Season’s greetings! Or is your holiday spirit more like ho ho … hum?

    It’s the jolliest time of year again, but everything’s different now. Instead of decking the halls with your family and counting down the days until Christmas together, you’ll be heading home just days before the holidays to spend time with people you haven’t seen in months. What’s it going to be like to go home after so many months away? You’re also living on a tight budget now, and you’re stressing over gifts and travel costs.

    How are you going to keep the joy in the holiday season this year? Try these ideas.

    Mind your money

    Don’t think that the arrival of the holiday season has to mean letting your budget fly out the window.

    First, save on airline tickets by clearing your cache before searching for flights to help bring up the best deals. It’s also helpful to book your flight during the week; research shows that airlines tend to offer their lowest prices on Tuesdays.

    Next, save on gifts by arranging a Secret Santa swap among your friends. You’ll only have to spring for one gift, and the surprise factor makes the exchange super-fun.

    Finally, save on clothing costs by skipping the mall and instead hitting larger bargain stores, like TJ Maxx and Marshalls. Spend some time digging through their selections and you just might hit gold.

    Stick to a schedule

    We get it; you’ve been waiting for this break through the whole pressure-packed semester. And it’s OK to use the time to indulge in a total nap-fest, living in your pajamas for three weeks straight. But sticking to some sort of schedule will make you feel better about how you spent your break. You’ll also go back to college feeling refreshed and ready to sail through the rest of the year.

    One way to accomplish this is by carving out some time for a daily workout. No, this doesn’t mean you need to sign up for an aerobics boot-camp class or wake up before dawn for a 40-minute run. You can get your muscles moving with an afternoon jog around the neighborhood or by reacquainting yourself with the elliptical your parents keep in the basement. You’ll feel more energetic and keep the holiday bulge to a minimum.

    It’s also important to spend some daily time doing something more meaningful than binge-watching your favorite show or hollering at the football game on TV. You can volunteer at the local soup kitchen, catch up with old friends or use the looser schedule to apply for scholarships.

    Be prepared for changes in the family dynamic

    You’ve been away from home for a while, and you’ve likely undergone some changes in your appearance, personality or even political views since your parents last saw you. You’ve probably developed a sense of independence that wasn’t there when you left home, either. Be prepared for these changes, as well as your prolonged absence from home, to trigger their own changes in the family dynamic.

    Knowing what to expect will help you avoid confrontation and misunderstandings. If you feel your newly acquired independence being threatened when you’re back under your parents’ roof, remind yourself that you’re now in their home and you need to play by their rules. You’re only home for a few weeks, so do your best to remain respectful as your parents adjust to any changes you’ve undergone since you left home.

    Wasatch Peaks

    Written by Wasatch Peaks