FeelGooder Asks: What Are You Finishing?

The news today that the US has declared an end to the war in Iraq is undoubtedly a relief for millions around the world. It’s quite the festive gift.

Regardless of your position on this war, or war in general, this news raises questions about endings. Sometimes endings are sad, and sometimes they’re not. So I’m curious:

What are you finishing?

Have you noticed how people rush to finish things by the end of the year? I’ll bet you have plenty you’re finishing up at work, or school, or even in social or interest groups. How does that feel?

This year I’ve finished a major chapter in my life by changing the nature of some important relationships with people I love. This has been a great challenge, and a long one, and has required some significant changes.

The one thing it’s really brought home to me, though, is that the saying “when one door closes, another opens” is true. I really hate that saying, because I’m not great at letting go of things that matter to me. But this year I learned that to open new doors, you don’t necessarily need to let things go: you can transform them (not always easy, I know) and in so doing create an opportunity for a new door to open.

So I’m finishing a chapter of confusion and frustration. I’m already getting the impression that the door that’s opening involves more warmth, sponteneity, and fun. Is this a good ending? Why yes, yes it is.

What are you finishing? Let me know in the comments.

Three Ideas to Help Men Become More Thoughtful

This guest post is by Mike Bundrant of theiNLP Center.

A lot of good men could be more thoughtful of the women in their lives. These guys have all the right intentions, but thoughtfulness just doesn’t come naturally. Is this you? You diligently go about your business as a breadwinner and may love to putter around the house, but she wants something more.

What does she want, specifically?

She wants to know that you are 1. thinking about her and 2. willing to extend yourself to meet her needs. If she doesn’t get ample evidence of these two things, she may not be happy no matter what else she gets. Worse, at some point she will stop asking you to meet these needs, but the needs won’t go away. When this happens, the end is near! She will eventually leave you, or leave you emotionally. Either way, your relationship is over.

I know what you may be thinking.

“Whenever she asks me for something, I give it to her. What’s the problem?”

This is great. It means you are considerate when you are made aware of her needs. Keep it up – don’t stop being considerate. Just know that it doesn’t meet criterion number one above. It doesn’t prove you are thinking about her, even though you may still extend yourself by doing what she asks.

For example, which do you think will make her happier?

  1. She asks you to help with the dishes and you do so without complaining.
  2. You realize she needs help with the dishes without being asked and offer to help.

Another example:

  1. She reminds you that you haven’t brought her flowers lately, so you go get her some.
  2. You surprise her with flowers well before she feels she needs to mention it.

It isn’t rocket science. Still, I am amazed at how many guys, myself included, don’t put this into practice. Nothing can replace the powerful combination of being thoughtful (considering her wants and needs before being asked or reminded) and extending yourself (reaching out, going out of your way to do something for her).

But don’t do this…

I once gave a coaching client a list of 100 thoughtful things he could for his wife. I wanted to help him with ideas and get his mind moving in a certain direction toward being more thoughtful and romantic. Well, he took that list and gave it to his wife. “Honey, I’m going to be more thoughtful now,” he said. “So, review this list and circle the things you want me to do for you. I plan on doing one a week.”

When his wife told me about the event, I was dumbstruck! And I still am. I suppose this approach is better than doing nothing at all, or is it? At any rate, the point is—there is no adequate substitute for being purely thoughtful, especially in the minds of many women.

Three tips

Here are three ways to remind yourself to be thoughtful so she doesn’t have to. Remember, this is written to guys for whom thoughtfulness does not come naturally. Here you go, men:

  1. Get your mind moving in that direction. Brainstorm ideas and create a list of things you can do for your partner. If you never think it – if you don’t open your mind to ideas in the first place, thoughtfulness has no chance of becoming natural for you. Keep your list a secret!
  2. Schedule it. Put it on your calendar and mark it as a high priority. Just don’t tell her that you need to remind yourself to be thoughtful in this way and remember, this is your life and she is a very important part of it. She is more important than paying the bills or mowing the lawn or tinkering in the garage. She’s more important than any hobby you might have. She’s even more important than your career to your overall happiness, when it comes right down to it, is she not? All you need to do is be thoughtful and extend yourself—make it your highest priority! The good news is that a little effort in this department goes a long way.
  3. Deal with your narcissism. If you are resisting this concept, then you may have a narcissistic streak that you need to come to terms with if you want thoughtfulness to become more natural to you. There are lots of resources, therapists and coaches who are well prepared to help you.

The bottom line: If you think you may be less thoughtful than you could be and it impacts your relationship, there is no better investment of your time and energy than to get this one handled. Being thoughtful pays dividends in ongoing and often unexpected ways for years to come. Just do it!

Mike Bundrant is a mental health counselor (Retired, NM) and internationally recognized NLP trainer. Find Mike at theiNLP Center. iNLP also offers a free personal development mini-course.

Making the Most of Holidays Together

Hel-lo holidays! Whether you’re escaping the cold for warm shores or shacking up in the wilderness for a bit, holidays can really test a couple’s bond.

Sadly, most couples will end up fighting at some point, which can be really upsetting when you’re trying to have a good time together. But when you think about it, on holidays you’re around each other 24/7 with little to no time alone; you may be immersed in a completely different culture, unable to speak the local language; you may find yourselves having trouble negotiating public transport while out of your comfort zone…

Depending on how well you deal with that kind of stress, you can see how it can be a recipe for conflict.

In order to make the most out of your precious time off, follow a few easy rules to help you get through the holidays unscathed.

1. Work out what you want from the holiday

Make sure you have this discussion ahead of time. I’m a sit-by-the-pool-and-do-nothing sort, but my husband much prefers to explore. We usually have a day on/day off arrangement so we can both get what we need to out of a holiday. Talking about what you want before you actually go on holiday will influence everything from where you actually go, to what you do when you get there. Planning the holiday this way is part of the excitement, so put some effort into it.

2. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Holidays are not the place for nagging, moaning, or criticizing. Try to look on the bright side throughout the holiday to ensure you have a great time. Make the effort to be extra-nice, turn any upsets into adventures, and keep a smile on your face—even if your flight gets delayed (time for a wine at the airport!) or you aren’t sure where your taxi driver has dropped you off (a chance to explore new territory!).

3. Be a million miles away

If you’re on a holiday, you are there to get away from your everyday lives, so make sure you switch off. Set up email autoresponders back at home, switch the mobile off, and focus on your partner—and on relaxing yourself. You may also get the urge to have deep and meaningful conversations while you are away, but focusing on your financial problems or any of the other big issues from home will only leave you frustrated. Talk, but focus on the here-and-now to keep yourselves in the moment—escapism on a holiday is not only healthy, it’s the whole point.

4. Get some alone time

It’s important to strike a balance and spend a little time alone as well. Take yourself off to the day spa or golf course alone, spend some time reading or shopping by yourself, take walks solo… Being around each other all day, every day can be a bit too intense.

5. Spice it up in the bedroom

Two words: Holiday sex. (Need I say more?)

Happy holidaying, lovebirds! Tell us about your favorite holiday together…

FeelGooder Asks: What’s Your Secret for Surviving the Silly Season?

The festive shopping-and-socialising silly season usually hits its stride at this point in the month. How are you holding up? It’s usually somewhere around now that I start to feel like I need to escape the whirl of conspicuous over-consumption and take time out to recharge.

So I thought I’d ask you:

What’s your secret to surviving the silly season?

My secret generally involves carving out some “me time” from the pre-Christmas rush and panic. There are a few tricks that I use to do this.

Garden

The garden is a good escape from silly season stress

The first is to spend some time doing something that’s not commercial or related to the festive season in any way. I might go for a bush walk, for example, spend the afternoon in the garden, or head to the bath or the hammock with a good book.

For those few hours, I can ignore the fact that it’s the festive season, avoid the expectation that I should be frantically baking or shopping or gift-wrapping or carol-singing, and just chill out.

Another good antidote is to say “no” to something—a party invitation, a free sample offered by a well-meaning shop assistant, a demand for answers about the gift list or my schedule.

It might sound odd, but I find the festive season is usually crammed with obligations. They’re fun, sure—but they’re still obligations. Saying “no” to something is a good way to claw back some sense of choice and control, even on a small level. It can also give me more time to relax!

They’re my secrets to surviving the silly season. What are yours? Share them with us in the comments.

How to Recognize Vision Problems in Children

This post is by Evan Fischer.

Your child may not recognize or be able to articulate vision or eye problems if they are experiencing them, and you may not suspect that anything is wrong … at first. 

Sometimes, behavioral problems or seeming learning disabilities may stem from an undiagnosed vision problem.  Your child may need assistance with their vision. 

Vision problems in children

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The group Prevent Blindness America has studied such problems in children and determined that one in four children of school age is affected.  If you notice that your child is experiencing any of these signs, it is important that you schedule a full vision examine from an eye care professional, preferably one who specializes in pediatrics.

Trouble concentrating

If your child is having trouble seeing the board at school or reading assigned texts, it may be that they are experiencing vision difficulties and not that they have attention deficit disorder (or ADD). 

This problem can extend to your child’s homework patterns.  Are they taking longer than they once did, or are they working inordinately longer on their studies?  It may be that they are forced to reread passages because they can’t see or focus on long enough to comprehend them.  Skipping words or lines while reading points to the possibility of astigmatism.

Sitting too close to the TV

Sitting or scooting nearer and nearer to the television or squinting at it are signs that your child is having trouble seeing the screen, or that they might be nearsighted.  If they are covering up or closing one eye while watching television or performing other close activities like reading, it may be that they are experiencing double vision. 

Pay attention to the way they look at objects:  are they holding books further away?  Squinting?  Is one eye crossing?

Headaches

Children with eye strain from reading or staring at the computer screen may complain of headaches.  The child may also complain of dizziness.

Red eyes

If a child is experiencing some kind of vision problem, they are more prone to rubbing their eyes, which makes them look red and irritated.  Listen to see if your child is complaining about eyes that itch or that hurt.

Coordination

If your child seems more accident-prone than before—and this can include bumping into furniture, dropping objects, or missing the table when laying down dishes or silverware—they may have a vision problem.  This may extend to the ways that they play, including their ability to handle toys and balls.

If your child is experiencing any of these problems, you should take them to an eye care specialist or read more information at All About Vision, to determine if they need corrective glasses or contact lenses

The American Optometric Association recommends that your child have a comprehensive eye exam at six months of age, again at three, and again at five or six, even if they are displaying no outward signs of vision impairment.  After that, they should have yearly check-ups. 

Left untreated, certain eye problems can develop into serious medical issues, while in their earlier stages they may be easily and affordably curable.

Evan Fischer is a freelance writer and part-time student at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California.

5 Ways to Slow Down This Holiday Season

This post is by Rachael of KitchenCourses.com.

The holidays are always about good food, relaxation, and family. Or at least, that’s how we pretend they are. For most people, the reality is that the holidays are a chaotic time of last-minute preparing and entertaining, stressful shopping, eating poorly, and ultimately being exhausted by the “most wonderful time of the year.”

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the chaos that ensues the stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But with a few days off and people we care about coming together, we should be relishing in this time instead of trying to shift our attention to what we’re told is important.

While all your friends and family are buzzing in and out of stores, eating a few too many pieces of pumpkin pie, and hosting tons of holiday parties, you’ll be set with these five ways to slow down this holiday season.

1.    Plan meals and food gifts ahead

Cooking for the holidays

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Set aside a few hours on a weekend to plan out your meals through the month so you can have peace of mind and not have to worry about last-minute planning or be tempted to order takeout. Take it one step further and prep some of your ingredients in advance. Think about chopping vegetables for meals later in the month, then freezing them. Or preparing slow cooker meals and placing in freezer bags, so on a busy day, you can defrost the ingredients and toss them right into your slow cooker with almost no effort.

If you plan on giving out any type of food gifts, like cookies or quick breads, prepare these early as well. Many cookie batters and baked cookies and quick breads will freeze fantastically for up to a few months. Get started now and you won’t have to think about it again until it’s time to start handing them out.

2.    Determine your priorities and be okay with saying “no”

If you’re often bombarded with too many requests for get-togethers or family events, take some time to write down what your priorities are. List the events you know are coming up and the ones you’re certain you will make time for in your calendar. Write down three goals for the season and if an event doesn’t meet one of the goals, be okay with declining the invitation.

3.    Shop at home or give handmade gifts

For so many of us, the holidays are more about shopping and gifting than they are about savoring the time we have surrounded by the people we care about. Flip this notion and vow to do all your shopping online from home, or create handmade gifts, so you don’t have to worry about fighting crowds or getting frustrated not finding the perfect item for someone.

The go-to solution whenever I can’t think of a gift to give someone is to make something. I tend to favor food gifts and handmade crafts, but you could also just write a nice letter to someone or find a photo of the two of you and having it framed. The more thoughtful gifts we give this year, the better we can feel about giving them out.

4.    Start a brand new tradition this year

Make it a point to start a tradition to take in some of the most enjoyable parts of the season. Bundle up the whole family, pack some hot chocolate, and take a car ride around town for a Christmas light parade. Find a local venue that puts on a show or offers ice skating at a low cost for an afternoon of fun. These simple but festive activities can really get you in the holiday spirit and help you to enjoy the people you’re with.

5.    Make a date with close friends

You don’t have to see everyone you know on Christmas Day or on a specific holiday. The “holidays” are plural for a reason! Make your plans with people last throughout a few weeks leading up to Christmas or the New Year so you don’t get burned out. Setting a date to get together and catch up in the middle of the month when stress levels are high is a great idea to get some quality time in and break up some of that stress that you and your friends are probably encountering.

Remember, the holidays don’t have to be stressful and chaotic if you make plans to simplify and set aside time for the things you really care about. These are just a few ways to slow down this holiday season so you can make the most of your time to relax with good food and people surrounding you. What are some of the ways you like to slow down for the holidays?

Rachael is the blogger behind KitchenCourses.com and is the author of How to Cook For Yourself: A Complete Beginner’s Guide. She writes about her passion for food, eating well while saving money, and inspires people to get familiar with their kitchens and cook for themselves.

5 Realistic Ways to Live a Healthier Life

This post is by Josh Sarz of sagoyism.com.

Are you as healthy as you should be? Everyone wants to live a long, healthy, meaningful life. But the harsh reality is, it’s not that easy at all.

A healthy life

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We talk about it every day. How we always plan to turn our lives around live a healthier life. But do we actually follow it? Do we get up and work on our body? Do we invest in ourselves the way we all should be doing?

I didn’t think so.

Is living healthily hard work?

Of course it is. We don’t expect to get something so beneficial for free. By just sitting on your couch all day and watching mind-numbing television, you won’t miraculously turn into a healthy human being.

It’s supposed to be hard! That way, not a lot of people will turn out healthy—and the ones who do will have something to gloat about.

Well, not really.

There are actually small, realistic steps that you can take to turn your life around and start living more healthily.

You don’t have to be The Biggest Loser, folks

You don’t have to slave and torture your body in an effort to force it to lose weight. Remember, you’re not on a TV show. You don’t have to go through psychotherapy or hypnosis to quit that bad habit like smoking or drinking. There are step-by-step guidelines on this. And you don’t have to go through the whole ordeal alone.

You don’t have to finish an Ironman triathlon. Although one of the highest accomplishments bestowed upon man, this is not required to prove you are living a healthy life.

You don’t have to venture into the extremes. There are easy and realistic ways to start this healthy, upward spiral.

1. Get enough sleep

I can’t stress this enough. There’s a reason why this is number one on the list.

If you plan on living a healthier life, you need to understand that sleep is one of the most important parts of your day. You shouldn’t miss it for anything. If you run late, just make up for it.

The average adult body needs around eight hours of sleep per day. Any less would mean a visible decrease in productivity and quality of work. Spending more than nine hours on sleep causes more or less the same effects.

For the incredibly busy, what I can suggest is to prioritize your physiological needs over anything else.

2. Eat well

Healthy does not mean that you avoid food. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Food has a purpose for our bodies. It helps us grow. It helps us live for tomorrow. It gives us the nutrition and energy we need to achieve anything physically and mentally.

How many times do you eat a full meal each day? If by any chance that number is below three, then you need to change that. Fast.

If you’re trying to lose weight, simply eat smaller meals five to six times a day. It’s much more effective compared to actually starving yourself. Go on, don’t be scared. Indulge.

3. Clean up your act

I’m not just talking about physical clutter here. I’m also talking about emotional clutter, as well as psychological clutter. There’s a lot of forms of clutter. The most common ones are smoking, alcoholism, drug dependency, etc.

Moderation doesn’t cut it in the long run anymore. As long as you still have addictions in your life, you’re not going to get any better. Wean yourself off of that baggage. Lessen your smoking, day by day, to the point where you actually quit. If you can pull this off, you’ll find that this is one of the best decisions in your life.

I myself had to let go of alcohol and cigarettes. My body was addicted to them. I had to let go of alcohol because I didn’t like how my body felt every time I had a hangover. Although there were withdrawal symptoms, I was able to beat the habit after about a year.

I also defeated smoking once, until one fateful day where I eventually went back to it. This time was much harder, as my body actually wanted to smoke like a fiery dragon. The thing is, it damaged my personal relationships with my family and my girlfriend. So I decided to try and quit smoking again. I’m now on my third week of being smoke-free.

4. Put down those gadgets

This can be tied up with the previous point, on de-cluttering. But you don’t have to throw away your computer. Your console. Your phone. Or that iPad.

What you need to do is make time for yourself. Your physical self—not your social media account. Go outside. Get some fresh air. Find time to smell the roses. Learn how to ride a bike. Take leisurely bike rides along the beach or on the countryside. Play some basketball with your friends. Do something physical. Work out. Get fit. Anything.

No, Angry Birds isn’t a physical activity.

5. Fall in love with walking

One of the simplest, yet most effective way to live a healthier life is by walking. Yup. Walking.

Research shows time and time again that people live longer if they’re physically active.

No, they didn’t do some research on athletes. They did it on regular adults, both male and female, aged 40-79. One group walked for more than an hour a day, and the second group didn’t.

The results were amazing. The group who actually walked for at least an hour a day came out healthier and lived longer lives than the other group.

Just by walking for an hour a day, that group of people had an average lifespan increase of three years. Amazing.

The stage is yours

See how simple the above guidelines are? That’s the key. There are no secret techniques, and no marketing. Just simple, realistic steps you can take to start living a much healthier life.

Once you’re able to put them to practice, you can then incorporate the intense workout routines if you still need to.

Now, when do you plan on living a healthier life? What are you waiting for? What steps have you already taken toward this goal? And how many times have you tried, but failed? Tell us all about it in the comments.

Josh Sarz is a Cebu Blogger who writes about Finding Ways to Enjoy Life. You can check his series about Rest Days, or you can read all the other posts over at his blog.

FeelGooder Asks: What Do You Feel Good About this Festive Season?

It’s officially that time of year! While the festive season can get stressful, bring up issues, and undermine our savings plans, it still gives most of us more than a few things to feel good about.

What do you feel good about this festive season?

Festive fun

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I feel good about being with my family for Christmas. In the last year, a few bygones have been allowed to be bygones, and a few hatchets have been buried, so I’m looking forward to a less awkward Christmas, and one that’s more open and fun.

I also feel good about having time off. I don’t know about you, but this year’s been a bit hectic for me. There’s been a lot on, and a lot to tackle, so having free time will be something of a blessing.

Finally, I’m having a party at my house over Christmas time, and I’m really looking forward to that. I live a long way from most of my friends, so it will be great to have some of them come out and stay with me for a night of country fun!

What about you? What are you feeling good about this festive season? Share your excitement with us in the comments.

Life After Debt: What You Need to Know

This is a post by Kevin Yu, author of the DebtEye Blog.

It’s a great and liberating feeling after you made your final payment to your credit card company.  Your hard work, persistence, and dedication finally paid off.  Go ahead and celebrate and rejoice, but don’t get too comfortable.  Getting rid of debt is only half the battle.  The other half is knowing how to stay debt-free so you don’t follow the same road as before.

“Nearly all debtors stated that they had received offers for credit [cards] in the first months following their bankruptcy,”—Source.

Living

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Why is this quote so important?  The reason is because credit card companies love targeting consumers who are fresh out of debt.   They know that with this new “fresh start,” consumers will likely begin to rack up credit card debt again. 

Credit card companies don’t like you if you pay off your balance in full each month; they like you because you’re considered a “revolver”.  A revolver is someone who only pays the minimum payment and carries their balance over each month.

How do you stay debt free?

The first part of living a debt-free life is knowing how you got there in the first place.  Let’s face it, accumulating debt doesn’t happen overnight.  There was some reason why you started to accumulate debt in the first place.  Here are the most typical reasons most people get into debt.

  1. Not enough savings: There comes a point in everyone’s lives where we’re faced with unexpected expenses.  It can include medical expenses, car/home repairs, or even a friend or family who needs to borrow money.  You should have at least six months of living expenses saved in case of emergencies.  If you had an emergency fund, you wouldn’t need to charge it on your credit card, right?
  2. Keeping up with the Joneses: Having the best things in life is great.  We’re living in an age where technology and innovation creates new “must-have” products.  Your neighbor buys a new 3D TV, and you now feel the need to buy a bigger and better one.  A friend buys the iPad2 while you’re still stuck with the original iPad.  This is a habit you want to avoid at all costs.  Do you ever hear about celebrities who file for bankruptcy?  I wonder why.
  3. Poor money management: How many of us actually have a budget and stick with it?  You must create a monthly budget and get in the habit of following it.  However, I always recommend that everyone starts off with a monthly spending journal.  A spending journal involves writing down every little expense (even the $0.25 pack of gum you buy).  After a month, you’ll start to notice a trend and see where your money is going every month.  From there on, you can now construct a realistic monthly budget and find where you can trim some of your expenses.  Also, don’t forget to set aside 15% of your income towards savings!

Learn to use credit responsibly: become a “deadbeat”

A “deadbeat” is a term used in the credit industry to describe a consumer who pays off their balance in full each month.  Creditors refer to you as a “deadbeat” because they don’t profit off of you compared to a “revolver”. 

I’m not here to tell you to stop using credit cards forever. Using your credit card is important in establishing credit in case you’re making a big financial purchase.  Without it, you have no creditworthiness. 

But here are some tips on how to use credit responsibly.

  1. Have a small credit limit: There’s really no need to have a $2,000+ credit limit on your credit card.  Having a higher credit limit only makes you feel that you have “free money” that you can pay off at any time.  This is why credit card companies send letter saying that you’re eligible for a higher credit limit.
  2. Pay off your balance: This may sound like an obvious tip, but it’s surprising how many people carry balances.  For example, if you have a $500 balance, you can tell yourself that you’ll pay off $400 and leave a $100 balance.  Soon enough, this is going to develop into a habit.  This is exactly what your credit card companies want.  Have the discipline to pay off credit cards quickly before the due date!
  3. Gain reward points: If you decide to use your credit card for daily purchases (and of course pay it off every month), make sure you reconcile your transaction at least once a week. Make sure you’re keeping track of how much you’re spending every month in each expense category.  This will ensure that you’re not “freely” using your credit card for unnecessary purchases.

Living a debt-free life involves learning to spend money wisely. If you can keep to a budget, set aside money towards your savings account every month, and pay off your credit card balances in full, then you’re well on your way to becoming a deadbeat!

Kevin is the author of the DebtEye blog. He is a certified credit counselor and used to own a credit counseling company in Chicago. He is also the co-founder of DebtEye, which is an online software to help people get out of debt.

How to Buy Christmas Presents Without Breaking the Bank

This guest post is by David Lazar of PdfConverter.com.

You can play the idealist and say that Christmas is about spending time with family and friends, not about presents, but realistically, presents have become something that you cannot have Christmas without these days.

Before you start stressing over all the money you will spend and all of the credit card bills that will be staring you in the face come January, take a deep breath and compose yourself. There are things that you can do to prepare yourself for the holiday spending season.

Christmas gift

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If you are watching your spending and counting your pennies all year round, December should be no different.

Here are some steps that you can take to make sure that you will be able to indulge in your holiday spending spree without losing sleep over it. With some careful planning and smart shopping, you can get all of your Christmas shopping done without digging yourself deep into a financial hole to start off the New Year.

Take all spending into consideration

Remember, presents are not the only expenses that you will incur during the holiday season. There are many things that you need to take into consideration along with the gifts and plan accordingly.

Many people set aside a certain amount of money for the holidays and then proceed to spend it all on presents, when in reality, they need to be looking at the many other expenses that they will undoubtedly be faced with in December. Perhaps you will be traveling to a relative’s house for the holidays.

Don’t forget about the money you will have to spend on a tree and decorations, parties, food, wrapping paper and greeting cards—all of these things cost money and you must be aware of these factors when planning a holiday budget.

Plan a gift budget and stick to it

Now that you have taken all of the costs into consideration, you are ready to see how much money you are left to work with and how much you will be able to spend without emptying your bank account. Make a list of all of the people that you plan on buying gifts for and prioritize the list.

Do you really need to buy something for all of your colleagues at work? Probably not. If you have coworkers who you consider to be good friends, buy them something and get some candy or simple cards for the rest of your coworkers. Or you can just make some cupcakes for everyone in the office instead of trying to get gifts for everyone.

Your children and close family members and friends are your priority—see how much you need for them and then look at what you have left to cover other people you are thinking of giving presents to this year.

Setting a budget plan and sticking to it might take more work than you are used to having in these situations, but you will thank yourself for doing it when your bank statement arrives in January.

Create a gift list

People who don’t make a list and budget plan end up going shopping and spending way too much, because they buy impulsively and spend a lot more than they can afford. When you go food shopping you always have a list with you, right? You even have a bag of coupons which you have clipped in preparation. There is no reason that Christmas shopping should be done any differently.

As with any kind of financial practice, planning your spending is essential: the better prepared you are, the less you will spend. Be sure to make a list and check it twice before going out and spending blindly on gifts that you are not even sure you need to buy.

Start shopping early

The sooner you start, the better. Perhaps it’s too late now, but take this into consideration for next year. If, while you’re shopping for your kids’ school clothes in September, you see something that you think they would like for Christmas, and it’s on sale, snap it up and put it away for the holidays.

The more time you have to shop, the more options you have. If you start looking for gifts early, you will be able to visit more stores and compare prices better. You don’t have to wait for the Christmas sales to shop: there are sales happening all year round.

Mind the sales

Here’s a good tip regarding sales for you to consider. Do you really think that the store employees arrive at the store at the break of dawn on the day the sale begins to adjust all of the prices? Usually not.

Try visiting some of the stores on the night before the big sale officially starts. There’s a good chance that the prices will already be marked down in preparation for the sale. This allows you to get the items at their sale price while also avoiding the large crowds that will undoubtedly file into the store in the morning.

If you are not familiar with shopping on the Internet, get familiar, because this is the new frontier of shopping and saving. Just as there are sales and coupons for regular stores, there are tons out there for web-based stores as well.

An easy way to find savings is to Google the name of the store that you are interested in, along with keywords like “discount code,” “coupon,” or “promotional code.” There’s a good chance that you will find some additional ways to save online that way, especially during the holiday shopping season.

Go easy on the plastic

If you have planned accordingly and have followed all of these other steps, then hopefully you won’t have to use your credit cards when buying presents. However, the reality of the situation is that you probably will have to use your credit cards for some holiday expenses.

If you are going to use a credit card, use it as minimally as possible. If you’ll be able to pay off the money that you spent over the holidays by March or early April, then you are going to be alright, but if it’s going to take you an entire year to pay up, you’re going to be in trouble. And of course, if you are going to use a credit card, makes sure you are using the one that offers the lowest interest rate.

Stick to these guidelines as closely as you can to be on your way to a Christmas full of presents but void of financial stress and worries in the New Year. What others can you add to this list?

David Lazar is a blogger at PdfConverter.com. With a background in journalism, he enjoys writing about and following a variety of topics, including finances, careers, technology and new media.