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Surviving the holidays, “Messy Style”. (or, my tips and tricks to survive mentally and financially”

Oof, it’s been a while since I posted! I have been mulling over blog topics to post about and mostly came up with stuff I’d get hate mail about, so i figured I try something that hits a broader audience, and maybe do some good. Don’t get me wrong, I am sarcastic and bitter with a twist of evil most days, but I find myself WANTING to do better…be better. It warms my cold little frosty heart, you know. Frosty being a key word this time of year, i thought I would share my tips and tricks to surviving the holidays and keeping your heart warm and fuzzy. I find this time of year is either full of joy and laughter, or expense and frustration. For me, it’s usually the latter.

We celebrate Christmas in our house. When I was a kid, Christmas was huge in our family. My mom LOVED Christmas and always went over the top with everything. I remember it being magical and special.After my mom passed away, Christmas lost a bit of the magic for me. I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder as well (basically depression that sets in due to the lack of sunlight during winter months) so this time of year has it’s struggles on a different level too. Yet I WANT the magic. I want that feeling of joy and anticipation from childhood. I want my kids to experience all of that! As the holidays get closer though, I feel the grinch start pushing his way into my little joyfest, and that is simply unacceptable.

Shopping: ah, the shopping. This is one of my great frustrations, first of all because I am generally one step away from being broke ass, and second of all because it requires dealing with people on a crowd level when everyone is distracted, selfish, and pushy. I literally had a massive panic attack in a department store a few years ago, which resulted in me sobbing, sweating and begging to get out of the store. This should not be my holiday reality, but sadly it was. I generally run warm anyway, but the whole freezing outside so I have to wear a coat business really kills me when I have to go into warm stores. The crowds, the pushing, the shoving, and the noise is simply overwhelming to me. I’d love to be able to say I could make gorgeous home made gifts for my loved ones, but alas, I am not a great cook, nor am I inherently crafty. Thank goodness for online shopping! I try to get as much online as possible, as I can usually save money and sanity all in one fell swoop. I can also do it in the middle of the night, with a hot cup of peppermint tea and a bad reality show rerun playing the background. Heck, if I really want atmosphere I can play Christmas music, but the good stuff, (Is there any good Christmas music?). I save the trips to the stores for a quiet morning or late at night when I can have my husband watch the kids while I peruse. Some tips I’ve found that are helpful to save money are as follows:

  • http://www.Retailmenot.com I use this website/app with every online purchase. This site lists coupon codes for just about every major store. I grab these codes to snag discounts, free shipping, and all sorts of benefits.
  • If you have Bank of America, check out their “deals” program. by choosing certain deals they have available, you can save money and also get money back, which is deposited directly into your account, just by using your Visa check card/debit to purchase an item. I’m willing to bet other banks have similar benefits.
  • If you work for a big company or have ADP as your paycheck processing company (which many do) check into their discount program. They offer big discounts and WOW points, which can be used towards purchases. Bank of America corporate has one that anyone can join by invitation by someone signed up. Keep an ear out! You can score big savings through these sites, and they are great for HUGE restaurant savings for a night out after shopping!
  • Keep an eye out for those entertainment book of coupons (sold at various places and I think Costco may have them as well. My son’s school had one for sale that was specifically done by local stores and businesses. I paid 25 bucks for hundreds of dollars of savings. Big score.
  • Keep checking back on websites. They will offer a lot of sales this time of year, and not always when you think. I scored my daughter’s gift for a huge chunk off the retail price by shopping Thanksgiving night online. Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the prices went up, and they offered a bogo 1/2 off sale. I only needed the one, so i scored!
  • Use sites like http://www.pricegrabber.com to price out items. They don’t target all the websites out there, but they do hit a lot. You can price compare from the comfort of your home.
  • ww.nowinstock.net is a website that monitors when items you have selected go back in stock, and will notify you so you don’t have to constantly check sites! More time to bake, or in my case, EAT cookies!
  • Making gifts, if you’re truly crafty, can be an amazing way to give someone something personalized.
  • Broke? Have a dear friend who has kids? Give her coupons for a free night or afternoon of babysitting. It shows you’re willing, able, and are offering, which removes ALL the guilt we sometimes feel about asking for a sitter when we need our hair done, or just some peace and quiet. I would KILL for this gift. Yet nobody ever thinks to give it to me. Are you a good cook? Bake a freezable dinner for that busy mom who looks frazzled or has no time? Or show up with chocolate, cheese and a cheap bottle o’wine for a good old fashioned girls night in. I find it’s not what I get, but the love that’s offered with or the though put into it. Unless it’s a diamond, in which case substance matters. (yes, for those wondering, my husband found out about my little blog, so that nugget of humor is for him. Love you honey!)

For those struggling to get into the holiday spirit, TRY. I’ve been there, it’s hard sometimes. Especially if you’ve recently lost a loved one or have had a relationship end. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, trying not to think about them in hopes you can muddle through is generally not always the best plan. For me? After I lost my mom I chose to do a few things to honor her in order to bring her memory closer to my kids and I. I have an ornament with my mom’s picture on it. It’s the first ornament I hang up, and I always put it on the side of the tree I will see most. It was hard to look at it at first, but now it makes me smile. It inspires me to make Christmas as special for my kids as she made it for me. My mom loved teddy bears, and always got me the Harrod’s bear of the year. I can’t afford Harrod’s bears, but I do try to grab my kids a teddy bear. I know my mom would have loved that, and she would love the fact I get them one, as well as the fact I tell them that she always got me one. I also carry on private little traditions that remind me of my mom. They are small, and subtle, but carry on her legacy, which is important to me. On years I was single at the holidays, I found that the money I would have spent on my partner was best spent doing something fabulous for myself. No guy to buy me a gift? I’ll buy myself a fantasmagorical little treat. Why not? What’s that Rupaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hellllllll you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen?” Yup, I showed myself a little love around the holidays! Accept invitations to parties (you might meet someone fabulous), grab time with friends to do silly or meaningful activities. Snag all the buddy time you can….after marriage and kids, silly nights with your friends are fewer in between. Take a trip, go somewhere fabulous and explore. Lastly, doing something kind for someone else will bring you out of a funk and out of your own head.

I learned this big time after Hurricane Sandy. if you go back a few blog entries, you can ready about my trip to Long Beach island NJ to deliver supplies to a family who lost everything. That trip now goes on my list of “Top Things I’ve done in My Life” because I left feeling enlightened, grateful, hopeful, and most of all, like for one person I had made a difference. I felt like Supergirl, just because I had made someone’s day a wee bit better. Not to mention I have made a life long friend out of it. Giving feels good. Making a difference in someone else’s life WILL make a difference in yours. Help. Give your time. Give blood even…there is always a high demand this time of year and one session of donating blood can save 3 lives! See? Instant superhero!! A bit of your time, a bit of energy, can make a HUGE difference to someone without you spending a cent. Foster a pet, or offer to do transit for pets needing homes one weekend. All little ways you can change a life and do something good for the world. I PROMISE you, you will feel like a million bucks.

Lastly, stop the procrastination. I myself am a huge procrastinator. I planned on writing this days ago, and you see what happened. I mean well, but frankly, I just get distracted so easily. Life takes over. I make excuses. I avoid, I put off, I hide from it. My house is a hot boo boo assed mess right now. Toys have taken over. I no longer have any control of the toys. Clothes are taking over too. I worry that one day I’m gonna look like a hoarder because everyone in the family has stuff…lotsa stuff. Couple that with dog and cat hair tumbleweeds that blow past me no matter how many times I sweep and vacuum, and I feel…disheartened. The thought of company makes me totally overwhelmed. Yet I persevere. Decorating for the holidays has certainly put me in the spirit this year, precisely because I’m almost last minute. This year, however, I got the decorations up right after Thanksgiving I am enjoying them. The twinkling of “fairy lights” as we call them in England make me feel cozy and happy. No matter what faith you are, grab yourself some lights in whatever color, and throw some up, even if it’s on a plant indoors. Instant happy. I find that starting a bit earlier has put me in the mood for the holidays, because I have surrounded myself with items/memories/people that make me feel happy and joyful. Even though the #dustbunnies are active and multiplying, I feel inspired to battle them, or maybe, with some low lighting, exist in a slightly more harmonious manner with them. When all else fail, low mood lighting and Christmas lights really do hide the dust!!

Lastly, if you have kids and don’t have an elf on the shelf, you are missing out on a great behavioral tool. True, it’s totally Big Brother, and uses the fear of spy tactics to get kids to behave, but jeez…with all the holiday stress, why not? My biggest fear is that I forget to move the little buggar. I did that last year and had to come up with a whole story about why he didn’t move and assure them he had not lost his “magic”. If you don’t have kids, get one anyway and take turns seeing who can hide him in the best spot or most x rated positions. Why not?

Now tonight I am off to write Christmas cards, so there may be some nefarious language gracing Twitter. Happy holidays!

Messy xx

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