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.  

  

  

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Hygge: What It Is + 11 Ways to Do It

  Hygge Positively Present

 

Recently I came across the concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) -- a Danish word that doesn't have an exact English equivalent, but means something along the lines of enjoying cozy intimacy, celebrating by candlelit surrounded by friends, feeling content in the moment -- and I instantly became obsessed. Hygge is about finding meaning in the ordinary aspects of life. It's about exploring and celebrating daily luxuries, and connecting in a mindful way with the people around you. It's about comfort and kinship and coziness. And it's awesome

Ever since the weather turned a bit colder this autumn, I've been working on creating a very hygge environment (even before I knew about the concept!). Here are some of my favorite ideas for creating more hygge in your life! 

 

TURN DOWN THE LIGHTS

The right lighting is key for peak hygge. To create a cozier vibe, turn down (or off!) the lights, light some candles, and string up some Christmas lights (or fairy lights, as they say in the UK -- a term that instantly makes them feel extra magical!). Adjusting the lighting of any room is a quick (and usually easy!) way to make your home feel more hygge. 

Need ideas? Check out: Crackling candle | Fairy lights | Hygge candle

 

CLOTHE IN COZINESS

Crank up the cozy factor in your life by donning some snuggly attire. (Admittedly, this one probably only works if you live in a cold place, but still!) To feel hygge everywhere you go, swaddle yourself in cozy sweaters, soft scarves, wool socks, or any other kinds of clothes that make you feel cozy. 

Need ideas? Check out: Snowflake socks | Nordic leggings | Cable-knit scarf

 

CURL UP WITH A BOOK

While hygge often has to do with sharing warm moments with loved ones, there's something very hygge about curling up with a good book, especially one that might have a hygge-ish theme (I'm looking at you, cheesy Christmas, chick-lit!). Extra hygge points if you curl up in cozy socks with a candle lit!

Need ideas? Check out: The Ultimate Book Gift Guide | The Little Book of Hygge | Hygge Coloring

 

SEEK SOME SNUGGLES

Hygge doesn't have to involve others, but snuggling sure does up the coziness factor! If you have a loved one you can curl up with on the couch, go for it. If, like me, you're rolling solo, snuggle up with your pet. If no loved ones or pets are available, volunteer at a local animal shelter -- free cuddles and you'll be doing a good deed! 

Need ideas? Check out: Snuggle lamb | Boyfriend pillow | Volunteer match

 

RELAX IN THE BATH

When was the last time you allowed yourself to take a time out and soak in a relaxing, warm bath? Most of us don't make time for this solitude and relaxation, but it can be a very hygge thing to do. Not only does bathing have some great health benefits, it's also a perfect way to warm up on a cold day! 

Need ideas? Check out: Lush bath bombs | Luxury bath pillow | Bath caddy tray

 

HOST A GATHERING

This time of year, there's usually no lack of social events (or obligations, depending on how you feel about socializing!), but most of them aren't intimate affairs. Hygge seems to be all about the small, cozy gatherings of close friends. Instead of throwing a holiday party, consider hosting a small gathering for just a few good friends. 

Need ideas? Check out: Hygge games | Hygge notecards | Winter barn home fragrance

 

BRING THE OUTSIDE IN

Though I'm entirely certain if this is a hygge thing or just a Danish thing, but it seems like a lot of hygge images focus on bringing elements of the outside (branches, fresh bunches of holly, sprigs of spruce, etc.) inside. To add a touch of hygge to your decor, consider adding some natural, wooden elements to your home. 

Need ideas? Check out: Lighted birch tree | Wooden snowflake sign | Fir garland

 

FIND A ROARING FIRE

Nothing says hygge quite like a roaring fire, amiright? If you have a fireplace, kindle that wood and snuggle up by the flames. If, like me, you're not lucky enough to have a fireplace, find a friend who does -- or a restaurant or other place where it's acceptable to sit by the fireplace -- and set up a fireside date!

Need ideas? Check out: Electric fireplace | Fireside DVD | Fireplace gift basket

 

BRING IN THE BLANKETS

Recently I discovered that I own 15 blankets. Fifteen. For one person. A bit excessive? Absolutely. But I love blankets (and I always have -- as a kid I used to carry around my "blankie" and stuffed "doggy" everywhere, which I suppose isn't all that different from me as an adult!). Find a soft blanket (or two) and have it nearby for instant hygge. 

Need ideas? Check out: Reversible throw blanket | Cable-knit blanket | Polar fleece blanket

 

SIP A WARMING DRINK

Hygge isn't just what's around you; it's also what you put into you. Add hygge to almost any meal by choosing a warm drink -- coffee, cocoa, tea -- over what you usually drink. Not only will it warm you up, but a hot drink just feels cozy. (Bonus tip: put it in a giant mug and hold it with both hands for a very hygge look and feel.)

Need ideas? Check out: Tea gift set | Keurig coffee maker | Hot chocolate on a stick

 

PUT DOWN THE PHONE

As much as I love my phone, it's not a very hygge object. Hygge is all about being content and cozy in the moment, and staring at screen definitely takes away from that. Create a bit of hygge every day by putting your electronic devices away for a little bit and focusing on something in the moment -- a book, friends, your pet, etc.

Need ideas? Check out: The Year of Cozy | Hygge Journal | Hygge Phone Case

 

Just writing about these hygge tips put me in a cozy mood (in fact, halfway through, I paused to read my book in a candle-lit bath!), and I hope they inspire you to create an intimate, connected, warm, and comforting environment. This time of year can really increase stress (even if it is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year!) so it's important to take time to focus on making the most of your moments and finding coziness and relaxation where you can. Happy hyggeing! 

  

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4 Reasons to Love Halloween

  Halloween

 

In just a week, it'll be time for my favorite day of the year -- Halloween! :) If you've been following Positively Present for awhile, you're probably well-aware of my love for the holiday. I've never been quite able to pinpoint what it is I love about it (especially because I don't like anything remotely scary...), but this year I decided to chat a bit about why I think I love the holiday so much in my latest YouTube video! 

And, because I've received quite a few requests to see Halloween costumes I've worn in the past, you'll also find quite a few snapshots of Halloweens past throughout the video! 

 

Halloween-ThumbnailClick the image above to check out the video!  

 

If you're not into videos, but you're curious about what I discovered when I gave some thought to what I love about Halloween, here are the highlights... 

 

COMMUNITY

In my opinion, one of the greatest things about Halloween is that almost everyone can participate in it (unlike more religious holiday, such as Christmas). There's an exciting sense of community that comes with dressing up in silly / sexy / scary costumes and coming together for trick-or-treating or a party. The fact that stores pop up each year solely for the purpose of selling Halloween costumes is pretty awesome, and really says something about the feeling of community that happens each season. The search for a costume itself is something that brings people -- parents and kids, friends, partners, etc. -- together. Consider the last time you saw so many people of all kinds of backgrounds celebrating something together. It's a rare occurrence, and it's one of the reasons I think I love the holiday so much! 
 

GENEROSITY

Another reason I think Halloween tops my list in terms of holidays is the fact that inspires generosity in a way that doesn't seem to be as present during the rest of the year. Can you imagine knocking on a random neighbors door and asking for some candy in mid-June? You (or your kids) would be seen as a bit crazy. But on Halloween, that's completely acceptable and even expected. The fact that so many people open their doors and generously share treats with kids is such a wonderful aspect of the holiday, and such a great reminder of how simple and beautiful a kind act can be. Not only does Halloween bring people together with a sense of community, but it also encourages generosity as well. 

 

TRANSFORMATION

Probably the reason I most love Halloween is that it's the one time of year that, as an adult who doesn't have costume-based job, we get to dress up and transform into anything we'd like to be. For kids this is awesome, but I think for adults it can be even more fun, since wearing a costume is pretty much frowned upon unless you're an actor. Every year I get so excited at the possibility of dressing up as something new (check out the video to see lots of my costumes!), and I'm grateful for the opportunity to play around with transforming myself at least once a year. It's a great way to not only try on different hats (literally!), but also to play around with your creativity and inner desires. 

 

CELEBRATION

Halloween has always been a time of great celebration and festivity for me, which is probably one of the reasons I love it so much. For me, it's the great kick-off for the rest of the year of fun festivities (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve...), and it's symbolic of finding merriment and joy in something completely silly, like eating candy or dressing up in costume. The celebratory aspect has less to do with the actual Halloween traditions than it does with serving as a reminder that it's important to appreciate (and celebrate!) the little things in life. 

 

To be honest, I think these are four things we could really use more of in our country right now. We've become very divided as of late and, while I'm certainly not suggesting that Halloween will bring us together in a political sense, it's certainly a great little holiday to help us join together for the common good of candy and costumes! ;)

 

... if you're wondering why this post isn't going live next week, it's because next week is going to be all about the 2016 Gratitude Photo Challenge! :) It's the sixth year, and it's going to be the best one yet. Check it out next Monday! 

  

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