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The Frugalista Holiday Survival Guide 101 or 1.0 or 411 or whatever…

You know you want these outfits for yourselves.

I originally published this post last Thanksgiving. But only about 40 people read it. So maybe posting it this year, a whopping 80 of you will read it. It is full of sound advice. My meds must have been working really well that day because it sounds so legitimate.

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This is more than me telling you to have the eggnog and Xanax ready. Although, those might help.  I’m hoping to provide meaningful advice rather than just tell you to escape and climb under the covers of denial. Yes the holidays are here. No we don’t have Santa’s elves for ourselves, and most of us don’t have second wives, (I’m right about this aren’t I?) so we are gonna have to muddle through.

Think of this as your mom/Oprah’s favorite things/Dr. Oz/best girlfriend advice blog:

I read a lot of magazines, editorials, blogs, online beauty/shopping sites…whatever. I know. So just follow me.

Who am I kidding? Not that I really know what I’m doing. I’m just surviving like the rest of you.  If I don’t have a mental breakdown by the time McSweetie and I are  driving with the kids to his parent’s on Christmas Eve, then I know we have survived. Of course, none of us will know this until practically the holidays are over- so if it comes to blows that day, I’m sorry now.

To start, and this is most important, do not, I repeat DO NOT go to a mall the weekend of Thanksgiving. Fine. Feel free to not listen to this advice. You will be sorry. Is there really something so wonderful at midnight at Walmart?? I will say a big fat, I TOLD YOU SO. These shopping experiences are vial, smelly, sweaty, loud and exhausting. Instead, shop online for anything you can. It will save you YOUR MIND.

Don’t hesitate to use online sites like Amazon Fresh and Soap.com. Soap.com is a new site I found that is like Target online, they deliver to your door the next day for free. Holy pajama jeans Batman! It’s the lazy, homebody’s dream come true!

You are probably not going to like this next bit of advice either- exercise as much as you can. I know. Yuck. It doesn’t have to be 60 minutes of Tae Bo or Jillian Michaels shred. It can be walking the dog, 10 minutes of yoga, shopping briskly at Nordstrom Rack, vacuuming rigorously; whatever to keep your endorphins in check. It’s absolutely necessary to manage the holiday pressures and stress with working out all that anxiety over how to freakin’ afford the million dollar Harry Potter Lego set your child wants that he thinks Santa will bring and it doesn’t matter how much it costs because Santa’s buying it. Oy.

Next, I love Christmas cookies, but I don’t always have time to bake. This is why you make friends with those people that do. I can always rely on a few friends to give me trays of Christmas cookies. Yay me. I get to enjoy and not slave in the kitchen. So tip #4- find a friend that is crazy enough to bake.

My next piece of advice is a little like my first about going to the malls. This item is, don’t go to Whole Foods on Christmas Eve day. The parking lot is a nightmare and the lines are frightening. It’s not worth it. I would rather go to the AM/PM and get a Entenman’s cherry pie and put it on a pretty paper plate than fight for the last Frangiapani tart and peppered brie at Whole Foods.

Do something good for someone else. Here’s the Oprah part- if you do for others, it makes you feel good too. We always sponsor a family through our church. We contribute to their Christmas dinner and buy presents for the kids. It’s anonymous so it’s not awkward. There’s lots of ways to find needy families through Childhaven. I’m also planning on sponsoring an endangered animal in my niece and nephews’ names. We try to keep the gift exchange to a minimum. I’m sure a lot of you already do this. We keep it to the kids only, and when the kids start to get older- we give them cash or donations in their name. Everyone likes cash. Make sure you clear this with the kiddos first if you’re only doing donations. Nothing sucks like getting a donation when you were hoping for cash. OR a knit clown doll when you wanted Space Invaders for your Atari. That sucks too. Right McSweetie?

Think about gifting a membership somewhere, an experience to something. There’s so much stuff all the time, it’s nice to get things to DO and not just HAVE. I know it’s neat to get cute and cheap stuff from dollar stores, and Target and Michaels, but seriously consider avoiding all this. You will end up spending lots of money on crap. There’s only so many notepads, pencils and cute chapsticks a person needs. It’s all Made in China stuff. Probably full of lead or arsenic or something.

I’m trying to buy local too. Another reason to avoid the big retailers on the weekends. Don’t get me wrong- I go to Target like 4 times a week! But I’m going to buy through friends’ businesses, boutiques and companies that have good intentions like Hugh Jackman’s Laughing Man Coffee, or Glassybaby or Tom’s shoes, etc…

My other piece of advice- don’t buy things just to save money. Doorbusters and buy one get one, aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. Remember, buy one, get one half off- is just another way of saying 25% off for your purchase. If you’re buying the stuff anyway, it’s worth it. Otherwise, stick to what you planned to get only.

Here’s something else you will want to do. Make all your appointments NOW. Hair, nails, waxing, facials, book your sitters, house cleaners, bartenders. You want to maximize your cute party style and not show up with roots showing and ghetto nails. Don’t feel you need to buy a new cocktail dress. If money’s tight, get a cute necklace at Ann Taylor Loft, or the Rack. There’s so much cute stuff out there that’s really quite affordable. You can take last year’s dress and jazz it up with patterned tights or a cute piece of jewelry. No one will remember what you wore last year, except of course, for the Facebook pictures. That’s why you can mix it up with accessories to distract in case anyone does go through last year’s Facebook album. And thank heavens Kate Middleton has made recycling dresses fashionable. It’s frugal (ha!) to reuse an outfit.

Keep on hand plenty of Pellegrino and coconut water for hangovers. With all the parties and drinking, you will be glad you did. Pellegrino while you’re drinking cocktails, and coconut water for the morning after. Trust me on this one.

Most importantly, do what works for you and your family. And don’t try to be perfect. We all think we want to be Martha Stewart. But really, nobody wants to feel outdone and lame. So lower your expectations. It will make everything that much more impressive.