How to Have a Stress-Free Holiday

By the time you read this, the year’s extraordinarily short #holiday shopping season will be nearly over. If you haven’t completed your shopping by now, you’ll have to pay for overnight shipping or brave the last-minute crowds at an old-school retail store.

As the clock winds down, you may also have meals to prepare and gifts to wrap. You may need to do an airport run to help far-flung family members join in the fun. You may even need to fit all of these activities in around your work schedule.

That’s a lot of stress. But there are ways to defuse that stress and enjoy the holidays.

The first is to know when you’ve done enough. Striving to create the “perfect” holiday can drive you nuts. There may be a few “nice to haves” or traditions that you just can’t fit into the holiday plan this year — and that’s OK. The sun will rise and set without them.

If you’re short a gift, you can give cash, buy a gift card or sign your giftee up for a subscription service that periodically delivers coffee, tea or wine. There are also plenty of all-digital gift options that can help show you care instantaneously.

Take advantage of services that take some of the work off your hands. Retailers are only too happy to wrap that gift or assemble that piece of furniture. The local bakery can provide a pie, and you can ask guests to bring a side dish.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when the big event arrives. A thoughtful guest will volunteer, of course, but many people may need reminding as they celebrate with family and friends. This is a great way to keep kids occupied ahead of a gift grab.

You can set deadlines on what you need to get done, but build in an hour or two of serenity to maintain your sanity. “Head outdoors for a refreshing change of scene,” Woman’s Day suggests. “Take a starlit nighttime stroll through your neighborhood to view the holiday lights.”

You don’t have to do it all — and even if you could, it wouldn’t add to your enjoyment of the holiday season or anyone else’s. Focus on the big picture and know when to “say when,” and you’ll be able to create warm holiday memories without the stress.

Use Tech to Track Prices This Holiday Season

Have you ever shopped for something only to see it again a few days later at a lower price? To get the absolute best deals on your Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping this year without monitoring the computer 24/7, The Verge says, take advantage of a tech assist. Price-tracking apps and browser extensions can track the prices of your most-wanted items at shopping sites such as, search for discount codes or search commerce sites for a specific item to find the lowest price. And they will notify you of the best deals as they appear, taking most of the legwork — and keystrokes — out of the search.

Decorate Your Gifts to Make Them Distinctive

To dress up your holiday gifts on the cheap, add evergreens or edible tags made of iced gingerbread, Good Housekeeping says. Make gifts into the likeness of a cartoon animal or attach cut-out paper snowflakes. Use a tulle pouf instead of a bow, or weave ribbon on top of gifts instead of tying it. Wrap gifts in reused paper from maps, newspaper or sheet music. Make beaded gift toppers or attach sparkly monograms. Or top your gifts with mini ornaments or candy canes — your creativity is the only limit when it comes to decorating your packages to make them stand out under the tree.

Use Kraft Paper as a Canvas for Gift Wrapping

Kraft paper is an inexpensive canvas to use when wrapping holiday gifts, Loves the Find says. Simply wrap up your gifts in the plain brown paper, then use your creativity to make it distinctive. Tie them with ribbon, fabric trims or twine and add tree trimmings or pine cones — or go more exotic with feathers, chalkboard paint and glitter. To create a repeating pattern, cut simple stamps out of potatoes, linoleum or a lint roller, and imprint the paper with a stamp pad or tempera paint. Kraft paper isn’t just for the holidays, either — you can use it at any time of year gifts are given.

Use ‘Santa Sacks’ to Wrap Sustainably

If you have a lot of gifts to give to one or more young children, go a step beyond the stocking with a sustainable Santa Sack, Holidappy suggests. Personalize a cloth laundry bag with a tag or embroidery, and have the child put the empty sack under the tree on Christmas Eve. Then fill each sack with unwrapped gifts; in the morning, the kids can open their sacks and discover what Santa brought overnight — and you’ll save money on gift wrap and ribbon while saving time on cleanup. And if you have large or oddly shaped gifts to give, hide them and leave clues around the house for the recipients to find.