It’s still October, so it’s not too late to get a jump start on planning for the holidays. Let’s take a little time to sit down with a cup of tea and do some brainstorming.
Just for convenience’s sake, and because Christmas gets a lot more hectic than Thanksgiving, I’m going to focus on Chrismas holiday planning. But just be aware that much of what I’m talking about can apply to Thanksgiving as well.
Where Will You Spend the Holidays?
If you don’t already know whether you’ll be spending the holidays at home or somewhere else, now is the time to nail that down. This is essential for the rest of your Christmas planning.
Check with your children to see if they plan to visit you or if they expect you to come to them this year. Your family may have a holiday tradition that involves everyone coming together at your house. But when the kids don’t live at home anymore, those traditions may change. Best to check it out with them and solidify your plans.
Plan Your Holiday Budget
This is super important! Whether you’re traveling or staying at home for Christmas, you simply must have a budget.
Here are some items that should be in your budget. Some may or not apply but all should be considered.
- Travel – going to relative’s house, meeting others at the ski resort or the beach?
- Decorations – do lights, trees, need to be bought, replaced?
- Gifts for family, friends, coworkers, etc.
- Christmas cards and postage
- Holiday parties – new outfits, hostess gifts, dishes to bring, etc.
- Dining out – with friends, family on days other than the actual holiday
- Holiday meals – Christmas Eve, Christmas Day
- Holiday activities – does your family go skiing, ice skating, etc?
As you can see, holiday expenses can add up fast, so it’s important to create a budget and stick to it before things get out of hand. You don’t want to pay for the holidays into the summer, do you? Think of this ahead of time to keep costs down.
Make Your Christmas Travel Plans
When it comes to travel for the holidays, planning it early is key to reducing stress. Seriously, you don’t want to be looking for a flight three weeks before Christmas. Travel will be super expensive then and you may not even be able to get a flight at all.
The best time to plan for Christmas travel is October or early November at the latest. You’ll get the best prices and seats you want if you do it early. Take a look at Momondo, Skyscanner, or Hopper to see what prices look like. Hopper, in particular, will tell you whether you should buy tickets now or wait a little later based on trends.
If you plan to travel using points, look at what is available now and look at upgrades too. United Airlines just started offering point upgrades at the time of booking so if you want to fly first-class, look at upgrading when you book to be sure to get a seat. Otherwise, you’ll be put on a waitlist and your chances go way down for getting that first-class seat.
Plan Your Gift List and SHOP
Who do you typically buy gifts for at Christmas? If your family is expanding, think about ways to cut gift costs for your family. Perhaps it’s time to buy one gift for each family you’ll be seeing instead of each individual in all the families. Or maybe you’ll just buy gifts for the children. Maybe you’ll choose to buy gifts for immediate family members only.
Get in touch with the family members you’ll see at Christmas and have this discussion ahead of time. It’s really okay NOT to buy a gift for everyone in your family. Just be sure to coordinate with other family members so everyone knows what to expect.
If you want to get a head start on buying gifts click here. Or plan out your Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping and make that list!
Plan Your Decorations Ahead of Time
If everyone is coming to your house this year, you’ll likely want to go all out with decorating. Does anything need to be replaced? Are you in a new house and thinking of buying different decorations to fit your new look? It’s time to plan this all out. Use this link to take a look at what’s new in decorating this year.
If you’re traveling to another location for Christmas, you may want to downsize your decorations, especially if you don’t plan to throw a party for the neighbors either. Try to keep it simple in order to cut down on holiday stressors.
When the time comes to decorate, you’ll know where you stand and can decorate with ease and without all of the stress. Just schedule an afternoon and get it done early. My favorite time to decorate is Thanksgiving weekend. I literally HATE getting out on Black Friday and fighting the crowds and traffic. I’m more of a Cyber Monday girl! So the Friday after Thanksgiving is the PERFECT time for decorating.
You may love to get out and find those amazing deals on Black Friday, so my decorating plan may not fit for you. You’ll have to make your own plan but do it early to cut down on December stress.
Get Your Holiday Cards Mailed
Another thing you can do early is to buy your holiday cards, address them, and mail them out by December 1. If you can mail your cards early, it makes all the difference in relieving stress in the days ahead.
I can’t tell you how many times I have bought Christmas cards to mail to friends and found them still in my closet on Christmas Eve. Arrgggg. Another year of unmailed cards. It really upsets me! So, my new goal for cards is to mail them by December 1.
If you think about it, we’ve been able to buy Christmas cards for weeks now. They’re in all of the card shops, not to mention bookstores. Soon they’ll be in all the stores. So there’s no excuse for not buying ahead of time. Then set aside an hour each night until all of them are written and addressed. If you haven’t seen cards you want to buy, here’s a link so you can buy now in the comfort of your own home!
Set a goal of November 15 to buy your holiday stamps, before all of the crowds are in the post offices doing the same thing. Put it in your planner or on your phone to do by that time. Then you’ll have no stress when it comes time for mailing those cards.
RSVP those holiday invitations
Seriously, get this done early. It really helps the holiday party-giver an advantage if they know how many folks will show up on the big day!
I recently gave my husband a surprise birthday party. Everything was planned down to the minute in order to surprise him. I HAD to know who was planning to come so the surprise wouldn’t be spoiled by someone coming at an inopportune time! Whew, we pulled it off because everyone gave me an RSVP!
If you’re giving the party, be sure to send out the invitations far enough ahead to give people plenty of time to look at their calendars and RSVP for you too.
Make Reservations for Dining Out
If you have guests coming to visit for the holidays and you don’t want to cook ALL the meals, make plans to go out to your favorite restaurant at least once. But since holidays are hectic for restaurants, you’ll want to make those reservations far in advance. So as soon as you know who’s coming and how many, make a reservation, put it on your calendar, and forget about it.
The Open Table app is a great way to make reservations in advance. And, the app will keep your preferences as well. If you want to make a special request, you may want to call the restaurant yourself.
If you have to ship gifts this year, make sure to do it in plenty of time for them to get there on time. Here’s a link to the 2019 shipping deadlines for domestic, international, and military shipping.
Even if you’re traveling to visit family, you’ll want to ship your gifts ahead of time since you can’t wrap your gifts and bring them in your suitcase. Trust me, TSA will unwrap every gift you’ve spent time lovingly wrapping. Bummer, I know but it is what it is. Just ship them ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it.
Shop for Hostess Gifts
Speaking of traveling to someone’s home for Christmas, you’ll want to bring a hostess gift. Think about this ahead of time to figure out just the right gift for your hostess. Bringing something you know your hostess will love goes a long way toward having a wonderful visit with them. They’ll appreciate the fact that you put some thought into what they will like.
It doesn’t hurt to bring a small gift to your hostess if you’re attending a holiday party at someone’s home either. It doesn’t have to be big. It’s the thought that counts. Think small gifts like sweet-smelling soaps or a holiday dish of her favorite candy. Click here to shop for hostess gifts.
Wrap Gifts Ahead of Time
This one is a no brainer, but how many times have we been caught on Christmas Eve night, still wrapping away or even running out of wrapping paper? Plan to do this ahead of time people!
On December 1, you should take a look at your gift-wrapping supplies. Make a list of what you need to be able to wrap those gifts in your own style. Maybe this is the year you want to use all brown paper and use stencils to decorate. Or maybe you’re a gift bag kind of gal. Just make sure you have enough supplies so that when you start the wrapping process, you can finish it with finesse! Click here to shop for the latest gift wrapping supplies!
Try to have everything wrapped by December 15. That way, when your neighbors drop by with a gift, you won’t be embarrassed because theirs isn’t wrapped yet!
Plan Your Grocery Lists
This one can be done several times. For instance, I LOVE to bake for my family and for my neighbors as well. So my baking list is pretty big and I have to get to the store early to make sure I have enough time to get all of the baking done. So I have a BAKING grocery list and a CHRISTMAS Eve or Day grocery list. If I’m hosting a party, I have a party list too.
But here’s my basic grocery list plan. Plan how much of everything you’re going to need according to how many people you’ll be serving, and make a list of absolutely EVERYTHING you need for each dish. That means getting out the recipes, planning which dishes you’ll serve, and writing down each ingredient you need and how much.
After you make your comprehensive list, look to see if several dishes need the same ingredients and combine how much is needed to put on your main grocery list. Look to see how much you already have of the basics, so you won’t buy more than you need. After you’ve made your comprehensive list of all ingredients needed and how much AND subtracted the amount you already have from what’s needed, THEN and only then make your final list.
Make sure you also put items like baking pans, non-stick sprays, etc. on your final list so you don’t get caught without that essential item at the last minute.
One Week Before Christmas
This is the week that it all comes together! It’s so exciting and busy this week. The house is decorated. The gifts are bought, wrapped and shipped if necessary. It’s time to slow things down a bit in order to enjoy the Christmas season. Hopefully, you’ve been able to stay ahead or at least on time for all of the holiday tasks. If so, you’ve already had a calm and less chaotic month.
If you’re traveling for the holidays, it’s time to pack the suitcases! Be sure to include room for that hostess gift! Hopefully, you’ve already shipped your Christmas gifts so you’ll have plenty of room for your clothes!
If you’ll be at home for the holiday, set a festive table several days before Christmas. Believe me, anything that you can do ahead of time will make your life easier on the BIG DAY.
Now, it’s time to start cooking! Put on some holiday music and start your baking. Bread like pumpkin and banana bread can be baked and frozen ahead of time. Pies can be baked ahead of time too. You can also start prepping vegetables to put into dishes. Cut up onions, bell peppers, and celery to saute and refrigerate. Prepping ahead of time saves you time and keeps you on an even keel on the BIG DAY.
On the BIG DAY, you’ll be cooking, eating, and drinking to your heart’s content. Because you’ve done so much preparation ahead of time, you’ll be able to enjoy your guests and the day. You’ll have a season of peace and joy that is far more meaningful since you haven’t felt rushed. You might even have time to watch your fill of those Hallmark movies!
The Wrap Up
The Christmas holidays can be so hectic with everything that has to get done. It’s easy to forget about the tasks you wanted to accomplish with so much to do. But taking time to plan ahead and putting tasks on your calendar can help relieve the stress. Divide your tasks into November and December tasks and look for the ones that have to done by a particular date. Try to stay ahead by planning well and making lists. Check each one off as you accomplish it. You’ll find you have time for the important things that help you enjoy the season like attending performances, holiday parties, and religious services. Christmas Eve and Day will be more relaxed and enjoyable when you plan and conquer your tasks.
If you want to read more about planning for the holidays check out these articles.
- Best Christmas Towns In America
- Ultimate Gift Guide For Travelers
- Denver’s Amazing Monet Exhibit and More
- Now is the Time to Plan Your Holiday Travel
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