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Have a calm, simple holiday season

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Do you want to simplify this holiday season? Do you want to buy fewer, more meaningful gifts for loved ones? Do you want to avoid creating excess waste?

One way to get started down this path of less is more during the holiday season is to avoid getting sucked into the consumer void that is Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day. Reading my friend Elizabeth Stilwell of The Note Passer's post on how to have a zero-waste holiday is a great start too.

I know, it's hard! It's hard to deny yourself a great deal. And I'm not saying you should. Heck, I run an online shop don't I? I'm giving my subscribers a discount on Black Friday too, but my advice is to shop thoughtfully.

If you want to be a more conscientious shopper, there's a lot you can do to stick to your guns as Black Friday rears its head next week.

Plan ahead: calculate your holiday budget using this great tool I just found. According to les experts, you shouldn't spend more than 1.5 percent of your total annual income. For example, if you make $50,000 a year, your holiday budget for gifts, dining, wrapping paper, shipping, etc. would be $750 buckaroos.

Write it down: make a shopping list and stick to it, respecting the amount of money you set aside in your budget calculator for gifts

Keep it local: buy from local, independent small businesses in your area

Keep it domestic: buy from independent small businesses in your country that sell domestically made products

Track it: keep your receipts or write down your purchases in a little notepad that you keep with you at all times. Seeing the numbers add up makes it easier to hold yourself back.

Focus on what's most important: jot down the experiences that make you and your family happy - baking, decorating, catching up on the phone. Plan activities that help you achieve what you value most. Instead of going over your budget and buying a bunch of gifts, give the gift of experience.

Aside from shopping less, I'd also like to create less waste this year. From wrapping paper to food packages, it's easy to see why our waste increases over the holidays. Try a few of these tips to reduce waste and save your money too (bonus!).

Go paperless: opt for electronic greeting cards. They're free, easy to distribute to all friends and family, and you save on postage.

DIY wrapping: use flyers, newspapers, even fabric from unwanted clothes, sheets and towels. Tip from The Note Passer: buy paper tape so everything can be recycled after - brilliant!

Decorate with nature: avoid buying plastic decor and get inspired by nature. Pick trees boughs from your backyard or in the woods to make a biodegradable Christmas wreath and to add greenery to your home in vases or along your fireplace mantel. Bake cookies and use dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks, dried apple slices and popcorn as tree decorations old-school style.

Aside from buying less, I'd also like to do less this holiday season. It's easy to get caught up in endless tasks that drain your energy but don't add to your much-needed R&R. I'm guilty of being a bit addicted to ticking off items on my never-ending to-do list, but I often forget that being busy doesn't always mean being productive. And being productive doesn't mean doing as much as you can. True productivity is doing what matters most, what makes most difference. So with this in mind, let's see what we can not do this season.

Book too many dates with people you rarely ever see just because you feel like you have to reconnect with everyone and their mother during the holidays. Remember, quality, not quantity.

Commit to baking cookies for more than one cookie exchange. One is enough and you need to save time to actually eat them - most important.

Write letters to every family member because that's just what you have to do this time of year. Wrong, only write letters to those people who would write back or pick up the phone for a good long, two-way conversation. Don't take up all of your time writing out of guilt.

Decorate every square inch of your home, inside and out. Nope, keep it simple. A wreath on the door or some Christmas lights, some ribbons on the bannister and candles - only decorate if you really enjoy it, otherwise relax on your couch with a cup of hot chocolate and let yourself get swept away by Bublé on Spotify.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and sane shopping to you all.