Suwannee Democrat

December 6, 2012

Holiday on a budget-How to manage time and money

Joyce Marie Taylor
Suwannee Democrat

Jasper — White Springs Public Library Adult Programming Coordinator Beth Kerr delivered an informative presentation Tuesday, Nov. 27 on how to manage time and money during the holidays by sticking to a budget, whereby you can actually enjoy the Christmas season.

“When Christmas rolls around I almost dread it,” said Kerr. “About six weeks ago I told my friend, ohhh, I don’t want Christmas to get here because there’s so much extra food, extra baking, gifts for the kids and Christmas cards to mail.”

Kerr has adjusted that train of thought and come up with a list of do’s and dont’s for the holidays. First and foremost, Kerr suggests pruning your “to-do” list down to the absolute essentials that would truly be missed if you eliminated them, and also to get rid of the activities or chores that make you feel rushed. One thing she stressed was honesty.

“Be honest with your neighbors and friends,” she said. “Say, you know what? I’m trying to trim my budget. This year I really am trying to stay within a certain budget and I have to cut some things. I want to spend time with you instead. Let’s have lunch at my house next week or after the holidays.”

She also said to plan activities with friends and family that don’t cost anything to do like visiting a local park.

One of the most stressful things about the holidays is gift giving, so Kerr suggested eliminating those habitual gift exchanges that really hold no meaning other than it’s what has always been done in the past. She said chances are others will appreciate your honesty and feel relieved to do the same.

If you have children, Kerr said to be honest with them, as well, and let them know you have to set spending limits for whatever they have on their wish lists.

Kerr said that giving small meaningful gifts to friends, teachers, and others on your list that don’t cost a lot are appreciated just as much, if not more than big, expensive gifts. Again, she stressed staying within your budget.

Another thing to scale back on, Kerr said, is to trim your Christmas card list and/or hand deliver cards to friends and family to save on postage. Another way to trim costs is to take advantage of free Internet e-cards or better yet, make a personal phone call to express your holiday wishes.

As for holiday decorating, Kerr said you can relieve a lot of stress by focusing on the “Big Three”, meaning the front door (or whatever door your guests use), the Christmas tree and the main room of the house where you will be doing your entertaining, rather than trying to decorate your entire home.

“Some people can decorate every room and it’s relaxing and exciting for them,” said Kerr.

She spoke about her mother, who decorates her home for every single holiday that comes around, including St. Patrick’s Day.

“She’s got clovers everywhere,” Kerr said. “She has linens and shower curtains because she can afford it. I can’t, so I’m not going to try to imitate what she does.”

Kerr said to get your family, especially your kids involved in the decorating process by setting up a time beforehand so that they all know to be there to help.

“You don’t have to decorate the whole house because guess what? After December 25th somebody’s got to take that stuff down and pack it back up,” she said. “I guarantee that those kids who helped you decorate are going to be skedaddling.”

Spending time with your extended family can oftentimes be tense if you share different views or habits, Kerr went on, so her suggestion is to limit your visiting time and avoid three major topics of discussion; religion, politics and sports.

“Unless you know you’re rooting for the same team, politics, religion and sports will get you in trouble quicker than anything at social gatherings,” said Kerr. “So, try to leave those out of the conversation or make an excuse and go get some punch.”

Pre-planning meals for the entire holiday season, including quick and easy ones for busy nights, is another tip to reduce stress, as well as to stay within your budget. Having your meal list ready and all the necessary ingredients in the pantry will save time and keep you from ordering in all those last minute pizzas to feed your family. Crock pot meals are another timesaver, as well as freezing meals ahead of time.

Kerr summarized by saying, “The biggest thing about taking the stress out of Christmas and budgeting your time is to plan.”

Kerr’s list of time and money saving tips for the holidays is priceless, so stop by the library and ask for a copy. While you’re there, have a look around at all the wonderful holiday decorations and maybe check out a seasonal book to read. Now there’s a true stress reliever!