HOBBIES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.

SPECIAL PLANS FOR YOUR SPECIAL PEOPLE

Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.

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WHY WE ENJOY OUR HOBBIES

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.

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When you have an estimate of the total cost of the holidays, be honest with yourself. Can you responsibly spend that amount this year? Would it be possible to defray costs this year by reallocating some monthly funds toward paying down Christmas?


Now that you have a plan for this year’s budget, plan ahead for next year by opening a new Christmas savings account, using automatic deductions for deposits.


No matter what you spend, find ways to make Christmas meaningful. Think of the real reason for the season. That will help you take some of the stress out of the holidays.

The holidays are here. What would they be like without those special meals with family and friends? This also means gift giving, parties to attend or host — and stretching your budget. Consider the following tips to help you stay merry and bright this season:


Decide on a Budget.  Estimate what you are able to reasonably spend. One golden rule: No going into debt for the holidays. Decide now to pay in cash or with a check or a debit card. The average holiday bill is $980 and more. Try to pare down your estimate to a manageable level. Set a limit and stand by it. See if your family can have a more meaningful kind of holiday season with a sensible plan for spending.


Count the Costs.  Not only is there the cost of the gift-giving ritual to consider, but you also need to think about the dollar amounts for meals that must be purchased and prepared, including food items you take to others’ get-togethers. And don’t forget the clothes you’ll probably buy to wear to those parties. What about deco-rations and a tree? Add those to your calculations as well and see where you can economize.


Start Planning Early.  Make a list of all those for whom you need to buy gifts. These might include teachers, service workers and your minister as well as family and friends.

BUDGETING FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Look for Bargains.  Use apps that point you to the best buys, especially on big-ticket items. You can also use apps to compare cost or help you as you’re looking for sales. Look at group buying sites such as Groupon and check out Amazon Local to get discounts on services and products. Shop through cash-back reward sites to earn back a percentage of your purchases.


Be Creative.  Search for ways to supply gifts at a low cost. Perhaps making some of them would work for some family members. Coupons offering to clean house, wash the car or bake a pie may be especially appreciated by aunts and uncles and busy moms and students. When in doubt about what to purchase, a gift card may be in order.


Travel Smart.  Book reservations ahead of time. Use your airline miles. Remember, you must count not only transportation, but lodging and meals.


Be Sensible. Ask guests to bring a dish to festivities. Know a store’s refund policy. Save all your receipts. Avoid impulse spending.

JEAN JEFFERS

Jean is an RN and a freelance writer. She is a staff writer for Living Well 60 Plus and Health & Wellness magazines. Her Web site is at

www.normajean.naiwe.com

more articles by jean jeffers