I really appreciate Tawra Kellam and her terrific website! AND I love it when she shares a guest post with SandwichINK. They are always full of great ideas, tips, and wisdom. Like this one to remind us to take it easy for Christmas so we, AND our Sandwich Generation family, can have more time to just enjoy each other's company without getting too stressed. And for those of us caring for elderly parents with health issues, this is doubly good advice, isn't it.
Less is More this Christmas!
by Tawra Kellam
After laying down my last women's magazine telling me how to be less stressed during the holidays, I'm even more confused and stressed then ever. On one page I'm told to take time for myself and indulge in a lovely spa bath. As I turn the page, I'm told to give all my friends and family homemade ornaments. Then there are articles telling me how not to gain weight at Christmas parties. Isn't that like telling a three year old to not get dirty while making mud pies?
To top it all off (and the part I like the best) is after they tell us how to get rid of stress and not gain weight, they give us 10 pages of recipes for Christmas cookies made with real butter and cream that are decorated so elaborately in the pictures that it probably took a trained kitchen staff of 10 a week to make one cookie.
Doesn't anyone live in the real world anymore? If you are like me and can't stand that kind of stress, try some of these Christmas ideas from Living on A Dime to help you have a relaxed and Merry Christmas.
Don't over-spend – It may be tempting to fixate yourself on the sparkling look in little Johnny's eye when he sees that $300 play car under the tree. Advertising people are really good at feeding many parents' fantasies of their children thinking that mom and dad are the peaches and cream for shelling out the cash and looking fondly back on the moment for the rest of their lives. In reality, most kids have lost all interest in that particular toy long before the credit cards are paid off.
When we were growing up, my mom pulled out all of the stops at Christmas to make it as wonderful for us as she possibly could. The funny thing is that now that we are grown, the things we remember the most fondly are Mom's red jello salad (made with red hots – yummy!) and sitting together and reading the Christmas story before opening our presents. I can't remember what presents I received, but I always look back fondly on the Christmas story.
Do a few things well – Instead of trying to do everything and ending up depressed with how it all turns out, focus your energy on a couple of things that are the most important to you. You may be tempted to extravagantly decorate every room in your house, but if you don't have the time or energy, focus on one room, like a living or family room. If your entire house is beautiful but you have to go see a therapist when it's all over, the romantic mystique will be lost. Trust me, I know about this one from personal experience.
Limit activities – Think of the holiday season as triage for activities. Don't commit to do too many things. One or two parties during the holiday season will make you get all tingly in that "It's a Wonderful Life" kind of way. One or two parties a week may send you over the edge, especially if you have kids. (Refer to my therapist comments above.) This also applies to all of those appealing looking activities around town like Victorian Christmas events, Christmas celebrations at the zoo or winter carnivals. One or two can be a lot of fun, but too many will ruin the fun.
Limit cookie baking – Don't try to make 15 different kinds of cookies like Martha. She may look like she is super woman, but did you know she has a lot of people that help her? How much help do you get with your baking? I mean real help, not your five year old who makes everything twice as difficult for you. This is great for grandma, but you have to see your daughter every day and grandma can send her back when the house is sufficiently covered in flour. Again, pick your two or three top favorite cookies to bake and celebrate the fact that you had few enough priorities that you remembered to put the sugar in them.
Everything doesn't have to be homemade. I know that we advocate making your own stuff, but Marie Callendar's makes some great pies that you can pass off as homemade if you want to soothe your guilty Martha Stewart conscience. In 20 years, your kids will look fondly back on it as the best pie they ever had. But seriously, if you are making things homemade just to save money, remember that some things like candies and pies are often more expensive to make homemade, especially if you cut your finger while slicing the apples. Don't ask me how I know, just trust me on this one.
These aren't the only things you can do to reduce your stress, but if you stick to doing a few things well, you can truly relax and enjoy the season with your family. In the end, they would rather have fond memories of their time with you than memories of how strung out mom was after she burned the cookies.
Tawra Kellam and Jill Cooper are frugal living experts and the authors of the Dining On A Dime Cookbook. Dining On A Dime will help you save money on groceries and get out of debt by cooking quick and simple homemade meals. For free tips & recipes visit http://www.LivingOnADime.com, sign up for our free Living On A Dime Newsletter and learn to save more!
My favorite tip – that I started following years ago – everything does NOT have to be homemade. For those of us babysitting grandchildren, that's such an encouragement. I know I've sometimes helped with their school parties and I used to feel like I had to bake those cakes or cookies to take in. But when the Sandwich Generation issues of life kicked in and took over my schedule, I realized, that was something that could easily change!
And here's a help from me on that topic. When there is a special party coming up – whether a child's school party or your senior parent's care facility or a spouse's party – sign up FAST so you get to pick from the most selections offered. When my senior dad was quite ill and my daughter was on bedrest from a difficult pregnancy, I learned that lesson. I was taking my oldest grandchild to school. I learned that if I could be one of the first to sign up, I could choose such things as paper plates, plastic silverware, chips, and sodas. ALL of which I could buy any time I was out shopping, and know they wouldn't spoil. I often picked the item up that day and turned it in to the teacher early. Then I didn't have to worry about health issues making me forget or unable to deliver it by the deadline. That was a BIG help that year as there were several holiday parties over the course of the season and LOTS of health issues to deal with!
What is your favorite idea on this list to help with your own Sandwich Generation family needs? We'd love to hear.
P.S. If you DO have the time this year and are looking for fun and easy crafts for kids AND seniors to make Christmas gifts, you might want to check out her ebook, Gifts in a Jar, with lots of money-saving fun ideas for you and the grandkids to make as gifts. OR you can check out her ebooks, Dining On A Dime cookbook (a favorite of our Sandwich Generation family) or Not Just Beans, as both of those have the same information as the stand-alone ebook, Gifts in a Jar.