Holiday Survival Basics

These tips will help ease the stress of the holidays.
These tips will help ease the stress of the holidays.
BananaStock/ BananaStock/Thinkstock

Most years, the holidays are stressful. Family. Meals. Social obligations. Vacation planning. Added expenditures. You know the deal. But in 2009, there are additional stresses that come with an economic recession and the uncertainty that surrounds it.

TLC and HowStuffWorks have joined forces to compile a list of tips that might help ease the tension, save money and help you stay sane this holiday season!

Family Time: Know Your Boundaries

First, take into account points of stress or contention in previous years. Sibling rivalries, heated political debates, clashing personalities, the stress of hosting a large group: Anticipate these things now, and pave your survival path to avoid them.

"When families get together, memories and dynamics of the past begin to resurface," says Francine Karim, a therapist in East Lansing, Mich., in an article from The "The holidays bring it all out. If you're the hero of the family or the family victim, it all gets played out."

Another idea? Go away. Seriously. Is there really a rule that you must be with family for the holidays, or does it just feel like it? Weigh your options. If getting out of Dodge isn't an option, at least find time to slip away and have some time to yourself or with your spouse and children.

Holiday Meals: Consider Some Alternatives

The usual turkey or ham dinner might not be as economical this year. Lessen your financial stress and consider one of these:

  • Have a buffet-style, pre-cooked dinner. (Rotisserie chicken and a couple of side dishes, for example.)
  • Go pot luck! When everyone chips in a little, the host family can save a lot.
  • Order out. Chinese food or pizza for 10 can be shared, and a little goes a long way.
  • In essence, keep it simple. Less prep, more time with family and friends (or more time to yourself)!

Alternative Holiday Parties

Most companies are scaling back office parties this year, so it's only logical that hosts and hostesses do the same with their own affairs. Here are a few tips that might help:

  • Make it BYOB. Everyone can contribute to the merriment.
  • Make it a BAD (bring a dessert) party. Everyone will get to indulge a little with little expense.
  • Make it a "drinks and appetizers" event, and schedule it after dinnertime.
  • Set an end time in your invitation. People will likely drink less, and the host spends less money on food.
  • Make it casual. Party dresses might not be in the budgets this year, and jeans are more comfortable anyway.

Take Advantage of the Economic Downturn - in a Good Way.

Everyone knows we're in a recession, so it wouldn't be uncomfortable or surprising to do one of the following:

  • Go with an e-card instead of buying cards and stamps this year. Perhaps it's not as personable to some, but to others, it's an easy way to get a holiday wish for FREE.
  • Go vintage. Thrift shops, antique shops and Web sites like or are great places to find unique, inexpensive gifts for the people you love most.
  • Mall or window-shop first, then buy online. Consider the best deals and factor in shipping costs.
  • Find a few really good deals that are useful to many people, and leave them in the trunk of your car. Forgot a last-minute gift for your hairdresser? Pull out that bottle of wine you found on sale instead of adding an extra $50 to your stylist's tab.
  • Re-gift. Just do it carefully, so as not to offend a friend.

Take Care of YOU.

You won't do anyone any favors if you spend all your time stressing about others and forget to focus on your own needs. You can't turn a corner these days without a doctor or therapist reminding you of a few golden rules:

  • Keep your workout, meditation or nutrition schedules in place as much as you can.
  • Likewise, don't overindulge in alcohol.
  • Feeling some anxiety? Get out of the house. Go for a walk with the family and the dog. Hit the movie theater. Go bowling or shoot some pool.
  • Avoid subjects of controversy with family, but be proactive when sensitive issues arise. Stressed about the economy? Leave the room when the subject comes up (or tell others it makes you uncomfortable). Sibling rivalry? Take five minutes and meditate before reacting.
  • New to the family or the family's holiday celebrations? Ask your significant other about the family culture, as well as which topics to steer clear of, and find out how to be a successfully less-stressed partner.
  • Traveling? Leave early, pack light, pre-ship gifts, and remember that magazines and DVD players go a long way during flight delays or when traveling with children.