Let me guess: You are a woman over 55, getting busy with holiday preparations, traveling plans, and family gatherings with children and grandchildren. Maybe you have your business matters to wrap up and touch base with friends. Or maybe, for once, you just want to stay home alone.
How do you balance everything at the end of the year: the time you spend (coming and going), the energy (going out of your way to nurture someone in need), and the money side of things?
Years ago, as the holidays were approaching, I was going through a painful divorce, having to be a single mom to my two daughters at 3 and 5. It was December, and I had landed my first job as an accounts payable clerk at a national bank.
This was a great opportunity for me in a lot of ways. However, it broke my heart to leave my girls during the day with their Grandma so that I could work at a paying job. My monthly salary was $450. My house note was $387. That did not leave a lot to pay for food, clothing, utilities, and transportation.
With two young children and working, I was always behind on doing laundry. Like it was yesterday, I remember my friend Jennifer stopping by on Christmas Eve to say hello. She helped me fold clothes! So, that year, she was my “Santa Claus.”
We all need a thoughtful friend, so let me share 5 tips I’ve used to help myself and others to keep smiling.
Smiling prevents wrinkles – seriously! When I look at pictures of my Grandmother, I see myself in her, and not just because fat cheeks run in our family. When we smile, it’s like a Christmas tree, all lit up. And when we frown, our cheeks sag, showing how unhappy we are.
Even if you don’t have fat cheeks, smiling creates positive energy that boosts your spirit from the inside. It’s a great way to help yourself be happier while also spreading the feeling to those around you.
You should try smiling at someone who looks miserable. If you keep smiling, they will almost surely follow your example.
If you’re not yet retired, or have decided to continue working a bit longer, you probably know that getting paid by the hour defines time as money. So, giving time to someone new – helps you keep things in perspective.
When I say ‘things’, I mean having a home, a family, food in the fridge, transportation to come and go, network of friends, other things. Think about making a ‘blessing’ list of all the things that you have, which you often assume everyone has.
When temperatures were below freezing last year, I met someone new at church – a guy named James. He was sleeping under a bridge with cardboard as a mattress and a thin blanket coverlet.
He told me he was new in town and had landed a job that started the next Monday. After he got paid, he would be able to rent a room somewhere until he could afford something better.
James made me think about all the things I was taking for granted in my life. James was simply thankful to have a job lined up and had no complaints of his current circumstances. He made me more aware and got me thinking about how I could share what I had in ways I had not thought of before.
Years of balancing your checkbook (or maybe not enough years?) have probably made you despise doing it. But go ahead and balance it today. Why? So that you can plan ahead for any extra expenses during the holidays.
One method I have used in the past is the envelope system. With so many bank transactions now electronic, sometimes it is easy to lose track. So, you can simplify the balancing process by setting aside money for gifts and party expenses using an envelope for each category.
That way, your budget is in each envelope, and you can manage how much you spend or save during this time of the year. When the envelope is empty, hopefully you will have made all your planned purchases and will not be tempted to keep on spending money that you don’t have.
Of course, these holiday spend envelopes would be in addition to keeping up with your regular bills and expenses. However, starting the new year with a clean slate and being up to date on paying your bills creates a good feeling!
For those of us who own a business in retirement, we are familiar with the phrase “working on your business, not just in it.” This tip is to look up and beyond today.
You might consider using the following steps for goal-setting and timelining your next steps:
In the preparation stage is where the real fun begins, when we purge the old to let in the new. This tip is twofold – financial and non-financial.
Gather all your financial and other documents for the previous year to organize for your year-end reporting. Consider using Dropbox or Google Drive to scan and digitally store your yearly documents, setting up similar files for the coming year.
Make a visual inventory of your home and workspace to identify clutter. This is an ideal time to declutter by storing or discarding items (or even giving things away) that are not creating joy in your life.
By decluttering, your mind will be more agile so that you can engage in new conversations and new activities without being bogged down.
Use these tips to help you do what you love and enjoy what you do! Be blessed.
How do you prepare for the holidays in relation to your personal and business life? What tips do you have for ending the year with a smile? Please share in the comments below!
I used the envelope system early on in my marriage when I stayed home with my baby and toddler, and money was extremely tight. I pinned envelopes to a bulletin board in my kitchen, with milk, gas for car, etc on them. Everything extra I’d have to consider for the two week period between my husband’s pay cheques. We had plenty of company back then and lived in a rental (semi-detached), before we bought our house. It never once occurred to me that this money could ‘disappear’ and it didn’t. I now live alone in apartment. I completely trust my family and friends, but we now we have to be mindful of having cash where it can be easily found due to risk of theft by others. So, I don’t think to do this anymore. But, should. I find it more difficult to separate money in my mind when it’s in my account, for numerous future purchases. Thanks for the reminder.
Thanks for sharing. I use an excel spreadsheet these days, showing cash in and cash out. And right now only have a small amount of cash in my purse to last me for the week. Things have really changed, haven’t they, to almost totally electronic transactions. Happy holidays!