Five tips for a simpler Christmas

Posted on November 25, 2014 by Eleanor McKenzie
Beautifully wrapped presents

You may not be dreaming of a white Christmas, but I’m sure that many of you, like me, are dreaming of a less stressful Christmas. My enduring childhood memory of the run up to Christmas, and the day itself, is of my mother in a permanent state of high octane stress, which reached its peak when it was our turn for ‘the family’ to come to us for Christmas dinner. I determined that I’d never expend so much energy on it, but would find a way to make Christmas fun and festive without the nervous tension.

Two key stressors are time and money, when it comes to Christmas. And, if you’re lacking energy, these all combine to spoil your enjoyment of spending time with friends and family. I’ve hunted out some top tips, a number of which I have used myself on occasion. So, let’s see what you can do to simplify Christmas this year.

Get organised

This is one way to avoid stress. Even in December it’s not too late to make a plan on paper and tick tasks off as they’re done. One tip for getting organised is to set a cut-off date for present shopping and buy plenty of wrapping supplies early on. Wrap gifts as you buy them; don’t wait until you have to get through a marathon wrapping session on Christmas Eve. We’ve all been there and it’s not a thrilling start to Christmas Day if you find you’re up past midnight and there’s still something challenging to wrap, for example, like a child’s bike.

Stick to a budget

It’s no wonder we all dread January; the month when the credit card bills drop on the mat and the truth of December spending comes home. So, to aim for debt-free festivities, allocate a budget for presents, food and other items, and track what you spend on each. It may sound like a ‘killjoy’ approach to Christmas, but it’s healthier to face the reality of your finances than try to pretend you can spend as you like, only to feel the pain of that for the rest of the year. Here’s a link to a printable budget form to make it easier for you.

Shorten the shopping list

Buying presents is another sticky issue. Between a group of friends or office colleagues, playing Secret Santa is an excellent way to minimise the number of gifts you buy. Also, put a spending limit on the present. If you’re not familiar with Secret Santa, it works like this: put everyone’s name into a hat and you each draw out a name and keep it a secret. The gifts are ‘delivered’ by each person with just the recipient’s name on it. You can also do this with your family, thus saving you all the worry about how much to spend on everyone. Between family members, you might agree only to buy presents for the young people. As that aspect of Christmas is more important to them.


Homemeade Christmas gifts

Give homemade gifts

Also, I am a big fan of handmade gifts: chutneys, jams, crocheted items, fudge and other handmade sweets put in attractive boxes make charming gifts for friends and family. I remember buying beautifully decorated cardboard boxes from a local stationers one Christmas and lining them with fancy tissue paper. I then made Indian sweets, because it was just that little bit different to fudge. People loved that present. And it didn’t cost me a fortune. Here’s a link to a recipe for coconut barfi, which is somewhat similar to a childhood favourite of mine, coconut ice!

Plan a festive getaway

Of course, there is one final solution. I learnt this from a cousin and his wife: go away on holiday (have holiday insurance for that?). That way you can avoid the day itself and the manic food shopping that precedes it. It’s a perfect time to visit India and take a beach break in Goa, or South Africa where it’s summer and you can recharge your batteries with sunlight. The Caribbean is another excellent option. Nearer to home, friends of mine used to head for Marrakech every Christmas, so they could avoid the entire festival.

I know that many of you truly enjoy the whirlwind of activity that goes with Christmas. I do admire people who take it all in their stride and effortlessly serve up dinner for 12 with all the traditional trimmings. I wish I had that gift. I doubt it’s going to turn up now, so I will continue to simplify Christmas. It leaves me more time for the bottles of fine wine that Santa is bringing me!

5 Tips for a Simpler Christmas>/div>

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.