Saturday, November 24, 2012

Your Holiday Budget: The Time and Energy Edition

Yesterday's post talked about holiday budgets in the monetary sense.  For today, I'd like to think about the upcoming holiday season in terms of time and energy budgets.  I am often so enchanted by the holiday season that I say yes to way too many activities.  I'm so pleased to be included that I say yes, before I think about the rest of my life and obligations. 

I'm hoping that with a bit of planning, I can enjoy activities yet not find myself completely depleted and exhausted by the time I get to January 2.

Here are some suggestions:

--Plan your social calendar now. And keep it simple. Choose only one or two events per week-end. Declare that you won't go out on school nights. You can't do everything, and you'll only feel irritable if you try. What's most important to you and the ones you love?

--Streamline some of the traditions. Do you really need to bake every kind of cookie that you remember from past holidays? Maybe you and your friends could have a cookie swap. Or get together to bake cookies together. Have a wonderful afternoon of cookie dough and wine and leave with enough cookies to get you through the holiday. For years, I did a cookie bake/swap with friends, which grew into a dinner swap, which we'd still be doing today, if I hadn't moved 700 miles away. Consider other ways to make the holiday meals simpler. Maybe this is the year to simplify the holiday card tradition. Ask yourself which events mean something to you and which you're attending because you always have.

--Purge the traditions that have ceased to have meaning. This one is tough. For example, I often find myself bored and irritable as I sit through The Nutcracker. I always think I'll love that ballet, probably because I loved it as a child. I don't love it as an adult. Why spend the money and time? Of course, if everyone else in the family adored it and wanted to go, it might be worth it. But now is a good time to have a frank discussion, before we're caught up in the sentimental sweep of December.

--Take time to help the needy, and if you have children, bring them along. Some of my favorite holiday memories involve helping others. My Girl Scout troop used to go carolling at nursing homes. The church of my adolescence assembled gift baskets for homeless women. My parents, along with social institutions like church, Scouts, and school, modeled the good behavior of working for social justice. It's stuck with me. December is a great time to train the next generation in the habits of social justice and charitable work.

--Plan for how we'll get back on track if we get off track. It's important to remember that even with all the best plans, we may find ourselves overscheduled and cranky. Plan now to forgive yourself for those times. Plan now for how you'll get back on track.

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