(Don’t Do This!) 5 Mistakes Military Spouses Should Avoid this Holiday Season

Ho-ho-ho! The holidays are now in full swing. And you plan to rock-rock-rock it! But wait….

…it can be stressful having to balance family, military life, and all of the extra expectations that are layered on during the holiday season (read: unit parties, traveling to the inlaws, deployments (!)).

We want to make sure your holiday season is as smooth as possible so we created this list of things you’ll want to avoid doing so your sanity stays intact. What’s on the list?

1. Trying to be everywhere. 

Your in-laws live in one state, your parents live in another, and, guess, what, you are stationed a few states away from both. Everyone is asking you to visit, but you have a new baby (well, a new puppy!). Before you commit to being everywhere this holiday season, prioritize your visits and who you want to make sure to see before you overcommit yourself this holiday season.

Nothing is more upsetting to family (OK, your mom) then a last minute cancellation. And nothing is more stressful than being stuck on the road (or an airplane) trying to travel to see too many people. So write your list, check it twice, and then think about a realistic plan. And, remember, not everyone is going to love your new baby as much as you, so plan ahead for your new family member. Aww… but who wouldn’t love him?

2. Grand gestures. 

Gas for traveling. Decorations for housing. Nights out with friends. While gift giving usually gets the bad rap for causing your credit card to bloom during the holidays, it really is the stuff surrounding the holidays that may be the problem. What is a bigger problem for military families? A grand gesture.

While we love to support our military community, we can often go overboard by buying stuff for the entire unit, especially if your spouse is in a leadership position. Ornaments for the entire company. Hosting a dinner for the entire platoon. Giving gifts to all of the leaders in the battalion. Even helping out friends in the squad with travel expenses or a single soldier who needs a plane ticket.

While we’d love to help everyone out, be sure not to explode your own debt by doing it. There are ways to be thoughtful without spending too much. Think potluck instead of full-out meal providing. Or a big plate homemade cookies instead of individual ornaments. Or helping arrange a ride-share vs. shelling out big bucks for a plane ticket for a friend. Nothing makes you feel worse than emerging from the holidays with a big old credit card bill, so  be generous but not at the expense of your financial future.

3. Being everyone else’s cheerleader. 

Guess what? You’ve done some great stuff too! While military spouses love to talk about their service member or their kids when they go home, be sure you also talk about yourself when you travel for the holidays. It is important that people know how your work is going, what you’re planning on doing this year, and what is new in your life. As military spouses, we all too often focus on military life and lose a sense of ourselves.

This holiday season, celebrate yourself also! And that means letting your family and friends know what is important to you and what is on your mind. Be your own cheerleader, too! Don’t get lost in the mix of updates on everyone else but you. You need words of encouragement and praise also. These words will help lift your spirits and build your confidence, which we all need in order to avoid feeling underappreciated which is a quick path to burnout.