If thoughts of long lines, overdrawn bank accounts, and frazzled wits have completely edged out those visions of sugarplums that are supposed to be dancing through your mind right now, then you’ll definitely want to check out my hacks to help you survive the holidays! Read on for tips to keep your physical, emotional, and financial health in check throughout the entire season.
Hacks to Help You Survive the Holidays
The holidays are supposed to be a time of peace, love, and joy. A time for families to come together and enjoy each other’s company. A time to help others, to smile at strangers, to marvel at something as simple yet stunning as a string of lights on a tree. They definitely shouldn’t be something we feel like we have to “survive,” right?
Yet, in our fast-paced world of one-upmanship, overindulgence, and an intense desire to “go viral,” the holidays have become more about competition than contentment. Who can afford the latest and greatest phone or gaming system? Which of us has the most Pinterest-worthy mantle decor or Instagram-worthy charcuterie board? Who gets the most likes and shares on their “random” acts of kindness? Yep, we’ve even managed to turn charity into a competition.
The hacks below aren’t your typical “use tinsel to make your tree look fuller” or “store your ornaments in plastic cups to keep them from breaking” holiday survival tips. Those are great and all, but instead, we’ll focus on hacks for a truly healthier and happier holiday from the inside out. Take a look and you’ll see what I mean!
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Holiday Hacks for Your Physical Health
Did you know that the average person gains about 1-2 pounds during the holiday season? While that may not sound like much, many people never get rid of those excess pounds, which means they just keep adding up holiday after holiday. It is possible to have your fruitcake and eat it, too, though if you follow these healthy holiday hacks!
1. Eat before a party
If you’re heading to a cocktail party where you know they’ll be serving lush holiday treats like cakes, cookies, and decadent cheeses, eat a good healthy meal before you go. That way you’ll be less tempted to snack on unhealthy treats. Even if you’re going to a sit-down dinner party, eat a little something ahead of time. While it would be rude to fill up and eat nothing at the party, if you’re not starving you won’t be tempted to grab seconds and thirds.
2. Drink more water
While this is sound advice all year round, if you’re staying hydrated, you’ll be less likely to reach for another cookie. Why? Because hunger and thirst are often confused with each other. In other words, you may think you’re hungry for another tasty treat when in actuality you’re just thirsty. Plus, water helps you feel fuller, especially if you guzzle it before heading to the dessert table. Not to mention our bodies can’t live without it, so this hack literally helps you survive the holidays!
3. Make healthier cookies
You don’t have to ditch the holiday cookies entirely (where’s the fun in that?), but you can make them a little healthier overall. If you’re recipe calls for cream cheese, opt for avocado or Greek yogurt instead, for example. Swap out half (or all) of the white flour for whole wheat flour (or even better, coconut flour). Top them with dried fruit instead of icing and sprinkles. Will they taste exactly the same? No, probably not. However, you may just discover a new (and healthier) favorite that will become a holiday tradition. Mind you, they’re still cookies and should only be enjoyed in moderation!
4. Trick your taste buds
Give those taste buds what they’re craving without all the extra fat and calories. Try drinking pumpkin spice herbal tea instead of that Grande Latte. Sprinkle a couple of mini dark chocolate chips into a teaspoon of almond butter to satisfy cookie cravings. Enjoy frozen grapes and berries instead of candy, or try these whipped cream Santa strawberries! Your taste buds only know whether something is sweet, sour, salty, bitter, or umami, not whether it’s in the shape of a cookie or cake.
5. Trick your nose, too!
Taste buds are only half of the equation. If you really want to satisfy that cookie craving, you have to get your nose involved, too! Try these easy tricks to make your house smell like the holidays . The aroma from the oranges and cinnamon coupled with a teaspoon of almond butter really helps curb those cravings. Trust me, you’ll be surprised by how well it works!
6. Make holiday shopping healthier
While most of us do the vast majority of our holiday shopping online, we still hit the malls and mass retailers for stocking stuffers and other small items, right? Well, turn those trips into a workout session. Park far from the door in the back of the lot (it’ll save you the stress of trying to score a good spot, anyway) and get a good power walk in both going to and from the store.
Here’s a tip that’s good for both your physical and financial health: before you plunk down money on something you’re not sure you really need, take a stroll once around the entire mall or perimeter of the store to think about it. If you decide halfway around the mall that you really don’t feel like going all the way back for it, then it wasn’t meant to be!
7. Make healthier cocktails
First, ditch the eggnog, it’s pretty much the worst offender out of all the holiday cocktails. Even the mocktail version is loaded with calories and fat. Now, about those other cocktails. Alive.com recommends using real fruit instead of sugary mixers. Try these detox waters as your base! You can also ditch the alcohol entirely and make it a mocktail instead.
Hacks to Survive the Holidays with Your Emotional Health Intact
Your psychological well-being is just as important as your physical health, so use these hacks to keep your emotions in check during the holiday season.
8. There’s an app for that (so use it)
Apps like Santa’s Bag, Christmas Gift List and hundreds more like it help you organize your shopping lists and track your purchases. While this is great for your financial health as well, staying organized throughout the holidays can take enormous pressure and stress off your mind. Most of the apps are free! Just search “gift trackers” in the App Store or Google Play store to find one you love.
9. Do at least one genuinely random act of kindness a week
Kindness isn’t just good for those receiving, it’s also incredibly beneficial for those on the giving end. Give yourself just one rule: no bragging on social media. Do it just for you and the other person, not for the kudos, likes, and shares. It doesn’t have to be anything grand. Even paying for coffee for the person in line behind you will brighten up their day (and yours, too).
10. Learn how to gracefully turn down a party invitation
For those with anxiety disorder, saying “no” is just as scary as saying “yes,” so it’s easy to get roped into dozens of overwhelming parties and events that end up leaving no time for you and your own family. If the thought of turning down a dozen party invitations stresses you out even more than attending them (and that’s already got you feeling panicky), then sit down before the season and jot down a list of polite ways to decline.
A simple “I’m so sorry, but we have a prior commitment that evening” is succinct, polite, and leaves no wiggle room for negotiations. The Spruce also has more tips for politely declining formal invitations.
11. Shop online as much as possible
Not only will it help you save money, but you’ll avoid all the stress that goes along with shopping in malls and ginormous retail stores. Also, since you actually have time to think about your purchases without feeling the rush to grab them before someone else does, you won’t have to deal with buyer’s remorse, a feeling that can be incredibly overpowering during the holidays.
12. Buy local when you can’t shop online
For those items that you can’t get online, head to smaller local stores. How does this benefit your emotional health? First, once again, you’ll avoid the overwhelming stress of fighting against a crowd in huge stores. Second, you’ll be helping out a family, since your purchases put food on their tables and keep roofs over their heads. Remember, kindness benefits you as much as the person receiving it!
13. Start a meaningful gift tradition
Keep the kindness coming by starting a tradition that focuses on the joy of the holidays rather than the commercialism of it all. If you need ideas, check out this list of 30 meaningful gifts. Try doing one for your family (swap gifts for experiences, start a “pass it along tradition,” and so on) and one that helps others (donate to a worthy cause, volunteer, etc.).
14. Set realistic goals, not unrealistic resolutions
Ditch the word “resolution” from your holiday vocabulary! There’s a reason why 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. They’re typically way too unrealistic and worded in a way that makes us feel like we’ve failed if we hit even the tiniest setback. For example, if you resolve to work out at the gym 5 days a week, but then you get sick three weeks into it and lose track, you’re likely to just give up on the resolution entirely.
On the other hand, if you set a simple “I will be more active this year” goal, literally every step you take is a step in the right direction. When you set a realistic goal that doesn’t hinge on super-specific actions, you’re more likely to follow through because a single setback doesn’t feel like an immediate failure. So, rather than resolving to give up all sugar and carbs, make healthier eating in general a goal. Rather than resolving to read a whole book a week, set a goal to read something (anything, even a single article in the news) every day.
15. Start a gratitude jar
An attitude of gratitude can go a long way towards helping you survive the holidays with your Christmas spirit intact! Start and end each day by jotting down at least one thing that you’re grateful for, and pop it into your jar. Encourage family and guests to do the same thing when they come to visit. Then, on New Year’s Eve, sit down together and read all of the notes that you’ve left. It’s a good way to reflect on what matters at the end of the year!
Money-Saving Hacks to Help Your Bank Account Survive the Holidays
Your financial health is almost as important as your physical and mental health. While money can’t buy happiness, lack of it can definitely cause stress and unhappiness, which in turn can affect your physical well-being! These tips will help you survive the holidays without going bankrupt.
16. Plan well ahead for Black Friday
Once upon a time, we had to wait until the week before the big day to gain access to the ads. If we were lucky, someone from the store would “leak” the ad online a few weeks early. Now, though, you can find official Black Friday ads weeks (and even months) in advance. For example, right now ads for Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Sam’s Club and a few other stores are already available on sites like TheBlackFriday.com. Start making preliminary lists now so you’re not scrambling on Thanksgiving to come up with your shopping plan.
17. Download store apps for the best coupons
Right now, before the shopping season officially begins, download all your favorite store apps and sign up for their newsletters. Use a throw-away email if you don’t want to be inundated with spam all year round. Many stores offer coupons for signing up, but it takes a few days for those emails to arrive. You don’t want to find out that your 20% off coupon won’t arrive until after Black Friday! Check the apps throughout the season for other exclusive coupons, too.
18. Take advantage of price matching
Some stores will price match year-round while others offer it during the holidays when the competition for your money is at its fiercest. If you find a lower price elsewhere, show it to a store manager and ask if they’ll match it. Likewise, if you find a lower price in their online store, ask for the discount. While it won’t always work, you’re more likely to hear a “yes” than a “no” because stores know that giving you a 10% discount on one item means you’ll stay there to buy other items at regular price.
19. Crowdsource holiday meals
Rather than hosting a dinner party that involves you buying and cooking the entire meal, host a huge potluck. Ask each guest to bring something that’s a tradition in their family and share a story about it at the dinner table. Not only will you save money, but you’ll get to try new foods and learn more about your friends and family.
20. Opt out of card swaps
Sure, it’s fun to open up your mailbox to a flood of green and red envelopes from all over the world, but it sure is expensive to return the good cheer! A single stamp now costs $0.55, and if you have a square or oversized card, that price jumps up to $0.70. Factor in the cost of the cards themselves and it gets very expensive very fast to send out greetings to everyone on your list.
Instead of sending paper cards (which, honestly, aren’t really all that eco-friendly anyway), start a new e-card tradition. Make it a fun challenge to see who can find the wildest and wackiest (or most meaningful if you prefer) e-cards! Choose a day for everyone on your list to send them and watch your inbox flood with cheer and joy.
21. Ship rather than pack your gifts
If you’re flying out to visit family and bringing gifts from home, try shipping them a few days early through UPS or FedEx rather than packing them in your bag. First, it’s cheaper to send gifts that way than to pay extra fees for overweight carry-on bags or checked luggage. Second, for a few dollars more, you can insure your gifts. Most airlines will tell you upfront that they aren’t responsible for damaged items, and baggage handlers aren’t known for their gentleness.
Another option is to buy gifts online and have them sent directly to your host’s house with strict orders to not open them until you’re all together. Even better: opt out of gift exchanges and spend the money on a fun experience to do together while you’re visiting.
22. Shop on Free Shipping Day
Speaking of shipping, a lot of stores (more than 400) participate in Free Shipping Day, which falls right in the middle of December (in 2022, it should fall on 12/14, but be sure to double-check ahead of time). Some stores ship free on that day regardless of your order size. Others may have a minimum order requirement. Keep in mind, though, that since it falls less than 2 weeks before Christmas you run the risk of not receiving it in time.
23. Plan free activities throughout the season
Holiday activities can get just as expensive as gifts and food. Between Winter Wonderlands with hefty entrance fees, breakfast with Santa at expensive restaurants, movie tickets to see the latest holiday film, and so on, it’s easy to blow your entire budget on activities alone. Yes, it’s better to spend on experiences versus things, but why break out the credit card when there are so many free ways to experience the magic of the season together?
Instead of paying to see the latest holiday flick, host a family movie night and share your favorite childhood Christmas specials with your kids. Skip the professional (and expensive) production of A Christmas Carol and head to a local school production instead. Go sledding instead of skiing. Take a tour of your own neighborhood to see the lights instead of paying for entrance into a holiday theme park. You’ll not only save a ton of money, but you’ll be able to focus on each other instead of a crowd.
Holiday Decorating Hacks That Just Plain Make Your Life Easier
I was apprehensive about including decorating hacks because they don’t really fit in with the “healthy holiday” theme I’m going for here. But I started thinking about how much joy I get from Christmas decorating, and how that joy helps alleviate stress. So, in a roundabout way, these hacks do fit the theme. 😀 Plus, who doesn’t love a good tip or trick to make life easier?
24. Make your own wreath form with cardboard to save time & money
Wreath forms are oddly expensive for something that’s either styrofoam or some twisted wire. Save money (and a trip to the craft store) by just upcycling strong cardboard. It’s easy enough to figure out how to make one on your own, but if you need some guidance check out the video below for a simple tutorial.
25. Build your own cardboard fireplace for Santa
With a few good cardboard boxes, you can easily make your own faux fireplace to decorate for Christmas. This is a great sanity-saver, too, if you have kids who are worried that Santa won’t be able to get into your house without a fireplace. Check out the tutorial video below.
26. Try these cardboard Christmas decorations, too
Still have plenty of leftover cardboard? Check out these cute craft ideas that are perfect for all ages!
27. Make Healthier DIY Advent Calendars
Forgot those store-bought advent calendars that are filled with cheap chocolate. Make your own and fill them with healthier treats like small toys, and wholesome snacks. There are SOOO many different ways to do this. Use tiny decorative mittens (found in the Dollar store), make them out of paper or paper bags, or even use empty toilet paper tubes!
28. Ask for your tree trimmings
When you buy a real tree from a lot they usually end up cutting off the bottom and shaping it by trimming off some of the more unruly branches. Ask for those bits and pieces. You paid for the tree, after all, so you should be able to keep everything that comes off of it. Then, use the trimmings to make your own wreaths, like the one in the video below.
29. Fill glass bowls and vases with small ornaments
Fill clear vases, glasses, or bowls with ornaments for instant holiday decorations! This is a great way to give new life to ornaments with broken tops (where the hook holder thingy is), small chips, etc. You can fill out any gaps with some inexpensive dollar store ornaments.
30. Make your own DIY Wrapping Paper
For something designed to be completely torn apart and thrown away, wrapping paper is absurdly expensive! Just decorate your own out of the brown paper that comes in pretty much every Amazon box, butcher paper, or other inexpensive plain paper. Or better yet, let your kids decorate it!
Follow these tips and you’ll get back to finding the joy instead of looking for ways to survive the holidays. Remember, the season isn’t about competition, it’s about peace, love and family. If you keep that in mind, the rest of the craziness just sort of falls away.