9 Smart Ways to Handle the Holidays


By Amanda Greene

If you think the holidays and stress go together like mistletoe and kissing, you might want to reconsider your ways. The festive season doesn't have to drive you crazy--that is, if you swap your tired routine for fresh approaches to familiar woes. Read on for helpful tips that'll guarantee you merrier days.

You spend all day in the kitchen preparing a hot holiday feast, leaving no time to hang out with your friends and family.

Ditch some of the hot dishes. "Choosing a menu that encompasses some ambient (room temperature) food will allow you to mingle rather than slave over the stove all day," says Morgan Bedore, vice president of sales and creative development at Stephen Starr Events. "It also allows for preparation in advance of the dinner so you don't have to deal with timing everything for the food to stay hot." Serve something like Poached Salmon with Dill Horseradish Sauce; or pair precooked ham with cranberry chutney or a selection of spicy mustards. Photo: iStockphoto

Plan your holiday menu based on whether you have 1, 2 or 3 hours to spend in the kitchen.

You obsess over your holiday dinner guest list in order to prepare the right amount of food, and panic when your cousin shows up unexpectedly with her boyfriend.

Instead of aiming to make just the right amount of food, plan for leftovers. Not only will you have enough to feed a crowd, but you'll also have easy meals on hand for the following days. Don't want tempting leftovers in your fridge? Jessica Denay, party planner and cofounder of parenting site HotMomsClub.com, suggests buying to-go boxes from your local store or restaurant so that guests can take home their very own doggie bag. "The more food they take home, the less you have to clean up and store!" Photo: iStockphoto



Whenever guests offer to help, you can't figure out what to tell them and end up doing all the work yourself.

"Have a handy list of smaller tasks you need done to take people up on their generous offers," says Andrea Reiser, parenting expert and coauthor of Letters from Home. "Obviously you're not going to ask Uncle Herb to prepare the roast, but surely he could fill the water glasses or uncork the wine. Every small thing will lighten your load and you'll find yourself less stressed and more ready to be merry." Photo: Jupiterimages



You don't have the time-or money-to get creative with your holiday decorations.

Use what you already have in unexpected ways. Lifestyle designer Angelo Surmelis says that if everyone comes over to your house for the big celebration, "pool all your decorations in order to help you get ready for the event. That way, you won't feel pressure to go out and buy all new ornaments and decor." Another easy decorating tip: "Use the extra string lights that seem to creep into your holiday bin year after year as a way to light up dark corners of a room. Even putting them in a messy bunch in a metal container will cast a warm glow in a dark part of the room." Photo: Jupiterimages



Despite good intentions, you blow your holiday gift budget and are swimming in bills come January.

To prevent yourself from going overboard this year, give yourself concrete spending limits. Pay for gifts in cash, or do what Reiser suggests: "After looking at the hard numbers, put your budgeted Christmas cash on a prepaid card. You'll watch your budget more carefully and when the money is gone, it's gone. You'll be less temped to add 'just one more gift' to the pile." Photo: Stockbyte



You scramble to wrap gifts at the last minute and always seem to run out of wrapping paper and ribbon.

Celebrity chef and entertaining expert Katie Brown recommends skipping expensive wrapping paper and instead covering gifts in newspapers, glossy pages from magazines, drawings from your children or the pages from last year's calendar. Lisa Reynolds, mom-saver-in-chief at RedPlum.com, also suggests hosting a holiday wrapping party as an easy way to get the work done while mingling with friends. Photo: Thinkstock



Without fail, you get into the same arguments with your family members.

If tensions tend to arise over dinner, try switching up your tradition, says Reynolds. "Have family over for a holiday movie night, and make popcorn and serve finger foods." Another option is to create a holiday book club, in which everyone reads the same book and discusses it-instead of hot-button topics-at dinner. These distractions may force your nearest and dearest out of their old ways. Photo: Christopher Robbins/Thinkstock



You have to drag your unhappy kids to the photo studio for the annual holiday or New Year's card, which ends up looking just like last year's.

Instead of opting for a posed picture, try snapping candid shots of your kids during the holidays for next year's card instead. "You'll capture the warmth of authentic memories that are being made instead of a single artificial moment that no one's really enjoying," says Reiser. Read our guide to holiday portraits for more useful tips on getting the right shot. Photo: Daly and Newton/Getty Images



You blow your budget on a new dress because you're tired of wearing the same old one for yet another a holiday party.

Think smaller-instead of scouring the mall for the perfect party dress that you can't afford, consider spiffing up what you already own with new accessories (click here for some ideas to get you started). Reynolds recommends hosting an accessory swap with all of your family, friends and neighbors. "Encourage everyone to bring accessories that they no longer wear to swap. Serve appetizers and provide small paper bags so that your guests can easily take their new treasures home with them." Photo: Michael Waring/Woman's Day



Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.


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