Part one: FREAKING OUT??
Happily I can tell you that’s quite normal. I myself have noticed the feeding frenzy out there. It’s very easy to get caught up in it. As I type I’m uneasily aware that I am leaving for Cork in an hour and am already preparing myself mentally for the mayhem. People will bump into me, glare at me, and if I’m not careful I’ll lose the Christmassy feeling that I have as my treelights twinkle and dance on the edge of my peripheral vision here!
First thing to do will be to mind myself on the car journey I predict. Have you noticed that people drive more aggressively at this time of year?
Then there’ll be the jostling on Patrick Street – dare I venture into Penneys??
The thing is, with all of it, it’s not personal. People are barely present at this time of year. They are tired, possibly worried about money, possibly grieving. Maybe it’s the first Christmas without a beloved child, parent, partner or friend. If people are grumpy or cross with you, it’s not about you (unless maybe you’ve just stolen their parking space..
General tip: By remembering this we can choose to observe this chaos without being affected.
So I’ll just dive right in with the first set of ‘sanity tips’ and this post, the first of three, is mainly about financial worries:
How can I afford to buy all of the ‘perfect gifts’ that I want to buy for everyone?
1. Be realistic. You have a limited amount of money. That won’t change in the next ten days. Sit down and write a list of who you want to buy for and how much you are willing to spend. Keep receipts for everything especially if you have that niggley feeling when you buyt (you know that feeling.. I know you do!!) If you have already over-purchased, you can even RETURN some items – no harm done.
2. Prioritize. Remember that your friendship/relationship doesn’t depend on how much you spend on your gift. If it does, then perhaps your concern belongs with the relationship, not the gift. It is unlikely that your friends who care about you want you to be under financial pressure in order to give them a gift that they might not even want or have use for.
3. Set a Budget with other people too and stick to it. Sit down with your friends and family and make an agreement either to not buy each other gifts, or to have a strict limit on how much you spend on a token gift and stick to it. You’ll most likely hear a series of relieved breathes. You’ll also possibly get a lot of creative and interesting little gifts!
4. Make it fun! If you have a large family or circle of friends/ colleagues then arrange a Secret Santa. This is good fun as well as a great money saving idea.
My kids want the latest PS game/ console/ iPhone / iPad and I can’t afford it!
Well, your kids may want it, but the reality may be that they cannot have it. Some parents find this more difficult than others, we know that. Saying ‘no’ can be hard, even embarrassing, especially if it’s for purely financial reasons. I get it. But here’s the thing – it’s OK to say no to children. It’s a good thing in fact. We are teaching them that material things don’t necessarily come easily, and they are not necessities.
Here are some compromise ideas:
1: Get 2nd hand stuff, look through local charity shops, online ads, DoneDeal, Ebay etc. You may well find exactly what you’re looking for, if not a great substitute. Check with your friends and colleagues – they might have something they’re no longer using, or if you’re reeeeally lucky, something they’ve never used. (It does happen!!! FACT!;))
2: If your extended family are planning gifts for your kids, ask them instead for small amounts of cash. This could build up to go towards the price of what your child wants, and they can buy it themselves in the January sales. Which also teaches them responsibility and appreciation of value – two birds, one stone.
3: If you can afford it, buy just one device for your kids to share (we know this might cause fights.. but learning to cooperate is part of learning to be a human!) They don’t need one each, especially if they are close in age. (In fact they don’t need any of them. Remember that).
4. Remember what it’s all about. In ten years’ time it is likely that your children won’t remember what you gave them each year and how much it cost. Memories aren’t dependent on brand-names. They are far more likely to remember how they felt, the time you spent with them, the atmosphere in your home, the attention they received, your mood. The label and price tag on their toy/gadget will mean very little to them in comparison.
Your kids will still love you if you don’t provide exactly what they ask for, and you will still be a good parent.
What will I get my partner?
A good solution here is simply to ask. It’s perhaps less magical, or unromantic, but if you are actually feeling stressed about it, and many of us do, then a solution is to ask.
Will they like it? See above (the section on buying the ‘perfect gifts’ ) and also, if it’s not their ideal gift and the one thing they always wanted this is not a disaster. Your relationship will remain intact, and if it doesn’t as a result of a gift, then again, the issue for review here is the relationship, not the gift.
When will I get my new clothes? hair done? nails done?
We tend to think of rituals as essentials. Ask yourself – are they really necessary? They are treats, and if you really have the money and the time, go for it. BUT if they are actually adding to your stress then these treats have become ordeals. You have a choice, do you want to increase your stress levels? Or would your time and money be better spent elsewhere?
In my next post I’ll talk about the social and family stresses of this time of year and how to manage them. In the last post of this series I’ll give you some nice self-care tips.
Meanwhile, perhaps you’d like to make yourself a nice hot drink now before you get on with the rest of your day / evening?
I hope that’s been helpful so far! Back in a couple of days!