It’s too easy to spend too much money and time meeting the demands of this commercialized season and realize—after Thanksgiving, Hannuka, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Year’s, or whatever—that you’ve spent practically none of it with the people who matter most.  No holiday should come before your family.  Any one of these tips—or better yet, all of them—will help you keep your loved ones close this winter.

    1. First and foremost, get out your calendar and a list of invitations to events you’ll be expecting this season (for example, a co-worker’s obligatory party, an extended family member’s dreaded get-together, etc.).  Schedule in the ones you look forward to attending and don’t schedule the ones you don’t want to attend.  It’s that simple.  Of course, you worry about whose feelings you’ll hurt or political relationships that will strain.  Remember, however, that when you say yes to things you don’t want to do, you’re saying no to things you value, like your family.  Gracefully dip out of events you’d rather not attend by pointing out you’re trying to save money or spend more time with family this year.  People will understand, despite what you may think, and those who don’t aren’t worth your time.  By leaving out time-consuming activities you don’t enjoy, you make more time for things you do, like your family.


    1. All this extra time leaves you with enough leeway to make holiday gifts rather than shop for them.  DIY gifts tend to cost less and are fun to do, and you can spread the fun by inviting your significant other and kids to partake.  There are countless ideas for DIY gifts online.  Make your own seasonal pop-out cards, personalized gift baskets, or home-canned fruit preserves or items from your own garden. 


    1. Help your significant other or another family member shop for gifts.  Malls can feel chaotic, loud, and impersonal, however, so try shopping local.  This way, not only do you support the local economy, but you can get your hands on much more unique and cheap gifts than those you’d find at bigger stores.  Farmers’ markets often have hand-made, yummy-smelling hand soaps, honey, and beautifully shaped beeswax candles you can put into a personalized gift basket, and you’d be surprised at all the vintage jewelry, scarves, tea sets, cookbooks, and more you’ll find at your local thrift store.  Also, by shopping at thrift stores, you’re keeping old items in circulation, which is ultimately much better for the environment and for underpaid workers in developing countries than shopping for new at the mall.


    1. Start shopping (or making!) gifts early so you’re not running around town at the last minute.  You can save yourself some stress and enjoy the fact that as the holidays get closer, you’re spending more time with your family.


    1. It’s easy to forget with all the Christmas commercials and decorations left and right that this season isn’t about the gifts; it’s about the time we spend with people we value.  Make a daytrip out of visiting friends or family members you won’t be seeing on the big day.  Take the family to volunteer at the local soup kitchen or the local humane society.  It usually takes one or two sessions of training to become an official volunteer, but afterward, you play with cats and walk dogs that you don’t have to take home and know that you made someone on four padded feet a little happier that day.


    1. Make a project out of cooking Thanksgiving and other holiday dinners and dishes by inviting the kids to come help.


    1. Do one thing every day with just your significant other.  Shower together in the morning.  Share a cup of coffee or tea by the window before the kids wake up.  Alternatively, share a cup of hot cocoa after the kids have gone to bed.


    1. Decorate the tree as a family.


  1. Look out for holiday shows, local events, and music festivals to go to with the family rather than turning your brains off in front of the TV.  Many local festivities are free, and it’s a new opportunity to enjoy time with your family as well as reconnect with neighborhood friends.

Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

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