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Remembering what is important
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I thought it might be helpful to offer my own holiday survival tips as a reminder of what is really important.

Tip #1) The reason for the season is not shopping.

I know that many of you will not read this column until after you've spent hours poring over the ads. I don't blame you. In today's economy, everyone needs to get the most out of their budgets and sales are a seasonal perk. But just because you're saving $100 on a new gaming system for Johnny, doesn't mean he also needs a new bike. The holidays are religious observances for many people and teaching children the real reason people celebrate in December is much more important than instilling a need for presents.

Often, children appreciate the family time spent decorating a tree, attending the downtown parade or baking cookies far more than the toy that is unwrapped then forgotten minutes later.

Tip #2) It's only one day. Cars, buses, trains and planes are already bustling with holiday travel. Soon Great Aunt Ida and Grandpa Juan will be showing up at your doorstep, full of holiday cheer - and family baggage.

I suggest spending a few minutes - or hours - meditating on why you should be grateful that you have family members who love you enough to point out you're looking a bit heavier this year and haven't sent them a thank you card for that birthday present they mailed to you a year ago.

There are many people who do not have family around, due to death, estrangement or distance. Remembering your blessings are a great way to stay sane when family helps you "fix" that turkey you spent hours baking.

But, if the thought of spending a day with your family sends you into a spin cycle - then don't. Call your family and tell them you love them, but you decided to spend the holiday helping the homeless this year and will be preparing meals at the United Samaritans Foundation kitchen instead of sharing a meal with them.

It's hard to be mad at people who are helping the homeless on Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Tip #3) Forget about the Joneses.

Spending every last dime you have to buy new exterior Christmas lights because your neighbors just put a fully animated nativity scene in their yard isn't a good idea.

It's hard to suppress the competitive spirit most people have when comparing their house to those on the block, but it's worth trying. Those beautiful and awe-inspiring lights are only good for six weeks out of the year.

Instead of buying new decorations, donate that money to charity, or take a few vacation days to spend with the family. Prioritizing before you spend is the best way to make sure your money is working for you. But, if having your house visible by space is a priority for you - then have at it!

In the end, the holiday season is only two short months out of the year. Remembering that - and taking a few deep breaths every now and then - should get you through the holidays reasonably unscathed.