– Give back. Give something. Anything. Whether your time, your talent, gifts, or meals to those in need. Inspire your kids to get involved. Do something with a charity that means something to you. This can instantly put you in the holiday spirit and remind you and your family about the true meaning of the holidays. One of my local favorite charities is Ronald McDonald House of Providence. I gathered some friends recently to do a charity walk in support of RMH. It was an inspiring day! Find a charity road race in your area to help kick off the season in a positive way.
– Be a thoughtful gift-giver. Remember, it’s the thought that counts. Set a gift-giving budget that makes sense for your family. And remember, the more THOUGHT you put into the gift, the better.
-Decorate in stages. Don’t expect to put every holiday decoration up in one day. Be realistic. Make it a family affair. Do it in stages. Outdoor lights one entire weekend, wreaths the next. Then the tree. And so on, and so on. Start early so it’s fun.
– Make holiday cards less taxing. Don’t worry about taking a professional family portrait for your holiday card every season. Use an existing family photo and create a card online using sites like Shutterfly.com, TinyPrints.com or Snapfish.com. You can also print existing photos and place them in ready-made photo cards found at card shops like The Paper Store. If you’re having a busy year, take a break and send an email card to loved ones. Or surprise them with a New Year’s card instead. Or have your kids create a Christmas drawing and make multiple copies and give them out as cards.
– Create a new tradition. If you’re tired of dragging your kids to different places every holiday, create a new tradition and invite family and friends to your house. If you get stressed out about planning a party, remind yourself it can be anything you want it to be. Make the event more of an open house, prepare a couple simple dishes ahead of time, and ask people to bring items to help lessen the load. Remember, it’s not a contest. It’s about being together for the holidays.
– Think outside of the (Big) Box. If you don’t know what to buy for someone, stay away from Big Box stores and visit local shops in your area. The gifts they have in store may surprise you. Plus it’s more fun!
– Give something homemade. Make something homemade like cookies or pastries and place them in decorative baskets, boxes, or tins. Have your kids pitch in to make it even more special. These make thoughtful gifts for teachers, neighbors, friends, and relatives. Tie it with special ribbon to add a nice touch.
– Start a Secret Santa Swap. Talk to family members about starting a Secret Santa gift exchange to lessen the load. We do this with our extended family so you only have to buy one gift if you have 25 cousins and three aunts, for example. You can set a specific price limit so you’re respectful of everyone’s budgets. The idea also means less shopping for everyone. We use Elfster.com to help pick names for loved ones who live out of state.
– Shop online. The internet is your friend this time of year. Use it to do all your shopping if necessary. But never leave your computer open to gift-giving web sites or you’ll spoil the fun. Either pin favorite items on Pinterest.com or email yourself specific web sites so you don’t forget what’s on your list.
– Special messages. If you’re out of ideas for special people in your life, try a “homemade and from the heart” gift – a Holiday Memory Jar. You don’t have to be a Pinterest queen, I promise. This is something we’ve done for my mother and mother-in-law (and my grandmother who passed away last year). All you need: One empty mason jar, a bow and small pieces of paper. Divide the papers (365 individual pieces for daily messages or 52 for weekly messages) evenly throughout your family. Each family member (especially kids) writes a special or funny saying, message or memory on each piece of paper. The recipient can enjoy opening a new message every day of the year.
– Host a Swap. Start a White Elephant or Yankee Swap gift exchange with friends or family members. Invite them to your gift swapping party and enjoy the evening over cocktails and appetizers. If this stresses you out, wait and do it in January!
–Share Stories. Looking to give something a little different this year? Give the gift of family stories through a web site called Storyworth.com. Each week, a loved one answers prompted questions about their life and childhood and by the end of the year, they receive 52 stories compiled into a hard cover book for family members to enjoy. I’ve given StoryWorth to my husband and dad and they both say they’ve enjoyed it immensely. We look forward to seeing their private books in 2018. For more details, visit StoryWorth.com.
– Give experiences. If you can’t think of what to give that special someone who has everything, do something different this year. Give EXPERIENCES rather than traditional gifts. Make a Year of Wishes Jar filled with 52 pieces of paper listing individual weekly ideas for you to do together. Ideas can range from simple to extravagant, from going on a bike ride to tickets to a concert. Tailor the wishes according to that person and your budget.