So here we are, January is upon us. There was no snow at Christmas and no peace on Earth globally. Too many people will have been sucked into a commercial Christmas and one they cannot afford. So perhaps now is a good time to take stock of last Christmas while taking notes to prevent a GroundHog Day Christmas December 2019.
Did you really need to spend as much as you did?
Could you really afford what you bought or have you racked up debt that will haunt you all year?
Have you been binning leftover food?
Did you really enjoy Christmas?
Were you stressed out at Christmas?
Were you exhausted post Christmas?
The list goes on and on.
Christmas should be about you and yours. You do not have to celebrate the same way as others. In fact you do not have to celebrate at all if you prefer not to!
Rows, frayed tempers, broken relationships, fists to the face and body, drunken binges, huge debts and more are sadly Christmas reality for many.
Why set yourself up for such a scenario?
Now is a good time to plan for a very different Christmas from now on.
New Year's resolutions are fine but by now most people will have broken them. You can take stock and plan a fresh start at any time of year.
Rather than making "how you do next Christmas" part of a New Year's resolution simply plan ahead.
Think about what you enjoyed, what you did not like and what you hated and commit to implement change for the better.
Obvious ways to limit the financial burden include:-
Stick to a shopping plan. Avoid spur of the moment purchases. All the glittering Christmas paraphernalia for sale looks grand but do you really need the latest baubles.
Put a little money aside for Christmas as and when you can.
Make a list, just like Santa, and stick to it, buying any bargains you come across during the year.
Identify problem areas over Christmas and consider how you can avoid negative situations.
In the end Christmas is just another day unless for you it has religious significance. Holiday time from work, along with the children on holiday from school, can add pressure on relationships, but only if you let it.
So you hated Christmas 2018? So what are you going to do to prevent Christmas 2019 following a similar path? After all whether or not your Christmas is stressful is down to YOU!
Have a peaceful Christmas, tips and ideas
A more peaceful Christmas
Avoid Black Friday spending pitfalls
Decorating your Christmas tree on the cheap
What to do with Christmas leftovers
The best book to give your mom, no matter what your age, is a 'Why I love My Mother book'.
Some mothers love reading and they might appreciate a romantic novel or even a biography, but there cannot be any mum who would not appreciate her very own, personalised book. This is something which you can create yourself. Even if you are only a child your father, granny or another relative can help you.
But it could be a joint effort with your brothers and sisters.
The book can be as a simple as loose sheets of paper clipped together or something more substantial created in a journal or notebook.
Here are some ideas for creating such a book.
It might be a good idea to jot things down, as they happen, into a rough book. This way the actual gift can be quite neat and you can organise it whichever way you want to.
You can intersperse your writing with family stories, memorabilia and happy memories plus a great selection of photographs.
You will be surprised at how quickly you will fill such a book. The biggest cost in this gift is your time and this will be something which your mother will appreciate more than any expensive gift.
You may also be surprised at the fun you can have putting such a book together; the memories it stirs may be funny, poignant or a mixture of many emotions.
If this book is created with love it will be the best book your mum will ever receive, be read over and over again and really show her that you care. Don't forget as well that you will benefit from this gift by remembering lots of instances, which you may have otherwise forgotten, or would not have even noticed as they happened.
Above all you will realise more than anything just how precious your Mother is to you.
Perfect for Christmas, Mother's Day and Birthdays too!
I don’t know about you but I love putting up the Christmas tree, arranging all of the cards and decorating my home with lovely, twinkling Christmas lights, when the holiday season comes around again. Most readers may agree but how many of you feel the same about taking the tree and decorations down at the end of the season, and packing them away for another year?
Not very many probably although sometimes we are ready to move on and away from Christmas time.
Pre-Christmas most people, especially children, are excited and looking forward to the Holiday season but once it is over many of us are looking forward to January and perhaps a poor cash flow, a return to work, freezing cold weather, never ending sales of cheap and cheerful Christmas cards and paper, and not much else. Big deal!
No wonder some people get a little depressed post-Christmas.
In this frame of mind the dismantling of the Christmas decorations is just another chore and one that is tedious and time consuming. However it does not have to be like that.
If you decorate your Christmas tree with a few chocolates, some Christmas crackers and the odd surprise they will add to the fun when it is dismantling time again. If you do this perhaps you could easily persuade the whole family to join in with the task of dismantling the tree. A few crackers could be pulled, chocolates scoffed and surprises opened to make the job in hand more enjoyable.
Plan of action
It is best to plan the dismantling a little beforehand rather than just begrudgingly try to hide Christmas for another year. As with most chores the work will be easier if it is organised and planned well. Make sure that you know:-
• what you are going to store the decorations in
• where you will store them until next Christmas
• just who is responsible for what.
If there a few of you allocate jobs so that perhaps one person takes the decorations down, another dusts the decorations, one wraps them carefully in tissue paper and the other packs them away. A few glasses of the remaining Christmas sherry, plonk or stronger will help keep your spirits up whilst you work.
Decide also what you are going to do first
It may be the wisest choice to take down the lights before the tree or the other way around. A lot will depend on just how many decorations you have put up, the type of decoration and your circumstances.
Think about the best time of day to start removing your Christmas decorations. Perhaps it will be as well to do the indoor decorations after the little ones have gone to bed.
Obviously it will be wise to tackle outdoor lights and decorations before it gets dark and only in decent weather, if possible.
Many people choose to do this work on the weekend, nearest to Twelfth Night, as they have more free-time.
Do not vacuum until you have finished all of the dismantling and packing away as you will be wasting your time. Whatever you do you will still leave you finding small bits of tinsel and Christmas tree way into spring.
Do not be silly. Make sure that you follow safe working practices when you take down any decorations at home or work. If you have to reach up high or climb steps or ladders ensure that:-
• the steps or ladders are suitable and fit for purpose
• you do not overstretch
• you are not in the house or workplace alone
Take your time
Try not to rush. If you pick a free day you can take your time. This will ensure that you are safe, the decorations are undamaged and that they will be stored well for use next Christmas After all you do not want to have to buy new Christmas decorations just because you have been careless, do you?
Make sure that you have suitable storage space set aside before you start dismantling your decorations. Ensure that you have all the tools that you need out and to hand. These may be scissors, tape, packing boxes, dusters and tissue paper. Try to clean and wrap everything well ensuring that electricity leads and wires are tangle free.
If you pack well your life should be a little easier next year when you set about decorating your home again for Christmas.
Think how you will organise the storage space also. For example our decorations are stored in the loft of our home which has limited access. Because of this the heavier items are put in last, so that they are near to the trap door.
Finally label each box so that you know just where the lights are, for example. This will help if you want to change which decorations you put up each year and will also help you get items out in order.
Much as putting up the Christmas decorations each year can be enjoyable this is not usually the case if you have simply dragged all the decorations down as quickly as possible the previous year, thrown them totally disorganised into any old box and topped them off with a tangled and twisted mass of Christmas lights.
Of course you can do this if you want to but I for one prefer to keep the cheery Christmas spirit a little longer, take my time taking the decorations down and be well organised for next year. In the long run this saves time money and tempers from fraying.
Christmas Memories - What do you remember of Christmas past?
Those days of your childhood and youth when Christmas was oh so special. Just like a jigsaw puzzle needs all the pieces to be completed, your perfect Christmas memory will include many things. Whilst none are essential to having a wonderful Christmas some will be the necessary ingredients for your childhood Christmas memories.
In Yorkshire, England in the late fifties and early sixties my Christmas was always quirky and individual; well it seemed that way to me. Each year my brother and I had a new bicycle but in truth the bikes were not new. Dad would spend much of his spare time during the Christmas countdown building a bike from a basic frame and what parts he could get hold of. It was years before we realised the effort he went to for this gift. 50 years later, more or less, we remember those bikes with great fondness.
Then there was his woodworking endeavours. With a treadle fret-saw machine he would work away, when we were small children, in the old coal shed of our home.
Come Christmas we always had a wonderful array of weird and wacky individual toys.
Mum was creative too, but crochet and knitting was her thing. She would make beautiful clothes for my dolls, hats, gloves and scarves for us and so much more.
We were not poor, as in Tiny Tim's family in the Dickens novel Scrooge, but like so many families in the early period after the Second World War money was tight. Yet for all that I have glorious memories of family parties, gifts, Santa and a decorated home. Back then it was tissue paper decorations and paper chains which you spent hours sticking together but it was fun and Christmassy.
My childhood cosy Christmas has a tiny tree, a loving family, a warm home, good food and laughter. So what is needed now for my perfect cosy Christmas?
Let it snow
Snow may not be an essential ingredient of Christmas and in fact it can be a pain in the backside. However most of us have a romantic idea of a cosy Christmas at home, tucked up warm and safe from the snow which is coming down in flurries outside.
A white Christmas in the UK remains elusive yet most of us think of snow when we remember Christmas past. In truth a snowy Christmas may be few and far between.
The large house shown in this image is located on my journey home from work. During a particularly snowy winter of recent years chaos ensued. As usual in the UK snow puts a stop to life as we know it, albeit temporarily. Buses do not run, cars skid off roads and pavements or walkways remain under snow for days. This particular year it was for weeks and it was deep, hard packed down snow. Having to walk home may have been a bind but it was scenic.
Trudging home means that you appreciate your home all the more. You yearn for the warmth which will welcome you home. For me the heart of our home is our cosy fire. We may have central heating but the fire is the focal point of our room and a great place to relax. At Christmas it is dressed with a pre-lit Garland which is not made of real greenery but still looks fab. As the flames lick the back of the chimney the Christmas tree lights provide the only other lighting it is cosy, Christmassy and spells HOME.
Home is where the heart is
Our home may be small compared to the large house above but it may be a palace compared to those who live in shanty towns with little cheer at any time of year. We should never forget though that home is where the heart is. Whether you can afford to dress your home to the nines for Christmas or not in some ways is immaterial.
Arriving home from my snowy trek my heart lifted as soon as I approached. The light had taken on a strange eerie blue glow which when shown on Christmas Cards looks false and unreal. It is however a fact of certain snowy conditions. It made everything look colder though and so added to the anticipation of getting in front of my fireplace.
Hearth and Home
Our Victorian styled hearth has a fire that springs to life at the flick of a switch. It is a gas fire with realistic looking coals. Gone are the days when I can be bothered to faff about and light a real, living fire. The one we have is economical, easy to use, environmentally OK and efficient. Once it is lit the flames flicker away and all visitors always remark how cosy it is.
You may prefer a real fire which will be that one step better. Either way though it offers a warm glow, which is cosy to snuggle around, unlike our central heating radiators.
For me our fire and hearth is central to our Christmas. Here in Yorkshire whether it snows or not it will be cold. It could be a damp cold as winds tend to blow off the North Sea. Whatever happens outdoors though will not affect my cosy Christmas.
I will be snuggled up in front of a roaring fire revelling in the glow of Christmas.
The woman in your life could include your mother or sister but really we are talking about your love interest - be that a girlfriend, partner, fiancée or wife.
Few if any women want to receive a gift that is really a household item. There will always be exceptions to the rule, sometimes due to lack of money, but on the whole we girls love a gift that is just for us.
If the gift is selected with love and thought how can you go wrong?
Well quite easily really. Reading the signs and hearing any hints dropped by your woman is important; likewise just because she comments that something is great it does not necessarily mean she wants you to buy it for her.
You could of course ask for a Christmas list of what your lady would like in her Christmas stocking and choose from that. However if you like to give surprises make sure it is a pleasant rather than nasty one!
Lingerie is only really a good idea if you know your woman well. Remember that you are buying the lingerie for her not your excitement and pleasure and shop accordingly. Check her current underwear for size as long as you know it fits her well.
Look, listen and observe to get this gift right.
We ladies all like jewellery, well almost all of us do.
Knowing your woman's personal style and taste takes time and if you are new into a relationship opt for a safe classic set of earrings. Make sure you know whether your girl has pierced ears or not.
Technological gifts may fit the bill as long as it is for personal use. An android or tablet or accessory such as cover could be one option.
Books are fine if you are confident about her reading likes but does she tend to use a kindle these days instead?
ITunes and Amazon gift certificates give her the option of finding just what she wants online. You could back this gift up with flowers or wine or chocolates or all three; if you know her perfect flowers, wine and chocolates all the better.
A favourite film on DVD, gloves, a hat and or scarf, handbag or cosmetics may work as stocking fillers; if you want to try to buy her something quirky search online. There are many websites that offer unusual gifts such as Find Me A Gift.
Fun stuff is great but not for everyone!
Clothing is a tricky gift but many long term wives and partners years for a new outfit-making this one a surprise could be disastrous though.
When searching for a gift you can do the research online and shop locally if you prefer.
So what does your woman want for Christmas? Will you manage to complete the gift buying mission successfully and in time?
Kick of your Advent Calendar giving rather than taking
Tis the season to be jolly but what if you are struggling to make ends meet?
If you are doing OK but perhaps not well enough to support any charities this Christmas how about supporting your local charity shops?
You could volunteer time by helping sorting incoming goods, working in a shop, collecting goods or even having a clear out at home.
As you start your Christmas clean sweep around your home eventually prettying the main rooms up with festive trees, glitz and glamour you are bound to come across unwanted goods..
Books, DVDs, clothes that no longer fit but are in good condition, toys that kids have also outgrown and even old Christmas trees and decorations if you are splashing out on new.
All of these items may be a win win for a charity shop.
The money raised when sold will help the charity The person who buys your old goods should get a very good deal.
Ideal for sale at this time of year in charity shops is kids games and clean, safe soft toys.
Be imaginative and see what you can come up with.
People will also be on the look out for drinking glasses, baking tins, cake tins and goods still in wrappers.
How many times do you buy an item of clothing and never wear it?
Why leave it to get dusty in a wardrobe? Be ruthless and help others along the way.
Follow this link to find your local charity shops
Day 1 - World Aids Day
Day 2 -Food-banks
Day 3 - Shelter
Day 4 - Sponsor a guide dog puppy
Charity at Christmas - Home or Away?
Christmas comes but once and year and when it comes it brings good cheer, or so the saying goes. There is usually a saying for most things and that goes for charity too; remember some say " charity begins at home" and "there is no fool like an old fool."
Charity at Christmas
If you are homeless, jobless or living through a tough financial, mental and or physical time Christmas may not bring any cheer but instead be a nightmare.
At Christmas time many people give generously to help others, and many of those giving are far from rich.
Be it a shoe box full of gifts doe deserving children locally or abroad or a donation to an established charity there is never a shortage of needy people.
Take care and always ensure that any donations of money, second-hand goods or gifts do not end up in the hands of scammers.
However do not be deterred from giving just because there are unscrupulous people trying to get at your money and possessions this Christmas time. What you must do is research before you gift.
Avoid falling for telephone callers asking for your money; while some may be the genuine article others may not be. Then there is the risk of being placed on a 'sucker’s list' if you fall for an online or telephone scam.
This report was prompted by an online Christmas appeal from VSO, voluntary services overseas.
It is a genuine appeal and as most real appeals are very good causes.
Giving at Christmas can help such a diversity of charities and leave you with a warm Christmas glow, although that may sound a little selfish; but it shows it is a win win situation if you give.
Decide if you want to help those in your country or abroad, animals or people. While some will never give to animal charities most of those will struggle over the Christmas period. You could give a little time to help the staff get a brief Christmas break.
Many people have a favourite cause or charity sometimes due to a personal link such as a family member with a specific health condition.
But there are so many charities that need your help.
You may not be able to give a great deal of money but remember every little can help. You could donate unwanted items to a charity shop. Note buying Christmas cards with a charity logo will benefit the trader rather than the charity
So we will close this report with a link to the VSO and their appeal to "Help save babies' lives in Ethiopia this Christmas."
Additional charities and appeals to consider:
Give the gift of your time this Christmas
Shelters help the homeless campaign and petition
Christmas comes but once and year and when it comes it brings good cheer, or so the saying goes. There is usually a saying for most things and that goes for charity too; remember some say " charity begins at home" and "there is no fool like an old fool."Charity at Christmas
Are you looking to buy a Christmas gift for a loved one who has a long standing love affair with travel? Buying gifts for an established traveller may not be easy but there are many items available for the novice wanderer; you may have to do your research though for a well-established traveller.
Those who love to travel tend to but various travel related bits and bobs over time so do your research to prevent you buying something unnecessary and unwanted.
Here are a few travel related gift ideas that will be welcomed by all as remember some items such as travel kettles do wear out over time. If you end up with more than one travel kettle you can always leave one behind at your favourite vacation destination ready for next time you visit.
Prepare to be amazed at what is on offer. So many items can easily become travel appropriate.
What about learning a foreign language? This could be by way of a book, C.D. or local lessons.
The Internet as always offers a much larger choice and saves you having to tramp around city centres and high streets looking for gift inspiration.
You do not necessarily have to buy online but researching gifts online can be really useful.
However the advantage with the Internet is choice. Here are a few websites that claim to offer unusual gifts for your traveller this Christmas:
Christmas is always just around the corner. With so few gift shopping days left before Christmas we may all need to get a move on. Sure there will be gifts available for sale up until the very last minute but the choice will diminish with time
Maybe buying gifts for your man is a doddle but more likely it is just one big headache. A mixture of cash and inspiration will be needed and here are some ideas if both are in short supply.
Many men open their Christmas gifts with a feeling of dread. The usual ill-fitting socks, underwear and gloves must be so disappointing. Why not put the amount of thought into buying his gift, that you would hope he put into buying yours?
The money you have available for gift purchases obviously makes a difference but it is possible to buy your guy the perfect gift, on a budget.
We all know that most men are big kids at heart. Some are big kids full-stop. How about buying him a toy. It could be something designed as a toy for grown-ups or a kids toy you know he has always wanted. I am not talking about a sex toy but hey it is up to you. Whatever floats your boat as long as it is legal.
Fun gifts could be a light up dazzle yoyo, a radio controlled spider, a rubber duck radio or a robotic dog. You could even make up a men's gift basket of fun gifts throwing into the mix bags of favourite childhood sweets or confectionery such as sherbet dips, cherry lips, swizzlers and the like.
Does he own a Kindle? If he does you could purchase a great selection of kindle reading matter for next to nothing. If he does not own a kindle why not buy him one? The smaller kindle is cheaper and more lightweight. It could be perfect for taking to work and using when travelling.
A new cell or mobile phone may not be necessary or within your budget but perhaps some accessories will be. A personalized phone case or a new earpiece could be ideal.
The annual subscription for magazines works out cheaper if the whole year is paid for in one payment. If your man loves his expensive, in your opinion, monthly motorbike or photography magazines why not pay in advance for next year's editions?
Perhaps he has always had a yen to learn to play the keyboard or a guitar. Whilst your funds may not stretch to buying the musical instrument they may stretch to paying for lessons on how to play, or sheet music and accessories for the instrument.
Netbooks have come down in price considerably recently.
For a lot less than £200 in the UK you can buy a netbook by a top of the range manufacturer. Maybe he has a laptop that needs a little more memory adding to it? Perhaps his PC could do with a Windows upgrade to its operating system.
Androids, IPads, IPhones and more may all be within your price range. If not accessories for an existing piece of kit may be.
Who said men are hard to buy for? There is so much choice and there are still books, CDs and DVDs!
As a woman aged sixty plus what is my perfect birthday or Christmas gift?
All of us are very different individuals and, what someone feels is the ideal gift, may fill someone else with loathing. I suppose some of this will depend on:-
In general it is best to steer well clear of any gifts that are really household items, such as cleaners and washing machines, as these are neither personal nor appropriate for any birthday, let alone a special one. However, I suppose if the birthday girl is really struggling, and in financial meltdown, a large household gift may be appreciated.
Overall though, if you can make the gift very personal and something that you know they have always wanted, you will be on to a winner. Something luxurious such as an extra special perfume may go down a treat.
Finally how about arranging for a spray of her favourite flowers to be sent every week of the coming year? Now that will surely bring some sunshine into her life and help make her year a truly special one.
Some more ideas
Baby's first Christmas
Do you have a baby in your family? If so will this Christmas be its first? If the answer is yes you may want to buy an extra special gift but what is on offer?
Depending when during the year the baby was born it could be that there will seemingly be nothing suitable. A tiny baby will not be able to play yet or take much notice. It could be that the baby shower provided more than enough items to last a lifetime. Get imaginative or creative in order to make the first Christmas gifts something to remember.
Something to keep and treasure
Consider the gift carefully. It may be that you want to give an item which can be treasured in the future. A potential antique or maybe one that already is. It could be a Victorian silver photo frame, a piece of jewelry or an antique rocking horse. You will have plenty of time for large gifts though. This first year something small but special, like baby, could be perfect.
Something for the future?
If baby is up to its nose in gifts how about one that is practical? No not a set of pans! How about making an investment on baby's behalf? In the UK you can buy premium bonds. They do not make a great deal of interest, in fact they don't make any, but the money is safe. Each month a random draw picks a winner and so in theory even the smallest number of premium bonds could win a £1,000,000. The bonds can be cashed in for face value which might be useful when the child is older.
Opening a bank account for baby, with even only a small sum of money could proof to be prudent. Each year at birthdays and Christmas money gifts could be added building a nice little nest egg for the future. These days you will have to be careful which bank you choose. With nose-diving economies and banking scandals not all are safe.
A family heirloom could be an item that already has a long family history or a future treasure. It could be:
• Granddad’s old teddy bear
• Grandma's first doll
• A trinket box
• An item which has been handed down through the generations
• A piece of jewellery
• Great Granddad’s medals
Soft, cuddly toys are usually a safe bet. The problem is the rest of the family may think so too. You can still be creative though; how about a handmade soft toy for baby's first Christmas. There is still to make one. You can sew in some love. The good thing is that you can ensure that the toy or toys are extremely safe. No matter how careful you are when you shop you can never be 100% sure of health and safety standards, can you?
Whether you are going to make or buy a soft toy try to be imaginative. A child will soon have a cupboard full of soft toys but there will only be one special one; one that grabs the child's heart and is taken here, there and everywhere. Traditionally it will be pink for a girl and blue for a boy but why not break with tradition
Researching, documenting and collating your family tree can be interesting. It can be fun and it may be hard work. You can buy parchment type scrolls which you then complete with your family tree details. This could be fully or partially completed, framed or not. It could hang in baby's bedroom to be completed in time. Personalised gifts
Gifts that are personalised with the words "Baby's first Christmas"" come in many shapes and sizes. Bibs, Christmas Tree baubles, little outfits, soft toys, teddy bears and more.Some will be tacky, others fun, and others classy. As they say "you earns your money you makes your choice" One essential ingredient in Baby's Fist Christmas gifts will be love. Put the right amount of love and thought into your gift and it cannot fail.
Note: Gift suggestions would also work for Baby's first birthday