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How to Create a Less Stressful Holiday Season

The holidays can bring joy and cheer to our homes and hearts. Unfortunately, they can also bring a lot of stress! Here are 3 tips to help you create a less stressful holiday season this year!

How do the holidays make feel? Are you excited for the merriment and community that it brings? Or does it instantly trigger stress and anxiety about what to get, how you’ll afford it, etc.?

Even if you love Christmas, it can still be an overwhelming time of year! For many of us, it also puts a strain on our finances! According to the National Retail Federation, American consumers were expected to spend an average of $1,000+ during last year’s holiday season! And it looks like that number is expected to rise in 2019!

Christmas tree with "jolly" ornament

Here are some ideas to help us all plan ahead for the holiday season and focus on what matters most!

*** This post was originally shared as part of my special No Spend October Challenge. Keep your eyes peeled for more upcoming challenges to help save money and create better life habits!

How to Create a Less Stressful Holiday Season:

woman decorating lighted tree

Step 1: Establish a core focus for the season

Set a core focus for the season to remember what matters most!

Take a moment to really think about the holidays. What are the positive emotions that the holidays bring about for you – the ones that are so special that you want to hold onto them all year! What events bring up those special emotions for you? Is it sitting quietly in front of the tree sipping a cup of tea? Is it a family dinner full of laughter? Or maybe it’s crafting a homemade gift to send to a loved one.

Think about the core things that make the holidays special for you. Is it giving? Being with family? Or is it spreading love through random acts of kindness?

It’s time to get really clear about what makes the holidays special and then magnify those things! This season, let’s put the focus back on what’s most important and let all the other superficial trappings fall by the wayside!

holiday tree decorated with wood slice ornaments and lights

Step 2: Reconsider your holiday traditions

Traditions are a funny thing, because many of us do them simply because we are told we’re supposed to! And unfortunately, in our modern society, a lot of that instruction comes from corporations whose sole focus is to make money.

Traditions are important. But they aren’t as important as your sanity and your overall well-being!

Consider your regular holiday traditions. Do they bring you the feelings that you want to magnify this year? Or do they induce stress, anxiety or other negative emotions? Are they healthy for you, your family and your budget? Are there ways that you can adapt or simplify those traditions to make them more meaningful? Or maybe they need to be thrown out all together! Whatever you decide to do, make sure that your traditions align with your core focus for the season!

Don’t be afraid to break out of the tradition “box” and try something entirely new! This year, my family has decided to reduce stress and expense by drawing names for gifts. So instead of stretching ourselves thin by having to get gifts for everyone, we have the chance to focus in on one person and make/get them a truly special gift! It has already started reducing stress and increasing excitement for the season!

wrapped holiday gifts

Step 3: Plan ahead for a less stressful holiday season

Whether you are ready to think about the holidays or not, it’s time to do just that! Planning ahead helps reduce stress. It also helps reduce expenses and makes it easier to stick to our core values this holiday season!


Make a list of gifts that you will need to purchase/make for the year. Be sure to include everyone (coworkers, etc.) so there aren’t any surprises! Now, make a plan for those gifts that aligns with your core values! Here are some ideas:

  • Regifting: Are there items that you can regift? Most of us have some practically new items sitting around. While we might not personally use or enjoy these items, someone else might! It’s important to really consider the person who will receive the gift and make sure the re-gift is something that fits them and their personality!
  • Homemade Gifts: Homemade gifts are my absolute favorite! I love to make personalized, one-of-a-kind gifts for people! Plus, making gifts at home helps reduce the time you would normally spend in a store shopping for gifts, which can help reduce a lot of stress and temptation!
  • Give experiences: Some of the best gifts aren’t things! Consider giving more experiences this year! Tickets to museums or local attractions make wonderful gifts. Or, what about a date night or movie night basket? Or, for a completely free alternative, give a coupon book for things like “1 free afternoon of labor” or “1 free dinner cooked and delivered to you”. The possibilities are endless!


While decor might not seem like a big expense, it can be tempting to grab a couple new decorations each year. Over time, this can add up – both financially and in the form of clutter! Before you grab that cute new item, consider if you really need it and if it’s something you will cherish for years to come.

Personally, I prefer to have only a few simple homemade decor items, like my homemade wreath (from mason jar rings), my wood slice ornaments and my chili pepper garland. I find that if I make it with my own hands (and especially with supplies from my own homestead!) that it has a lot more meaning. This year, consider downsizing your decorations and keeping only the ones that are most special to you!


According to Yahoo Finance, Americans were expected to spend $150+ on Christmas dinner last year! Making a plan and setting a budget for both Thanksgiving and Christmas meals can help reduce expenses and stress.

Consider a potluck style dinner, where everyone brings a dish, to cut down on expenses. Or, maybe you want to mix it up and go untraditional this year! One year, we had a make-your-own pizza and nacho bar for Thanksgiving! It was so different and fun – making it even more memorable!

However you decide to celebrate, I hope that these tips help magnify the light and the joy of the season. May your holiday season be full of love and simplicity this year!

Don’t forget these tips! Pin this post!


  • Kaylee Vaughn

    Kaylee is the Founder of She has set up and run two homesteads, a one-acre in Idaho, and her current two-acre dream homestead in the Pacific North West. Her qualifications include a Permaculture Design Certification from Oregon State University, and she is a Gardenary Certified Garden Coach. Kaylee currently produces at least 80% of her own food. She contributes to our site through articles, training and coaching to our clients. You can read more about her at


Thursday 12th of December 2019

I agree with this so much! If the way that you celebrate automatically induces stress, let that GO! And I love your homemade decor instructions so much!!

Project Zenstead

Thursday 12th of December 2019

Yasss! No holiday should equal more stress than joy! Time to drop that and find something new! :)


Thursday 12th of December 2019

Such a great idea with the gifts. One for each person seems like a solution for our big family. But what about kids. They expect more than one and each member wants to give them something. Should they be excluded from the rule? Thanks

Project Zenstead

Thursday 12th of December 2019

It can definitely be more difficult with children, but I bet with a little creativity, you guys can find a good fit for your family! Maybe just the adults draw names. Or maybe each of the adults picks or draws one child that they get to "spoil" that Christmas. Or maybe gifts do get reduced a bit (like 2-3 per child) but there's more of an emphasis on games and other fun activities for Christmas! There are so many ways to make the holidays special - it's important to find something that fits your family and brings joy instead of stress :)


Thursday 12th of December 2019

This is such an important topic, great post :-) Even though they can be great, family traditions can cause more stress.

Project Zenstead

Thursday 12th of December 2019

Definitely! Some traditions are wonderful and important, but it can be hard as more traditions get added over the years as families get joined through marriage, etc. Dropping some of the less important traditions can also give us the time and energy to discover and start some new ones!

Chelsea Duffy

Wednesday 11th of December 2019

I love the idea of a core focus for the season! It is so easy to get swept away in the chaos that we forget the most important parts. For me that is spending time with friends and family. Great post!

Amanda @ Healthy House on the Block

Tuesday 10th of December 2019

Oh my gosh, I love this! I just wrote a blog post about this as well. I love that you address changing family traditions. It can be so hard, but we really need to think about what is best for our family at the time. Great post!!