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FOUR HOLIDAY LISTS TO AVOID

December is a busy month for so many reasons, not the least of which are the holidays. With a lot of fun to be had and so much that must be done during the month or at least by month's end, "to do" lists and lists of lists abound.

To help you reduce stress, have fun, and contribute to the joy of the season, here are four lists to avoid during the holidays:

List #1: Avoid being added to the "must buy a gift for" list of friends and family who aim to buy real estate in 2017 or who are struggling to afford the real estate they own.

The best gift you can give a wanna-be homeowner or a financially-stressed property owner is to stop them from spending hard-earned cash or incurring credit card debt to buy you a gift you probably don't need. Debt reduces the borrowing power of home buyers and puts unnecessary financial pressure on already struggling owners. Intercept friends and family before they hit the mall or online shopping sites. Suggest that, instead of buying gifts, you exchange no-cost promises or experiences:

Sharing Promises: Enlist their help in achieving a goal that you're struggling with and offer to do the same for them. For instance, if you're trying to stop smoking or want to start visiting the gym, and they are attempting to cut back on eating out, make written promises to each other for a two-week stretch this month or next. During the two weeks, you can keep in touch in any way that would help each other stick to their promise and develop a good habit to carry into 2017. Sharing a step toward achievement of a goal is a wonderful gift to give and to receive. Use your imagination to apply this idea to a situation that would suit your family.

Sharing Experiences: Suggest they accompany you somewhere you or they have always wanted to go, preferably a free event or local natural wonder. Select a time that makes sense in December or January and exchange cards or calendar posts to confirm. Time is a most precious gift.

List #2: Avoid being added to holiday party lists without an exit strategy.

Before you accept invitations to parties, dinners, or events, decide how you are going to get home safely. If you won't abstain from drinking or using intoxicants, bring a designated driver as your plus-one, book a two-way trip with a for-hire car service, or sign up for a ride home with the local designated driver service to get you and your car home safely.

List #3: Avoid making lists of extravagances to buy (or go further in debt for) if you need to start 2017 with less debt or at least the same amount of debt that you have right now.

Media continues with spend-spend-spend hype, but put your personal goals and finance realities ahead of someone else's marketing. DIY gifts - kitchen specialties, photos, wood art, fabric treats - are on trend, so get creative. Shared experiences or traded skills are also great gifts. Offer to show a friend how to do something they've always been fascinated by. Donate your time or skills to a local charity in the name of someone you'd like to gift. Give a family member something special of yours that they have always loved. What else can you think of that takes thought, caring, and sincerity but is not simply more debt. Listen to the chat about unappreciated gift cards and "must be returned" presents to inspire your new gifting style.

List #4: Avoid making a New Year's Resolution List.

Why start the year listing many things you should do but probably won't? Instead, zero in on one thing - big or small, to do or to end, one-time or a habit—that you really believe will make a difference in 2017 and do it! Have fun in December deciding on that amazing action, so you're cheerfully ready to jump in and make 2017 dynamite!



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