Whew! You made it through Thanksgiving and that busy first weekend of shopping. How was it? Looking ahead you now only have 3 weeks until Christmas. So how do we make it through this season and get the most out of it? Here are some random bits from my head, think of it as an early Christmas present.

Random Bits From My Head to Yours

1. If you find yourself arguing with your spouse, you could be arguing about money. Most arguments in marriage seem to stem from finances. This is heightened during the holiday season. The reason is because a lot of us are spending money that we simple do not have, and the dreaded credit card bill will tell us that in January. A simple solution is only buy what you can afford and do not use credit cards. Make a budget for what you want to spend for Christmas. Need help starting a budget? Go to Dave Ramsey’s website where they are offering the Gazelle Budget Lite http://www.daveramsey.com/tools/budget-lite/
2. You are not responsible for the happiness of the other people around you. It may be time that you start letting your spouse, family, extended family, and friends take responsibility for their own happiness. You are responsible for you and they are responsible for them. Don’t get caught up on trying to do everything in the world to make others happy. You can never make 100% of the people in your life 100% happy 100% of the time.
3. That brings me to this: Do not confuse giving and pleasing. We too often associated giving with physical presents this time of year. However, there are many more opportunities to give this time of the year and during the rest of the year. You give out of the kindness of your heart, you give your time, money, resources or other gifts. It feels good because you did it and it was yours to give, something that you had been blessed with that you are sharing. When you try to please others (see Random bit #2) you begin chasing what will make that other person happy. That can be quite elusive. In the process you lose a piece of yourself and some of your time. You become resentful and you do not feel the same way as you do when you truly give. When we are attempting to please someone it usually has to do with our personal self-esteem. We think if we can please someone it will make us loveable.
4. Spend more time with friends and family, because those experiences can’t be bought and they will last. I can remember a few gifts here and there, but I can’t say that that was a great Christmas because I got this gift. In fact, Christmas day is the icing on the cake for the season. The experiences that you have with friends and family will last a lifetime (unless your memory gets wiped or you become senile, but I digress) and you will think back to those times and remember, the gifts will become secondary and fuzzy.
5. During the season you need to plan special experiences and events. On Thanksgiving this year I got to take my wife to see the lighting of Macy*s Great Tree in Atlanta. It was her first time to see it in person and it will be a memory that we’ll have forever. You need to see what is going on around you and plan special experiences. It can be as simple as filling a mug with hot cider or cocoa, bundling up, and walking through the neighborhood to look at the lights.
6. Don’t have money to buy the latest electronic gift? Make a sentimental gift instead. Make something special that will mean something more than the universal remote that controls the lights, TV, DVD, Apple TV, etc. Get creative, make a picture calendar of the family. It will last longer and mean more in the long run.
7. A personal favorite of mine is to cook more. For some people this just adds more stress, for others it’s fun and relieves stress. This also can create an experience that will last forever. Make candy cane cookies, make an apple pie, make chocolates, and do it with someone you love. You will create something together and you will make a memory.
8. Be more giving. We all should be as generous all year round, but the season is the best time of year to learn how to be a cheerful giver. Give of your time, give more of yourself, if you have the resources give to someone in need. You will begin to learn that you can never out give God.
9. Smile more, give out more hugs, tell those you love that you love them. Again, no better time to get into a new habit.  Hugs, smiles and I love yous relieve stress as well.
10. Begin practicing random acts of kindness, generosity, and pay it forward. Let that person have that parking spot even though they put your name on that spot. Give the server at the restaurant an extra big tip. Pay for the person’s latte behind you at Starbucks. You know that sort of thing. You will never know this side of life what impact you may have had.

So my approach to the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year?” Don’t shop as much. Don’t give into the hustle and bustle that is created at the malls every weekend. Stop shopping all the time and start giving more and creating memories that will last.  You will be surprised at what happens, you will have the merriest and happiest Christmas of all. “You can never out give God.” Memories and your generosity are cherished. . .the newest gadget will be outdated next year.