Thanksgiving is pulling into the station, so now’s a good time to get topical and do an advice column on the time of the year that has grown in length to the point that Santa’s in the mall a few days after the Easter Bunny packs it in. Enjoy, and don’t eat too much this week, unless you want people nagging you about the Freshmen 15 during your final exams.

Josh: I’ve gotten into a relationship with a guy the past few months and things have been going great. He’s invited me to go home with him for the holidays to meet his parents and just spend some time together during the break. The problem I have is that a lot of my relatives will be coming home to visit during the break, and I’m sure it won’t go well when I try to tell them that I’m not going to be there. Any ideas onto how to make it easier? -Worried about the ‘rents Fly the family to Switzerland and home they get into a neutral mindset. There’s a red flag I see here. You say that you’ve been with him for a ‘few months,’ so I am willing to bet this isn’t teetering on marriage just yet. I don’t think it would be devastating to assume that he’d be crushed if you weren’t there on Christmas day. At this time in our lives, we’re in that transition between seeing our family daily (and getting ticked when they always, without fail, ask if our homework is done) and the period where seeing them a couple of times a year can be considered an achievement worthy of an award in 53 countries. But that’s not to deter you from visiting. A compromise should be considered before you even ask them. There could be relatives planning on coming, like that aunt who lives in Hawaii who you haven’t seen since high school. If relatives you haven’t seen are coming in part just to see you, is it worth leaving them in the cold to visit someone you’ll have seen as recently as two or three weeks earlier? To that compromise I mentioned: maybe it’s a good idea to visit him during a non-Christmas week. Even New Year’s, which can be a fun celebration of its own, could be a good time to be there. You can celebrate with his family as well as your own, have a nice little mini-Christmas with your boyfriend when you do get to see him, and still get to see the relatives who normally are limited to greeting cards and E-mails. If they give you the blessing to go, obviously that decision then falls on you. But especially at this point, where the relationship is somewhat new, I’d be open to other ideas. You haven’t asked yet, so my guessing how to handle it is like my doing a Miss Cleo on the state lottery’s Pick 4 (1138), but I would keep the family’s good intentions in mind as well as yours. Instead of my waving a red flag, you’d do best waving a white flag to surrender if the family isn’t in the most accommodating mindset.

Dear Joshua: Living on an average college student’s budget, I’m stuck trying to figure out what I can do with my budget. I plan on buying gifts for the family coming to our house for Christmas, but beyond that I’m not sure what I can do and how much to spend. Thoughts? -Strapped for cash Sending I.O.U’s can be a creative, fun way to have a memorable holiday and they can be created in 23 easy steps! Eat your heart out, Martha Stewart. The amount of money the average college student has access to isn’t a big secret – I know of at least a few families who send an occasional cash care package to their loved ones at the U. to get them through. Even those who work have the added expense of owning a car, which can create a debt only rivaled by our national government’s. So with that in mind, I know of a lot of people both on campus and off who would appreciate a simple card. I’m sure Hallmark will appreciate the business, and the person on the receiving end will get the idea that you are thinking of them, even if you can’t get them a gift or make it up to their house during the break. If you find yourself in a semi-tight money position, but a little money you’re willing to spare, some small gifts can be a nice idea. It doesn’t matter if the gifts fall into the realm of middle school arts and crafts – the whole “it’s the thought that counts” isn’t a crock of bull, unless you count those misinformed Post-It notes some unsuspecting souls find in their stockings each year. One year I hit the cheapo goldmine when I found some puzzle books at the dollar store – three relatives of mine are really into them when they’re just relaxing, so I wrapped those up with a card and they were quite happy that they didn’t have to fight the snow to go get something to enjoy by the fireplace during these cold times. I don’t think your friends and family are looking for a Lexus, and if they are, they really haven’t gotten into the holiday spirit. It’s better to give than to receive, unless your parents give you the million shares of Microsoft they bought back in the late 80s as a way to cover your college debts. If that happens, feel free to E-mail me so you can send me that new digital camera you know you want to get me. Good luck, and thanks for asking.

Did your holiday cheer get lost at the airport this year? Something on your mind you need to talk about? E-mail and he may answer your question in a future A Word of Advice. Questions are answered every Monday and Thursday. All questions answered in the column were submitted by college-age students and may have been edited for length and/or content.

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