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Making Merry (When Not Making a Lot of Money)

  Things-to-Make

 

A Positively Present reader sent me an email a few weeks ago: her husband had been laid off, and she was worrying about the financial aspect of the holiday season. She asked if I might write about how to enjoy the holidays while struggling financially, and I thought that was a wonderful idea -- especially because I've been struggling financially for years. 

It might seem like things are great -- lots of books being published, new products being launched -- but working for yourself in a creative field is no joke financially. Some people, I know, have the good fortune of doing what they love and being well-off while doing it, but most creatives -- designers, authors, bloggers, freelancers -- struggle financially. And I'm no different. Since starting this business, I've learned how to give up a lot (for more on that, check out my Positive Penny Pinching e-book), and I actually think it's been a great thing for me, learning to live without excess, to focus on what really matters. 

That being said, not having excess funds during the holidays can be especially rough. I love nothing more than giving gifts to those I love, and it's hard when I can't afford the gifts I want to give or I can't attend certain events because they're too expensive or I can't donate to all of the many, many causes I'd like to support because, first and foremost, I have to pay my rent. This isn't meant to sound whiny or like I'm complaining -- I have chosen this path and I truly believe someday I will be financially successful while doing it -- but it is meant to say that, if you're struggling financially, I get it. It, quite frankly, sucks. 

So I decided to spend some time rounding up the best ideas I could think of to make the most of the holiday season without spending a lot of money. Because, no matter what holiday you celebrate, it really isn't about spending money. 

 

CUT BACK ON GIFT-GIVING

One of the best ways to save (or not spend) money during the holidays is to cut back on the gift-giving. If your family is anything like mine (and like a lot of families in America), big piles of gifts under the tree are an essential part of the holiday season. But they don't have to be. This year, my family is doing gift-giving a bit differently. Rather than buying lots of gifts for each person, we're each giving each other one special gift. A friend of mine as cut out gift-giving altogether in her family; instead they are donating the amount they'd spend on gifts to a worthy cause. If giving gifts is essential to your holiday experience, try setting a spending limit or limiting the number of gifts you give. You probably want to give your immediate family members a gift, but do you really need to give gifts to all of your friends? Tell them ahead of time that, instead of gifts this year, you'd rather do something special together instead. 

 

FIND NEW PLACES TO SHOP

One thing I've learned over the past few years of pinching pennies is that you don't have to shop where you've always shopped. When I was younger (and richer), high end brands were my go-to. So much so, that that's what I was remembered for in my high school yearbook (major eye roll!). Brand names were of the utmost importance to me, but since then I've shifted the way I think about shopping and products. There are plenty of places to shop for good deals -- TJ Maxx, Home Goods, etc. -- and there are also surprisingly interesting things at shops like Dollar Tree and Five Below. (It is important, however, to keep in mind how things are made. If something really cool is selling for $1, you've got to wonder how much the person making it was paid...). The key is: keeping an open mind. If you're used to spending a lot on a gift, it might not even occur to you that you could spend a fraction of the cost by simply checking out different stores, searching online for deals, or looking out for coupons.  

 

GIVE TIME, NOT THINGS

I'm sure this isn't the first time you've heard this piece of advice, but it's an important one. What the people in your life really want from you is your time, attention, and love. (And, if the people in your life don't just want those things from you, you might want to rethink why those people are in your life!) If possible, getting rid of the gift giving can be a great way to save money and to reconnect with the true meaning of the holiday season: love and togetherness. Instead of spending money on gifts, find a fun, free activity (there are usually lots around this time of year!) and take part with your family or friends. And, if you don't have enough money to give back to charities you'd like to support, you can also give your time to them as well. (I know you might be thinking, "But I don't have any time!" but, honestly, you do. We all spend time on things that aren't adding positive value to our lives, and we can, at least for the holiday season, cut out some of those things in favor of spending time with loved ones or donating your time to a local charity.)

 

MAKE YOUR OWN DECOR

I love decorating my place for the holidays, and each year, the stores fill with beautiful new items that I long to buy and use to decorate my apartment. And most of these beautiful new things are not at all in my budget. However, I've learned over the past few years that you can make a lot of really great decor to brighten your home without spending a lot (or, in some cases, any!) money. Not only is this a great way to save money, but it can also be one of the fun activities you do with friends and family. There are tons of great resources online for creative, inexpensive holiday decor, but you can see a lot of my favorite DIYs on my Christmas Cheer, Creative Crafts, and Perfect Printables Pinterest boards. (An additional tip: try to limit the time you spend in shops trying to sell you holiday decor to reduce temptation to buy things you don't need or could make yourself.)

 

CUT OUT THE COMPARISONS

All year long, we're granted access to friends and family members' lives through social media, and these sneak peeks at peoples' lives gets amped up at the end of the year. It can seem like everyone is getting amazing gifts, decorating their homes in picture perfect decor, and doing fun (and expensive!) festive things. But comparing your life to others' lives never does any good, and will only make you feel like you're not spending, doing, or being enough. And anything that makes you feel that way has no positive purpose in your life. If comparisons are getting you down, try disconnecting from social media for a bit or unfollow people, brands, or celebrities that are making you wish you had more than you currently have. 

 

AMP UP YOUR GRATITUDE

When you're feeling down about not having enough money to spend on the things you'd like to purchase during the holidays, turning your attention to gratitude can be tough. You might feel stressed, anxious, or despondent about your financial situation, and that can make it really hard to focus on what you have. But when you turn your attention to what you have, rather than what you lack, everything changes. Everything. Whenever you feel down about your finances, take out a piece of paper and start listing all the things you do have: friends, family, a place to live, your health, a clear mind, a pet you love, unique talents, etc. It's not always easy to see these things when we're blinded by the festive "buy this!!!" lights of the holidays, but most of us truly have what we need, even if we can't afford what we want. Remembering this is the most important thing you can do for yourself when you're struggling financially. 

 

BONUS: IF YOU DO HAVE EXTRA MONEY . . . 

If you're flush with funds this year, yay! This is a great time of year to give back to causes, brands, and people who have positively impacted your year. Consider shopping at small business, buying from local stores, and giving back to those who provide free content for you year 'round. If you're not running a small business, working as a freelancer, or in a creative field, you might not realize how difficult it is for most of these creators financially. On the surface -- the beautiful Instagram layouts, the uplifting blog posts, the inspiring tweets -- it's not always evident how these creators are doing financially. And, as online consumers, most of us (including me!) have come to expect content for free -- we listen to songs on Spotify, read news articles without paying for a newspaper, visit websites where all of images and words are free for our perusal -- and few of us really think about how that content is made (and paid for). So, if you do have extra money, consider buying things from the creators who produce free content that you enjoy. You have no idea how much that support could mean to one small business owner.  

  

  

PPGTL-Footer Love-Self-Footer Find-Self-Footer Stickers-Footer


 

 


Positively Present Picks : December 9, 2016

  Presence


Quote-of-the-week

"...Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.
What if Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!"

Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

 

Links-I-Love    
How to Diversify Your Life : don't put all those eggs in one basket

NEW Pink Pin : my "Less Hate, More Love" pin is now available in pink! 

An Expert's Guide to Being a Good Listener : it's an invaluable skill

Want Free Books?! : enter my giveaway on YouTube (ends 12/15)

3 Things to Do for Yourself Today : it's good to take care of yourself

Various Keytags : love these customizable keychains! such a great gift!

The Importance of Staying Curious : curiosity is vital to a great life

How to (Kind of) Master Your Neuroticism : exploration is essential

Mermaid Blankets : I'm kinda loving this blanket trend. so cozy! 

27 Mood Lights : get one of these for focus, relaxation, or happiness

A Simple Way to Stay Grounded in Stressful Moments : perfect for holiday stress

11 Easy Yoga Positions for Stress Relief : feeling stressed? give these a try

Love from Others Starts with Self-Love : love yourself first. always. 

The Difference Between Courage and Recklessness : a great read for bold moves

3 Year-in-Review Questions : these will set up you up for a great 2017

How a Hobby Can Boost Your Motivation : hobbies really are helpful

50 FREE Christmas Printables : so many amazing freebies here

 

Listening

Listen to this playlist on YouTube.
Finally on Spotify! Follow me!


"Setting Fires" — The Chainsmokers
"Over" — Honors
"Winter on the Run" — Willy Poldd
"Say You're Gonna Miss Me" — Wistful & Subsets
"Turn It On" — Kinds
"Shadow & Light"— Martin Luke Brown
"Fire in My Bones" — Fleurie
"The Woods" — Hollow Coves
"Starboy" — The Weeknd
"All I Want for Christmas" — Mariah Carey

 

Reading

Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
 

The Lies We Tell Ourselves
Jon Frederickson

A Christmas Without Elizabeth
Francine Pascal
 

I write books too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life*

Effortless Inspiration Series:
Gratitude, Living in the Moment, 
Compassion, and Forgiveness*

Stay Positive: Daily Reminders
from Positively Present*
 

Some links may be affiliate links. If you click on them and purchase something, I receive a commission. There is no additional cost to you if you use these links, and I will never share links for products I haven't or wouldn't purchase myself. For more information on affiliate links, please visit the Terms of Use page. 


Creating Calm: The Mindfulness of Coloring

 

Colorfil2
I made this with the Colourfil app. Obsessed!


Welcome to December, the most wonderful -- and stressful -- time of the year! I absolutely adore the holiday season, but all of the extra to-do items added to what's probably already a long list can make things a tad overwhelming. It might seem counterintuitive, but one of the best things you can do when you feel overwhelmed is take a break and spend time on something that relaxes you. 

For me, that thing is drawing and coloring. And I know I'm not alone. Just walk into your local bookstore, and you'll likely find shelves and shelves filled with coloring books. The coloring trend is going strong, and there's good reason for that -- it's incredibly soothing. Not only does coloring require your full attention, but it also gives you a great outlet for creativity, something that many adults don't have in their day-to-day lives. 

I know that coloring doesn't completely replace mindfulness or meditation practices, but I've personally had such positive experiences with making time to color that I can't help but share with you some of the great benefits I've received. I've written about coloring before, but I've discovered something new that works in just the same way (and is perfect for this hectic time of

Colourfil1
Made this with Colourfil, too!

year!): the Colourfil app. It's basically an on-the-go coloring book that you download right to your phone. It's filled with amazingly beautiful illustrations that you can color in and, unlike a traditional coloring book, it has the added benefit of allowing you to play around with colors. Don't like the shade you picked? Just undo and try another one! 

This has been an absolute lifesaver for my mental state over the past few weeks. Whenever I'm feeling super stressed, I open up the app, pick an image and go to town with those colors. (I've been super into the holiday images, but I also love the "Underwater" and "Bird" themes. So pretty!) I still love coloring in the traditional sense (pencil on paper is so satisfying!), but there's something wonderful about being able to color anywhere, at any time. 

Not sure if coloring is really for you? (I know, I get it -- it's a bit of an odd hobby for an adult!) Check out some of the reasons why coloring could be the de-stressing exercise you need to help you get through the holiday season: 

 

COLORING IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH. 

Coloring might not be the only mindfulness practice you need in your life, but it does have some great health benefits. The act of coloring allows you to fine motor skills and also trains the brain to refocus, two things adults don't often spend enough time doing on a daily basis. As children, we do all kinds of things to practice find motor skills at school, but (depending on your job) as an adult, there aren't many opportunities to hone this important skill. Coloring helps you work on strengthening your fine motor skills and helps you improve focus, too. 

 

COLORING MAKES MINDFULNESS EASIER.  

For me, the most important benefit of coloring is that it really does quiet seem to quiet my overactive mind. Once you get into the coloring zone, whatever you're stressed or worried about really seems to take a backseat as you focus on choosing colors and filling in the blank spaces with something beautiful. Back when I was awaiting my surgery last fall, I spent a lot of time coloring to distract myself from worrying about the upcoming procedure, and it really helped. Since then, I've turned to coloring over and over again when I'm particularly stressed and I've found that coloring, for me, is a kind of meditation that helps me stay in the moment (and out of my worrying mind!). 

 

COLORING ALLOWS YOU TO BE CREATIVE. 

Even if you're fortunate enough to work in a creative field, as an adult you probably don't have as much time as you'd like to explore true, un-work-related creativity. Coloring is one of the best ways to explore the creative side of yourself. Whether you pick up pencils, make a move for the markers, or open up an app like Colourfil, when you're coloring, you have the opportunity to play with color and create something beautiful (without too much mental effort). And you don't have to be "creative" to do it. Anyone can do it! And, if you use an app, you don't even have to have coloring materials!  

 

COLORING GIVES YOU A PRODUCTIVE VIBE.

The biggest struggle I have with meditation and mindfulness is that sometimes I feel like I'm doing nothing, and that can be really challenging for me. I often feel like I should be doing something productive, even when I'm supposed to be relaxing. That's why, for me, coloring is such a great activity. It might not actually be productive, but it feels like I'm accomplishing something, even as I'm calming my mind and staying in the moment. That productive vibe -- and the sense of accomplishment you feel when you've finished coloring a page -- is one of the reasons I find coloring particularly relaxing when I'm overwhelmed with a lengthy to-do list.  

 

As I mentioned, coloring can't completely take the place of meditation or other mindfulness exercises, but I've personally found a lot of the same benefits -- and I've found that I'm a lot more likely to color than I am to meditate. The fact that I'll actually do (and enjoy!) it is enough for me to make coloring my go-to calming exercise. If it's been awhile since you've colored, give it a try. You might be surprised by how relaxing and fun it is! 

 

ColourfilThis post was brought to you by Colourfil, the free, easy to use digital colouring book for your iPhone and iPad! Create inspirational and beautiful artwork – you will be amazed at how creative you can be with Colourfil. All illustrations are hand drawn in the UK by our own team of award winning designers! Download now: http://ow.ly/qfxd306wmWU  


Positively Present Picks : December 2, 2016

  Positively-Present-Hello-December


Quote-of-the-week

“December, being the last month of the year,
cannot help but make us think of what is to come.” 

Fennel Hudson

 

Links-I-Love    
Holiday Giveaway!! : check out my latest YouTube video to see how to win

NEW Pink Pin : my "Less Hate, More Love" pin is now available in pink! 

So thankful to everyone who participated in the Gratitude Photo Challenge! :)

9 Ways to Keep a Positive Attitude in Difficult Times : much needed advice

Stop the Negative Self-Comparison Spiral : less comparing, more self-loving

Pretty Fluffy : one of my favorite dog blogs (so many great dog gift ideas!)

The Mental Habit of Feeling Rushed + Overwhelmed : so relatable 

Gratitude Everyday : November is over, but your gratitude focus shouldn't be

Striking a Balance During the Holidays : we can all use more balance!

The Magic Wand Store Is Closed : wow, this is a powerful little article

Let Go + Move On : a round-up of quotes to help you just let go 

7 Habits of Highly Resilient People : resilience is highly underrated, imo

Super Busy Over the Holidays? : take this advice + make time for quiet

The Empathy Toy : what a fascinating idea for a toy. love this!

5 Ways to Thrive During the Holidays : all of these are excellent tips

Support Good Companies : a list of great places to do your holiday shopping

Inspiring + Thoughtful Gifts : check out Danielle LaPorte's beautiful gifts

 

Listening

Listen to this playlist on YouTube.
Finally on Spotify! Follow me!


"Love Me Now" — John Legend
"The One Moment" — Ok Go
"Time Waits for No One" — Taywood
"Winter" — Daughter
"We Sink" — Of Monsters and Men
"True Disaster"— Tove Lo
"Seaside" — Wolf & Willow
"Love for Everyone" — Courtship
"Back to December" — Taylor Swift
"If You Want It" — Sam Roberts Band

 

Reading

Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
 

Unrequited Love
Lisa A. Phillips

The Handmaid's Tale
Margaret Atwood
 

I write books too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life*

Effortless Inspiration Series:
Gratitude, Living in the Moment, 
Compassion, and Forgiveness*

Stay Positive: Daily Reminders
from Positively Present*
 

Some links may be affiliate links. If you click on them and purchase something, I receive a commission. There is no additional cost to you if you use these links, and I will never share links for products I haven't or wouldn't purchase myself. For more information on affiliate links, please visit the Terms of Use page.