This post is sponsored by the fine folks at You Need A Budget I’m already dreading the holiday hangover. Every year, it seems like the number of days between Thanksgiving and Christmas get shorter and shorter. I love Christmas, but I’m almost never ready for it to arrive. Our traditional holiday letter seems to get finished and put in the mail later in December every year. The presents get wrapped closer and closer to Christmas Eve . . . the rush to plan travel, or plan meals, or plan ways to make Christmas memorable for my kids often make the holiday season the most stressful season of our year. I hate that. It’s supposed to be merry and bright and all that stuff, but sometimes it’s just a lot of pressure. Then January arrives. You stayed up too late for New Year’s. You’re exhausted from driving or flying or entertaining family. And your December credit card bill arrives and you figure out you’ve spent way more than you intended. And you need a mental and physical vacation from your holiday vacation. I don’t want that to happen this year. I’m trying to take steps to keep the holidays from being a stressful time. We’ve focused less on consumerism the past few years and more on giving handmade gifts, buying handcrafted products, using credit cards less, and spending time instead of money. (Occupy Christmas is one of my favorite movements ever.) Here’s a few of the ways I’m trying to stay sane this holiday season: SELF CARE. I’m trying to say no to more things and give myself more margin this season. I’m lowering expectations of myself and keeping things simple. If that means I won’t be doing Elf on a Shelf, so be it. My family won’t be happy if they can tell I’m overwhelmed. I’m not going to wear myself out trying to create the perfect Christmas experience. The last thing I want is my kids to look back on their childhood holidays and mainly remember how grouchy and irritable their mom was. TOGETHERNESS OVER THINGS. We’ve got a large family but we don’t necessarily have a large Christmas budget. We’re working to prioritize time together above finding the perfect gift. This year, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, we’re going to try to find one small thing to do every week as a family—looking at Christmas lights, attending a local Christmas pageant, watching a holiday movie together . . . easy, inexpensive things that are memorable. GIVE. Yes, we give our kids presents for Christmas, but we are also trying to teach them that our giving should not just occur within our family or close friends. Christmas is such a good time to support the nonprofits and charitable organizations we are passionate about, and there are just so many ways to do that these days. Involving our kids in these gifts—from World Vision’s gift catalog to hats from Krochet Kids—has helped give them a more global outlook. We’re going to do the same this year. We’re also looking forward to working with Olive Crest, a local adoption agency for foster kids that placed Jafta with our family. We help stuff stockings for kids in the foster-care system – which is a tangible way for the kids to give back. STAY ON BUDGET. I’ve written before about how we are using You Need a Budget now to stay on track. You Need a Budget is a robust budgeting software that works on your computer and iphone or Android device. It features Cloud Sync, which stays in sync wherever there’s an internet connection. You can use their app to record your spending right at the cash register. Or check your budget right from the store if you’re unsure if you can afford that Christmas gift you’re eying. What about you? Do you find yourself getting stressed around Christmas? Are you trying anything different this year to fight the “holiday hangover”? Pssst . . . if you want to give You Need A Budget a try, they have a free 30-day trial here.