offer coupons in print and online. Choose your restaurant wisely based on which establishment is offering the most affordable meal deal for your budget. At redplum.com, you can enter your ZIP to locate restaurant deals in your immediate area. One of our affiliates, restaurant.com offers already discounted certificates to local restaurants. Sometimes, a $100 gift certificate can be purchased for just $8. Keep checking for those deep discounts on redplum.com.
- Have friends or family over for a holiday movie night. Combine a classic holiday movie from your local rental place (or one that you or a friend already own) with homemade popcorn or small finger foods. One movie rental costs about $5, where four admissions for the movies could cost up to $40. It's a good family time, too, and everyone loves a great, classic movie.
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