10 tips for a stress-free holiday season

Posted December 5, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Whether the holiday season is your favorite time of year or gives you stress-induced nightmares, USA.gov can help you make the most of it. These ten tips from across the government highlight ways you can celebrate on a budget, secure seasonal employment, sign up for local volunteer opportunities and more.

1. Buy Safe Toys

If you plan to buy toys for the kids in your life, choose age-appropriate toys and look for labels with safety advice. For young children, avoid toys with small parts, sharp edges, and electric toys that can heat up. Always purchase safety gear in addition to sports-related gifts or ride-on toys, such as bicycles or skateboards. Get additional toy safety tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

2. Celebrate on a Budget

The holidays can be expensive, but you don’t have to break the bank to celebrate. Take a few minutes to decide how much you can afford to spend on gifts, travel, parties, decorations, and other holiday expenses. Once you’ve created a spending plan, keep track of your purchases.

Shopping online can help you stick to a budget as you’ll avoid the temptation of store displays and may be able to use coupons and promotion codes. Before you buy, look for free shipping offers; check ordering deadlines and read the return policy.

3. Give the Gift of Service

Sometimes the greatest gift you can give to others is service. Studies show that reading to a child just three hours a week significantly improves his or her reading skills. If you help out at a local soup kitchen or food bank, you are directly providing meals to hungry individuals.

4. Find Seasonal Employment

Even in a tough economy, businesses need extra help around the holidays. Seasonal employment can help supplement your income and potentially lead to a permanent position. If you need to update your resume, check out resume and interview tips to help you stand out in the job market. Get online tools and resources to help with your job search.

5. Get Through the Holiday Blues

The holidays aren’t a joyous time of year for everyone. They can bring stress and feelings of loneliness. Exercise, focusing on positive relationships, and doing things that you find rewarding can help with depression. Get tips on what to do if you feel depressed. Keep in mind that winter depression could be a sign of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is caused by the lack of sunlight.

6. Be Safe and Save Money with LED Lights

Electricity bills can grow during the holidays if you decorate with strings of lights. Consider switching to LED (light-emitting diode) holiday lights to save energy and money and provide a safer home environment. In addition to the cost savings, LED lights are much cooler than incandescent bulbs. Every holiday season, fires claim lives and cost millions in damage. To prevent holiday fires in your home: use nonflammable decorations; do not overload electrical sockets; regularly water live Christmas trees; and avoid the use of lit candles. As you should do year-round, ensure that your smoke alarms are working.

7. Pay Attention to Food Portions and Physical Activity

The holidays are a wonderful time to celebrate with family and friends, but celebrations sometimes involve over-indulging in sweet treats and heavy foods. Even if you only gain one or two pounds during the holidays, these gains can add up over the years. The holidays are probably not the ideal time to try to lose weight, but you can take steps to maintain your weight.

8. Pack for Hassle-Free Air Travel

You can get through the airport security line faster by traveling with unwrapped gifts and following the 3-1-1 rule when carrying on liquids, including liquid food items like cranberry sauce and gravy. You can also use the My TSA app or mobile website if you’re at the airport and need last-minute information about what you can and can’t bring through security.

9. Reduce Holiday Waste

The holiday season includes many opportunities to reduce waste, recycle, and reuse items. Did you know that about 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season? Consider buying rechargeable batteries (and a charger) for electronic gifts to help reduce the amount of harmful materials thrown away. If you plan to send greeting cards, consider purchasing ones that are made of recycled paper, or save postage costs and reduce waste by sending electronic greetings.

10. Keep Food Safe

Holiday buffets are convenient ways to entertain a crowd, but leaving food out for long periods of time can invite bacteria that cause food-borne illness. To keep your holiday foods safe, cook them thoroughly, use shallow containers, never leave them sitting out for more than two hours, and keep them at the appropriate temperature.

For additional information on safely preparing a variety of meats and side dishes, get an online kit of Holiday Food Safety publications and order a free print kit of Top Food Safety Tips.

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