Child holding Christmas ornament

It’s past Thanksgiving, which means it’s open season for marketers, managers and your mother-in-law to tell you what you should be doing, buying, getting, giving, spending, baking, making and wrapping for the perfect family holiday. In order to preserve some of that holiday spirit for your whole family, here are a few ways to keep your sanity in check in the coming weeks.

1. Cut down on the tv.
Television means advertisements; kids can find enough stuff to want, desperately so, without any encouragement. Get out the dvd collection. Kids can choose from that advertisement-free selection. Ads that run during kids’ shows are designed to appeal to kids, and they work. The less your kids see of the shiny, gimmicky, plastic-toy sales pitches, the better.

2. Set a limit on gifts.
Setting a limit on the amount of gifts you’ll buy and/or the amount of money you’ll spend on gifts makes sense anytime, more so in a tough economy. If you’ve got wiggle room in the budget, good for you, but don’t let that turn you into a shopping monster. Choose a number – 3, 4, 5 – and buy that many gifts for each of your kids. Or choose a dollar amount. Stick to your limit.

3. Shop online.
Shopping online allows you to get through the retail process, order the gifts you need, and avoid the spontaneous purchases that you’ll regret later. That fuzzy leopard-print scarf from last year? Remember? It looked so good on the rack next to the cash register… and your neck was cold.
It’s easier to focus on what you actually need to buy when you shop online. Plus you can shop in your pajamas and drink as much coffee as you want, without having to pay $3 a cup for it.

4.  Choose one special holiday activity/event for each week.
Okay, Super Mom. Put the glue gun down and back away from the craft supplies. You don’t have to bake Christmas cookies, build a nativity scene from popsicle sticks, or conquer that make-your-own-dreidel kit just for your kids to have a good holiday. And you don’t have to go to every holiday musical, play, party, bazaar or Santa Claus sighting to enjoy the time with your family. Limits are the key to your sanity. Think: simple. Think: one holiday activity each week. You and your kids will actually be relaxed enough to enjoy what you do, whether it’s going out for hot cocoa and a sleigh ride or staying in to make Christmas ornaments out of pine cones.

5. Practice saying no. Then say it over and over and over and over.
You like making people happy. That’s great, but NO is one of the most effective ways to simplify your life, and it doesn’t have to be rude. Don’t feel like a Scrooge because you don’t say yes to every holiday invitation that shows up. If you’re stressed and crazy, you’re going to bring that home and pass it along to your kids, who will then make you even more stressed and crazy. Say no to that cycle by saying no when you need to, and yes to a holiday that is less stress and more fun with your children.

image: pinksherbetphotography