Avoid Stress by Budgeting Time this Christmas

santa_and_clockThis is a trying time of year. We’re spending time with family, we’re entertaining friends, and we’re buying and giving gifts. In short, it’s really tough to make ends meet in November and December.

And you think I’m talking about money, don’t you?

I’m not talking about money, I’m talking about budgeting time. In a way, making smart money decisions is actually easier this time of year than making smart use of our time. It’s a pretty easy to avoid overspending – just stop spending money! But what do we do when we’re getting short on time? We tend to try to pack more things into the little time we have left.

To make it even more difficult, everyone around us tends to think that our time is free – but it’s really the most precious resource we have. Time can’t be saved up to spend later like money – we either use our time well now, or we lose it forever.

The good news is, unlike money, everyone here on Earth gets the same time allowance – a fresh new day every morning.

We talk a lot here at 401kKid.com about ways you can get back control over your budget. This is important not only in the long-term, in saving for the future, but in the near-term as well. When you’re able to pay the bills, and have money left over, you’re just happier. When you have this little extra money – call it margin – you’ll be much happier than if you’re just a little bit short. It’s a fact, that people feel less stress when they’re able to build any amount of margin into their financial lives.

So what about time? What can you do to regain control of your calendar, and start finding some moments to relax? Surprisingly, it’s some of the same things that you do when you’re trying to budget your finances:

  1. Start with your total time available (this is easy – it’s 24 hours per day!)
  2. Set aside time for the important things first (with money, this is Share, Save, Spend):
    1. Sleep – both for you, and for the kids – and don’t forget naps!
    2. Worship, volunteering, serving others – if you regularly attend church, or serve others, don’t give this up during the holidays – it will keep you on-center to keep up the routine
    3. Work schedule – you can’t simply stop working because you’re busy with real life. But if you can take vacation, this will really help clear up some of your time.
    4. These are the non-negotiables. These are the things that, if you skip them, you’ll be sick, or miserable, or unemployed. You can’t give these up.
  3. Prioritize everything that remains, see what fits with the time that remains.
  4.  Remember that with margin, comes happiness. With no margin comes stress. If something is scheduled from 2:00 – 4:00, put it on the calendar for 1:00 – 5:00, and you’ll still have some margin, even if something else runs long that day.
  5. It’s OK to say “No!” to some things if it’s impossible to be in two places at one time. If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it. If you can’t fit in a neighborhood dinner party because there’s already a hockey game and dinner with Grandma on the calendar, don’t try to force it in! It will only leave you cranky as you rush from one activity to another, and it will ALSO disappoint the coach (leaving early), your neighbors (leaving their party early), and Grandma (arriving late.) Better to stick to the two events, leave some margin, and remain sane.
  6. Double all of your planned travel times. Now you’re covered if you’re leaving late (kids can’t find shoes) or if there’s bad traffic along the way. If there’s not bad traffic, then you’ll get there early – or you’ll have time to stop along the way and buy a latte!

This is a fantastic time of year – kids are off school, families are getting together, and we’re all in the spirit of giving. We have all worked hard (hopefully) over the past few months to manage our finances during the holiday weeks.

Now, after all that work, don’t forget to be budgeting time as well. Enjoy this time with your friends and family, and kids.

Build in some margin, and enjoy some moments without the stress of where you’re going next. The New Year is coming, and you’l be off to the races again, soon enough.

Merry Christmas!

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