Ok—who feels more frantic than festive during the holidays? Like you're running around and stressed out instead of enjoying time with family and friends? The holiday season is busy—adding extra cooking, shopping, social events, and errands to already busy schedules can take the joy right out of the season.
Things will be busy either way, but they can be less stressful with advance planning. Sounds good, right?
I like my holidays one at a time (no Christmas decorations in my house until after Thanksgiving!), but prep work is a different story—especially this year, with Thanksgiving falling later in the month. Here's what I do to plan ahead...
1. Make a gift list that includes everyone who is getting a gift of any kind
And I mean everyone—family and friends, of course, but also teachers, bus drivers, coaches, the dog walker, etc. It's often the service providers that get forgotten until the last minute, and that's when you find yourself grabbing a random gift card at CVS as you're rushing to the last practice before winter break. (This is also the kind of purchase that blows up Christmas budgets and leave you with a bigger-than-expected credit card bill in January...)
With a big master list made early in the season, you can determine that you need 6 coffee gift cards and maybe even delegate the card making to your kids. The next time you're in said coffee shop, just pick up the cards and you'll be ready for that last practice. And you'll know what you're spending.
This list gets you thinking of gift ideas and helps plan for sales (especially of the buy more, get more variety). I always encourage clients to think of experience gifts vs. things. Classes, museum memberships, dinner out, car detailing, meal delivery service, etc. (I'll do another post later this month with a whole bunch of ideas that aren't "things".)
The list can be on paper, a note on your phone, or—my personal favorite—in an app. I use one called Gift List, and it lets me add all my gift recipients, assign a budget to each, and add every idea or purchased item. It can be marked as "need to buy" or "shipping" or "wrapped", etc. making it really easy to keep track of everything. It syncs across my iPhone and iPad and is password-protected to keep people from snooping! The following year, you can replicate the list of recipients but clear out the gifts, so you only have to set it up once.
2. Set a holiday budget
The last way I want to start the new year is with a financial hangover. So I take the gift list and make a budget—when I write down what I have for people, I'm less likely to forget what I have and keep shopping. I put it right into my app, which helps track spending, but there are so many ways to do it—spreadsheets, financial budgeting apps, etc. The right choice is whatever you will actually use!
3. Check the holiday card address list and print labels
Even if I'm not ready to order my holiday cards in November, I still go through my addresses, see what I need to update, buy stamps, and print labels. This lets me know exactly how many cards I need to order and means that if I'm a little late getting a photo I love, everything else is ready to go as soon as the cards arrive. I fill, stamp, and seal my cards while waiting at my daughter's gymnastics class.
4. Make a holiday bucket list
There are certain holiday traditions that are absolute musts in our house: our Christmas-book-a-day tradition. Going to visit Santa. Getting our tree. Advent calendars. Seeing the tree and the music/light show in Faneuil Hall. Then there are new things. Making a list of all those things is fun, plus seeing it on paper helps us find time to do the things we're most excited about. The key is to use it as a way to prioritize—and make sure it doesn't become a stressful "oh-no-we-haven't-done-anything-yet!" list.
5. Buy all the supplies
Do not run out of tape on Christmas Eve and add a last-minute errand to your list! Gift wrap, ribbons, tags, tape—if you don't already have it, getting it now means not scrambling later. Do you bake for people? Pick up tins, bags, baskets, or whatever you use to package holiday treats. It doesn't even have to be a special trip—just add things to your weekly shopping list.
So there you have it...a few ways to plan now and avoid that frazzled, hectic feeling later in December. I'd love to hear what you do early to prepare for the holidays!