Tinkering With Ideas #028: The two halves of December

Hi friend 👋 -

Happy Wednesday. I'm counting down the days until I take some time off at the end of the year. My kids don't have school for 2.5 weeks and I don't do any client work during that time. If you have kids, you know: it's not really a "break" or a "vacation."

This year, I'm wrapping up client work two days before my kids are done with school. That means two whole days to myself. What am I going to do with my time?? I have some ideas. 😊

But this divides December into two distinct halves: hurry, hurry, hurry to wrap up for the end of the year, and then my break until January.

1) Reflection:

For a long time, I worked deep into the holiday season — right up until the end of the year, taking only two or three days off for Christmas. I spent 15 years at a software company and there was always some kind of project that needed to be wrapped up by year-end.

I remember one Christmas in particular. I was sitting in my uncle's living room in Arizona, with my laptop on my lap, testing a new product feature. The developer had been wayyyyyy behind in sending me what I needed and we were "required" to wrap up by December 31.

But in hindsight, I wish I'd pushed back. It wasn't my fault the project was running late and I sacrificed my time with my family as a result. It wasn't like any customers were going to install or use the feature on December 31.

Eventually, I learned to set boundaries for the end of the year, even when I was working for an employer. I took time off and disappeared. See you again in January; I'll be spending time with my family.

2) Product:

My "product" tip is "open extra bank accounts to help manage your money."

I have 16 savings accounts, each one with a dedicated purpose. Yes, there are apps that can do this for you (a single savings account, with the app divided into funds), but I like the visual of having the money in different accounts.

For example, one account is for gifts: birthdays, Christmas, etc. Money goes in every month, money comes out as needed. I set a budget for the entire year to determine the monthly amount. Christmas can be expensive so it makes the holidays financially less stressful.

In my self-employed life, I also have a savings account to "pay myself" for vacation. When I'm not working, I don't earn money. So I tuck away money every month and can draw from that account when I take time off.

3) Tip:

The holidays can be really overwhelming, especially for people with kids. There's just a lot of activity. I used to put a lot of it on myself. For example, we've had an Elf on the Shelf since 2013. Every night, I'd move the damn elf.

As my kids have gotten older, I've involved them more. My 11-year-old is now in charge of moving the elf, a task he takes very seriously. Every morning, my 6-year-old runs around the house looking for the elf and my 11-year-old gives me a knowing smile.

I also send out about 75 Christmas cards in the mail every year. This is also a task I used to undertake by myself and it was a big chore. I realized last year that I could turn my three kids into a Christmas card assembly line. I write the addresses on the envelopes. My youngest puts the cards in the envelopes. My middle child seals the envelopes. My oldest adds the return address label and my spouse adds the stamp.

Of course, the answer could also be "Don't send out Christmas cards" or "Don't do Elf on the Shelf" but I still love both of those things. However, there's no reason that the rest of the family can't be involved. And they enjoyed it! We watched The Great British Baking Show while working on the Christmas cards.

That's it for this issue of Tinkering! See you again in two weeks.


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Anna Burgess Yang

Practical tips to make your day better & make your life easier.

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