As much as I look forward to this season, I often find myself getting anxious about how to get everything done, how we will afford everything we want to do, all with the added pressure of making sure everything is magical for my ever patient husband and our not to budget conscious teenagers.
It is my absolute favorite time of the year but it can also be soul crushingly stressful at the same time. Between budgeting time and money to do all of the things, most of us are managing work and families and all the obligations that come with it.
Here are a few of my tried-and-true ways to save my sanity — and checkbook — throughout the busy holiday season.
• Put the pocketbook on the backburner: The biggest way to stay sane during an often stressful season is to not put a price tag on your happiness. Period
If you cannot afford to buy gifts for your family and loved ones, don’t! This thankful season should be about the giving of yourself and your time — and not about putting yourself into debt or financial crisis to do so. If you cannot give gifts, find a way to spend some extra time together.Sign your friends or family up to volunteer at a local homeless shelter or food bank — this is always an eye opener to see that material gifts pale in comparison to those given with the heart.
• Stay on budget: If you are someone who truly enjoys the entire shopping experience that we often associate with the holiday season, I get it, I do love a good sale. If your love language includes bestowing sweet surprises on your loved ones — and you have some funding to do, I encourage you to stay on budget. While Black Friday generally marks the unofficial kickoff of the shopping season, the holiday sales begin earlier each season.
Whether you plan to brave the Black Friday crowds or opt for some cyber shopping, there are some savings and shopping strategies to save you time and money this holiday season.
Black Friday week: It used to be that the holiday shopping season kicked off with deep discounts on the Friday after Thanksgiving — and were followed up with sales that were still worthwhile but not nearly as lucrative as the sale that inspired everyone to get up early and brave the lines.
With more shoppers starting their Santa lists earlier, stores are offering more sales — before one ounce of Thanksgiving turkey has even been eaten.
• Be Like Santa: In case you were wondering, one of the main ways that Santa can keep track of all of those boys and girls on his nice list is his impeccable list making ability. I still suspect that the Missus is actually the one making that list and checking it twice but my point is this.
Every well planned holiday season should come with a, well, a good plan! Make a list of everyone on your list, come up with a price point for it — and stick to it. Check off gifts you have purchased and for those that you are not sure about or have not yet bought, check the price points for those items throughout the season.
Knowing the price history for the item you are looking for will help you decide if the Black Friday price is worth standing in line at 4 a.m. for — or if there is a better deal at a less hectic shopping time!
• Do the Math: Throughout the year, when I teach couponing classes, I always tout the importance of knowing your prices, when something is a must have price and when the sale is just … “meh.”
Before you spend one penny this season, know what the best prices are for the items you are hoping to purchase.
A great online resource is — you can even sign up for price alerts on your favorite items so you are notified when a price change is made.
Check out for coupon codes or visit blogs such as,or to see what matchups are available.
Even the regular frugalistas will find that sales on the less obvious gift items will be better than usual — and if you can save some money on your food budget, it just leaves you more for your holiday shopping!
• Pajamas and Small Town Holiday: OK, here is my chance to plug my love of my Hallmark Christmas movies. Do you know why I love these cheesy, sappy and always predictable movies? Other than my crush on some of the leading men (I’m talking to you, Will Kemp), it is primarily because they are all set in sweet towns that remind me of my own beloved hometown, Bustling Main Street USA, full of lovely holiday decor, local shops with friendly store owners waiting to help you find the perfect gift — all of those vibrant downtowns can only exist when we support our local businesses and artisans who set up shop there!
There are plenty of sales to be found at local downtown shops throughout the holiday season — often in conjunction with fun “Midnight Madness” events.
Check your local papers or tourism departments for dates of these sales events — or call your favorite local shop. Small Business Saturday event — the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday — provides a perfect opportunity for you to spend your holiday shopping dollars at locally owned businesses in your community. Visit to learn more.
Don’t forget your local moms who own their own direct sales businesses too — they often offer Santa lists, gift-wrapping and special sales for the season.
When you buy local, you are helping another mom have a better Christmas for her own family, too.
That’s considered a “win-win,” right?
(Editor’s Note: Kristine George is a freelance journalist who resides in Easton.)