The calendar page has turned from December to January and another holiday season is in the rear-view mirror. If your holidays were anything like mine then you might be feeling a bit of a hangover from all of the overindulging of the last few weeks. It’s easy to get caught up while in the thick of the season and come out of December more stressed than when you went in. In my case this stems from a few different areas you might relate to: spending on gifts and other things, holiday travel, enjoying too many special treats at holiday get-togethers, and children gone feral after two weeks of too-much sugar and not enough routine.

    It’s easier than ever to spend more than you planned these days and that’s especially true during the Christmas shopping season. With every retailer touting their best prices of the year during black Friday, and again on cyber Monday, and yet again on the final weekend before Christmas (funny how that works), it just makes sense to pick up a few things for yourself while you’re at it. All of this can lead to a painful shock in January when you receive your credit card bill. This is another point for using cash for your purchases when you can, since it helps prevent adding on just “one more thing” that you probably didn’t need or budget for.

    There’s not much good to be said about traveling for the holidays. Icy roads, flight delays, and sleeping in a bed that’s a size or two smaller than what you’re used to at home (god bless those of you sleeping on an air mattress). But we endure it all to be with those we love this time of year. As we get older the guest beds become harder to endure and the prospect of not making the trip so we can sleep in our own house is that much more desirable. But for now, our boys are four and six years old and we feel fortunate that we are in a position where we can travel and they can spend the holidays playing with their cousins and being spoiled by their grandparents. I guess one silver lining is that after all of the time away, the first night back in your own bed is some of the best sleep you’ll have all year (absence does make the heart grow fonder after all).

    If your family is anything like mine, the holidays can seem like a competitive eating event staged over the course of two weeks. It’s hard not to overindulge when there are so many events and get-togethers where it seems the main purpose is to try to consume as many cakes, cookies, pies, and other sweet things as possible. The general consensus seems to be that any health eating habits can wait until everybody starts dieting with their new year’s resolutions. 

    Reading the preceding paragraphs might give you the impression that I’m a scrooge who doesn’t enjoy the holidays and only focuses on the downside of it all. But that’s part of what makes the January hangover so real. I have the memories of the time spent with family and giving and receiving gifts, but as the glow from those experiences fades we need to deal with the effects of our overindulgence, lack of sleep and higher than normal (or anticipated) bills coming due. So, what can we do about it?

    Well it’s no surprise that January is the biggest month for new gym signups and participation, and that Dry January is a new trend that people are jumping on as well. For most folks though, I recommend focusing on the basics rather than starting a new routine and hoping you’ll stick with it. If your budget feels stretched, and you feel stressed, use that as motivation to get back to basics and focus on a routine that works for you. One thing we’re doing in our household is preparing healthy meal plans for a week or more ahead of time to prevent falling back on going out for lunch or dinner.

    If you feel you have to try something bold to make a new start, like sign up for a new exercise class, try out a whole 30 or keto diet, or commit to a no-spend or dry January, then give yourself the best shot at sticking with it that you can by finding a way to hold yourself accountable. Some good ways to do this are to find a friend or partner that will participate with you so you can keep each other honest. If no one wants to join you, you can still ask a friend to hold you to your goal, or make a public announcement that you will donate money to a cause you dislike if you start to slack off. There’s a reason so many New Year’s resolutions never make it to February, but having an accountability partner or consequence can go a long way towards ensuring your success.

    Good luck to all of you. We made it through the holidays, we can make it through this too.


    When the weather starts turning colder and Starbucks rolls out their Pumpkin spice lattes and other festive creations it can only mean one thing. The holiday season is upon us. This time of year can bring a lot of joy and celebration: reuniting with friends and distant family members, partaking in holiday traditions, and the excuse to stuff yourself on all of the delicious food and holiday treats.

    The holidays can also be a stressful time filled with too many trips to the mall or panicked last minute browsing on your favorite retail website trying to find the perfect gifts for your loved ones. Not to mention the hangover in January when the credit card bill comes due, and the cheer of the season has melted away.

    A winning strategy is to plan ahead. Make a list of those you plan to buy for, and include a budget for their gifts. Set a limit on the number and cost of the gifts you plan to buy. This will help you stay within your overall budget and allow you to purchase appropriate gifts for the important people in your life.

    Shopping Strategy

    • Shop early and avoid the “Christmas Eve rush”. Everyone has seen those crazy videos of holiday shoppers mobbing a store at 5am on Black Friday. There’s no need to be quite that early, but there’s nothing quite like the feeling of having your Christmas shopping done well before the week of Christmas. You can relax on the couch with a glass of eggnog and carols on in the background while everyone else is searching for a parking spot at the mall.
    So many people look forward to black friday, that it now shows up as a holiday on my phone’s calendar!
    • Whenever possible, pay by cash or check for your gifts. This will help you to limit any overspending you may be tempted to do and reduce the uggh feeling you get when opening your credit card bills in January.
    • Plan out beforehand as much as possible the gifts you plan to purchase before heading out to do your shopping, or sit down at the computer to do your shopping. This will help you avoid the trap of making an impulse purchase while at the store or site and blowing your budget. 
    • Consider exchanging names among a group of family or friends with a set dollar limit and purchasing a gift for one person.
    • Look to purchase “stocking stuffers” at a discount store all in one trip. This will help you avoid impulse buys.
    • Handmade gifts can be the most special. Use your creativity and talent to give the gift of yourself, it’s often a personal touch that is greatly appreciated.
    • Rather than exchange gifts, consider starting a new holiday tradition with a group outing or event. Often, it’s the experiences together that we look back upon fondly and remember much more than the gifts we’ve received.
    • Minimize the return headache, by keeping all of your receipts in one place and including gift receipts as much as possible.

    Taking an organized approach to holiday shopping can make the experience enjoyable for many reasons. First, you will be getting the most value for your dollar. Second, you will now have the time to really relax and enjoy the holidays, knowing your preparations are complete.