Posted by Tim Stobbs on December 11, 2013
It was all going to be perfect…right until your attempt to control the universe and create the perfect holiday moment hit reality and fell apart. Tears might follow, but disappointment and stress will certainly be there. So how do you escape the vortex of bad Christmas emotions?
Well there isn’t any really hard and fast rules on avoiding stress, but here are a few things I’ve noticed over the years.
- Keep Expectations Low – A large gap between your expectations for family events or gifts and what really happens is bound to cause stress, so skip it be keeping your expectations modest and lower. For example, rather than try to have all your guests happy at a party, be happy they just showed up.
- Do Less – The modern Christmas seems to be an exercise in excess in every way possible: too much food, too much company and too many gifts. So cut back and go to fewer events, give out less gifts, eat a bit less and ask yourself do you really enjoy sending Christmas cards? Perhaps you are doing more work than you need.
- Book Downtime – In the rush to get everything done before the big day and even afterwards, book some down time. You need to rest and recover from all the extra work so book a movie night (or reading book night) once a week at least to give yourself some downtime.
- Start Early – We try to start shopping for any gifts we need in Nov to reduce the stress of too many nights out in Dec. You can take that a step further be designing any holiday meals to be mostly down in advance and then frozen weeks before you need them. Heck I drafted our Christmas letter almost a month before I sent it out.
- Focus On What Matters – What are your favorite parts of Christmas? Sledding with the family or perhaps just hanging out with friends. Discuss those with your immediate family and plan your time on what matter the most to you…not what others expect of you.
I certainly need my own advice, when last weekend we had the insane idea to paint my son’s room while we sent out the Christmas cards, did the holiday baking, some shopping and some other home improvement projects. It was WAY to much and I have now reminded myself to not do that again. Take care and enjoy the holidays everyone.
Posted by Dave on December 10, 2013
I have a ton of problem getting motivated in doing most things that are outside of my comfort zone. Through most of my life, I excelled at procrastination – I gained the ability of putting aside the vast majority of undesirable tasks and filled in that time with hours of video games, internet surfing, recreational reading or otherwise – whatever it took to avoid the activity I wanted to do.
On Wednesday, I am headed to Mexico. Even though the majority of people there speak English (especially since I don’t plan on leaving the all-inclusive resort), I wanted to learn at least a small amount of Spanish, in order to understand a tiny percentage of what was being said around me. The problem with that project was that learning a new language – even just to start learning it is hard work and takes time, which I am able to “waste” very well.
I employed the same method I have implemented in the past couple of years, to get through school and keep a somewhat clean house as well as maintain a wide number of hobbies and interests. I invested 15 minutes a day into learning Spanish, over a 2-month period, the exact amount of time of Pimsleur’s Level 1 Spanish. While I am unable to have a conversation besides confidently saying “I speak very little Spanish”, “One beer please”, and “Where is the washroom?” I at least know I can understand the jist of a simple conversation. From a base of literally knowing zero of the Spanish language, I have built up to maybe a level 10 or 15 out of 100 in Spanish skills (if you were to look at Spanish skills as a video game).
15 minutes is about as much of an undesirable activity I can really talk myself into, unless there is some pressure to get it complete (the lifestyle of a procrastinator). At the end of a year though, 15 minutes turns into 90 hours (if my math is right). From my perspective, 90 hours is more than enough time to get most anything done, mostly because the stuff I would like to get done is really not all that important.
From a personal finance perspective, 15 minutes a day could be enough to learn quite a bit over a year about anything, I could:
- Learn a new or different method of investing – I could read a chapter of a book per day.
- Organize my investment accounts
- Accurately track my spending
- Research a stock
At the end of a week, I would be way further ahead with my finances and financial plan than at the beginning of the week.
How do you fit in “undesirable” activities? Do you leave them until the very last day, or attack them well ahead of time?
Posted by Tim Stobbs on December 6, 2013
While most parents focus on buying that perfect gift for their kids for the holiday season, I tend to skip that. I don’t want then to have the ‘perfect’ gift, but rather a gift. Since more often than not about a month after opening their present they won’t be able to tell you who bought them that toy anyways. Instead I tend to focus my efforts right now on something the kids never even see their Registered Education Saving Plan (RESP) account.
After all what do you want most for your kids? To be happy, to grow up and find something they like to do as a job and potentially retire early themselves (if they would like to). So an investment in some kind of post secondary education will likely help them out for the majority of their lives (especially if they can keep any student loans to a minimum). While I don’t know what my kids will want to do when they grow up I am at least taking some steps to put some money aside for them.
Currently their RESP account has a little over $40,000 for both of them. Not too bad given my boys are currently ages 8 & 5. That gives me about 7 more years of saving to finish up saving for the first kid. We currently put aside $167 per kid, per month. So adding in all their grant money and assuming a 4% real return we should have just under $95,000 (in today’s dollars), by the time the first kid goes to post secondary. So overall each kid will have around $50,000 to fund some kind of education. Will that pay for it all? Frankly I doubt it, but it at least gives them a good start in life.
You see I love my kids, but I have no illusions of paying their way through Harvard law school which tuition alone for a SINGLE year is over $50,000. Needless the say, I’m keeping my sights a wee bit more modest for them. You see I really don’t want them to have “the best”, just like their holiday gifts, I just want them to have something.
So how much would you put towards your kids education? Do you look for the best or settle on more realistic dreams?