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Shopping Seniors - Carrying Her BagsThe holidays can be a challenging time for all of us, with so much hustle and bustle, expense and excitement, and often the need to travel. These challenges can be harder for seniors, especially if they have recently moved, lost loved ones, are far from family, or find themselves on a tighter budget or with new health problems. Fortunately there are many ways to make the holidays easier, especially if you start planning well ahead of time.

Now is the time to get a jump on your New Year’s resolutions. Yes, it’s only October, but by creating new, positive habits now, it’ll be so much easier to manage the stress and gluttony of the holidays. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about starting a new exercise regimen now so that the extra eating and drinking that take place during the holidays won’t hit you so hard, and so that your exercises will be a more firmly ingrained habit that will be harder to break. Your retirement community may offer a variety of exercise classes, too, which would be a great place to get more fit and even make some friends.

Go ahead and make a budget for your holiday shopping and travel well ahead of time. If you need time to save up for gifts and air fare budgeting well before spending season starts will give you an advantage. It will also make it easier to stick to your budget if you aren’t trying to make it once spending has already started, throwing off your sense of how much money you really have to work with. Once you have a budget to work with you can start shopping for airfares—many booking sites and travel experts recommend buying around 21 days in advance.

Some also recommend purchasing tickets on a Tuesday afternoon (especially around 3PM) to get the best deal, and to try to plan your takeoff for a Wednesday, which is a less popular day to fly. In general the most expensive days to fly are Fridays and Sundays, and this is never more true than during the peak season of the holidays. Play around with the calendar and ticketing options on a site like Kayak.com or Orbitz to find which days and times offer the best deal—the great thing about being retired is your schedule might be more flexible than when you had work and school to plan around.

By starting your holiday planning ahead of time you’ll be well prepared to have a fun, stress-free time with friends, family, and the neighbors at your senior living community. Staying healthy in body, bank account, and mind is definitely something to be thankful for and one of the very best holiday gifts you can give yourself.