- Do not spend more than you can afford on gifts and/or other Christmas stuff.
- Do consider giving "experience" gifts such as taking a person hunting with you, taking the nieces and nephews ice skating, etc.
- Go out and cut your own Christmas tree. It's a good experience for all.
- Be sure any Christmas decor (lights on the house, decorations on the tree, etc) won't burn your house down, make the dog sick, etc.
- If you will have guests for the holidays (especially kids) consider locking up your firearms, prescription meds, etc.
- Save money on your Christmas decor, wrapping paper, etc. by hitting up the $1 Store, the Goodwill, and other thrift stores.
- Make the holiday more of a series of events (watching 'It's a Wonderful Life', going ice skating, etc) instead of a free for all day of gifts.
- Donate to those in need.
- Be aware of drunk drivers on the road (and obviously be aware of your guests drinking at your own holiday events) as the number of intoxicated people on the roadways tend to spike this month.
- Ratchet back on the news and social media. The news is usually all negative and social media can make you feel left out/alone/poor compared to the sparkling photos and posts by others. Removing these negative sources in your life can make your holidays happier.
- All the boxes from the new TV/XBox/computers you bought on Black Friday? Be sure to get rid of them covertly instead of leaving them out on the curb for garbage pick up. You don't want to make your home look attractive to burglars.
- Consider having any online shopping deliveries sent to your office, the local FedEx office, etc. instead of leaving the items on your porch where just anyone can grab them.
- Be sure to have fully charged fire extinguishers around the house.
- Consider baking your holiday turkey instead of deep frying it (it's safer).
- Do any necessary winter clean up which can make your home safer, cleaner, and more efficient (ie: clean out gutters, keep leaves and debris off the walk ways, etc).
- Keep your pets away from Christmas ornaments and decor, chocolate, and small children who can annoy them.
- Winterize your home if necessary and make notes of larger projects that should be done (it's easiest to tell where winter winds are coming into your home when it is both winter and windy).
- Be ultra aware of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning which is very common during the winter.
- Consider getting a generator if necessary (obviously when they go on sale, not the day of the major power outage).
- Consider using/donating a majority of your food stockpile and replenishing it. This is a good way to get rid of older food, en mass, and make way for new food purchases for your stockpile.
- Winterize your vehicle (change the oil to winter weight, flush the cooling system and add anti freeze, change your wiper blades, etc).
- Know how to put chains on your tires even if you usually pay someone to do it; it's a good skill to know.
- Restock the emergency supplies in your vehicle for winter (heavier blankets, different food, etc) and change out the batteries in your vehicle's flashlights, emergency radio, etc.
- Put an AC/DC inverter in your vehicle (it's a great way to charge your cell phone and other small electronics charged if the power goes out in your home).
- Practice winter driving skills (like driving on snow or ice) in a safe area (like a large, empty parking lot).
- Leave ample time to defrost your vehicle/de ice the windows before heading off to work or school.
- Drive according to conditions (if I had a dollar for every SUV that ends up in the ditch after it first snows...).
- Avoid driving in inclement weather if possible (this goes double for for teenaged or new drivers).
- Invest in items that make your vehicle/your driving safer (such as snow tires if you live in an area with lots of snow, an engine block heater, etc).
- Don't forget that vehicle crime as well as crime near your vehicle like when exiting a mall, tend to increase during the holidays so always be aware of what is going on around you.
Outdoor Survival Skills
- Go on a winter day hike or overnight camping trip.
- Try winter hunting, fishing, or trapping.
- Start a new Christmas tradition by "burning a Yule log", or just having a bon fire and roasting marshmallows, etc.
- Go cross country skiing or snowshoeing (these are excellent forms of exercise and good survival training as well).
- Practice skills needed for winter survival (layering outdoor clothing, staying hydrated which active outdoors, staying warm, building an emergency shelter, etc).
- When the snow falls, build an igloo for the kids to play in.
- Try foraging for winter edibles.
- Turn your winter vacation into something truly memorable (like this).
- Go shooting at the range (this can be quite different than shooting in summer).
- Repack your BOB/daypack/backpack for winter.
- Teach your older kids how to drive safely in inclement weather.
- Teach your kids age-appropriate winter safety skills (how to prevent CO2 poisoning, how to safely cross the street in ice and snow, how to safely start and manage a fire in the fireplace or wood stove, etc).
- Keep your kids well occupied and well supervised during the holiday break from school.
- Engage your kids in the traditions of the holidays (everything from decorating the tree and the house to baking and cooking the holiday meal).
- Be aware of things that could be dangerous to children due to the holidays (such as keep a visiting grandpa's meds out of the reach of toddlers, putting poisonous decorations such as mistletoe out of the reach of little kids, and keeping the gifts of liquor-filled chocolates away from the kids).
- Make sure the kids take all appropriate safety measures when doing winter sports (wearing a helmet while skiing, knowing when the ice is too thin for skating on the local pond, etc).
- Teach the kids about the significance and spirit of the holidays instead of focusing overly much on gifts.
- Teach your kids a variety of outdoor skills (everything from how to camp in the snow to how to trap animals in the winter, etc).
- Be aware of the gifts that the kids receive for Christmas. Some can be recall items, others could be age-inappropriate, and others may be contrary to your beliefs (I'm all for giving guns to kids as gifts, apparently a large part of the population isn't) so they may need to be re-gifted or otherwise edited from your kids toy chest.
- Teach your kids what to do in the event that they run into common scenarios such as getting separated from you at the mall or store, if their school closes early due to the weather, etc.
- Strive to become debt free by the end of the year.
- Pay annual bills at the end of December if possible (HOA fees, insurance payments, etc).
- Check your credit card/debit card accounts every few days (scams are rampant over the holidays, make sure there are no extra expenditures you didn't make).
- Be wary of carrying (and especially flashing) cash while out and about (it will make you a target for robbery).
- Don't fall into the Black Friday/Cyber Monday holiday sales hype. There are good sales year round.
- If you want to send money as gifts over the holidays consider buying discount gift cards instead.
- Spend wisely over the holidays by using sales sites such as Deal News or Kinja to get a heads up on great sales to make your money stretch further.
- Look for ways to save money at this time of year--everything from baking your own cookies instead of buying them to stocking up on food staples during holiday sales.
- Pull you free annual credit report to ensure all information is correct.
- Pay yourself first. Even though it seems like money is flying out of your account as soon as it lands there this time of year, always take the first cut from any income you receive and stash it away in a savings account.
End of the Year Stuff
- Consult your tax accountant about any end of the year financial moves you should make (such as fully funding your IRA, paying your kid's tuition, etc).
- Use up any annual medical/dental benefits by the end of the year.
- Do an annual review of your life and look for areas to improve upon.
- Clean up and organize your files (both hard files and computer files) and archive anything you don't need.
- Clean your house from top to bottom and donate anything you don't need (don't forget to get a receipt for your taxes).
- Review your important documents (Will and Power of Attorney, medical insurance plan, etc) and make any necessary changes.
- Review all of your income sources and expenses. Look for ways to increase the former and decrease the latter.
- Change all of your important passwords and pin numbers.
- Use up anything that will expire soon (like old gift cards, coupons, etc).
- Take advantage of slow season discounts (like have your AC serviced now, book a cruise for February, etc).
- Look for free activities to do during the holidays (Christmas caroling at nursing homes, kid's school plays, etc).
- Give back during the holidays by volunteering at a food kitchen, volunteering with community organizations (like Toys for Tots), or even volunteering to babysit for a single parent while they do their holiday shopping.
- Spend time in nature. It may be freezing cold outside but nature has a way of clearing your mind and helping you to realign your priorities.
- Participate in seasonal activities such as sledding, ice skating, skiing, etc.
- Participate in community activities such as holiday fun runs, visiting Santa with the kids, etc.
- Learn a new skill (the down time during the holidays is a good time to learn something new).
- Teach a new skill. Many clubs and organizations (like Boy Scouts, specialized clubs, etc) would love to have someone come in and teach a related skill that their members can benefit from.
- Check out your options for local clubs to join (shooting club, HAM radio club, astronomy club, etc).
- Challenge the family to go an entire weekend with no electronics at all. No TV, no radio, no Netflix or internet, no cell phones, no computers, no video games or social media.
- If you are spending time with all of the relatives this year, endeavor to write down as much of your family history as possible. Once old people are gone, so are their stories and memories.
- Step up your exercise program (this helps to burn off all of the holiday treats).
- Try fasting or going vegan for a day or a week (it's a good reset for your body after eating so much crap ever the holidays).
- Join a group (walking group, bowling league, etc) that will get you exercising into the new year.
- Make sure all of your vaccines are up to date.
- Take care of any annoying problems (dental pain, etc) so you can start your new year on a happier note.
- Many people suffer from depression, especially during the holidays. Pay particular attention to mental health problems in yourself and your loved ones, and seek help if needed.
- Make sure your first aid kit/sick kit are complete and fully stocked (the flu season hasn't fully hit yet but it probably will. Soon.).
- Take an honest health inventory and fix any problems you find (if you are overweight, get your weight down and it will help not only your blood pressure and blood sugar levels but also your mental health. If you have been putting off going to the doc for that annoying cough, make an appointment now).
- Consider options for de-stressing. Take a long walk, get a pet, take up yoga, etc.
- Do an annual review of your medical-related things (glasses, hearing aids, medications, etc) and make any necessary changes.
Preppin for 2016
- Set annual goals for yourself, your work, and your family.
- Get a calendar and map out your upcoming year.
- Plan next spring and summer's garden.
- Plan your next year's vacation around something useful (a vacation heavy on physical activity, a vacation that focuses on health, an outdoor survival course, etc).
- Determine how best to improve your survival-ability during the upcoming year (this may mean taking an EMT course, buying better gear, etc).
- Challenge yourself to improve your existing exercise routine for the coming year (if you are an occasional runner, sign up for a marathon in six months and gear your training towards that goal).
- Decide what you won't do during the coming year. Most people keep adding and adding goals to accomplish but they don't stop and subtract the things from their lives that aren't working.
- Consider doing the 52 week money challenge.
- Prepare for tax time so you aren't scrambling in a couple of months.
- Count your blessings and always be appreciative of what you have.
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