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I know it’s not even Halloween yet and Santa’s are popping up everywhere. While you certainly don’t need to acknowledge the stores that are jingling all the way already, there are things you can do now to make sure that this Christmas season is far less stressful than last Christmas season. You remember, the one that when December 26th rolled around you declared “next year I’m doing/not doing X!!” or “where did it all go? I didn’t even get to enjoy it!”
I’m here with my favorite tips that have helped me get through the holiday season with a little less of a twitch by the end.
There are many things to put on that list, not just what gifts you may buy but also costs for shipping gifts to out of towners, traveling if you’re going back home including gas, meals on the road,
bail money, etc. If you’re hosting, you may buy flowers or fun stuff for the table or decide to upgrade your dinnerware. Try to think of every possible cost…and write it down. It will give you a better handle on how much you need to set aside now depending on your holiday plans. Only you know your financial situation, once you set a budget, stick to it. Obviously, it’s not about the gifts but expenses for the holidays can add up even if you’re doing a gift-free holiday. Bake and freeze cookies and keep treat bags on hand. If you get a surprise gift from someone you weren’t expecting to, you can still gift them with some homebaked goodness while keeping your budget intact.
My “peeps” always know come October 1st, expect an email from me asking for ideas. I’ve always liked doing my shopping as early as possible (sometimes even just after the previous Christmas when some deals pop up on something I know someone will like.) I am not a crowd person and people all have their own agenda that time of year and filters and fuses get short. I like to know that when I’m shopping around Christmas time it’s for things I want, not things I need and therefore I have the luxury of being able to leave if things get hairy.
I like to use different wrapping paper for different people. I don’t have to put tags on them if I don’t want to since I know who gets what paper (unless we’re going to a gathering, then I’ll put some on so they get to the right person.) I think it’s something my mom did when I was a kid and it just stuck for me. I know there are people who love to take a day to sit and wrap presents all at once (I do but usually at the end of October or beginning of November) and I’m all for it if that’s your tradition. This is about making things less stressful and that can certainly be a nice stress reliever to fire up some Christmas music, light a balsam candle or pull up a yule log on YouTube and sip some hot cocoa!
All of my family and friends know to expect my Christmas card the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It’s their first irritating, sparkly reminder that the holiday season is officially here. I have about 45 cards I send out regardless if I get them back from others. I like people to know I’m thinking of them and think of how good it feels to get snail mail that time of year that isn’t a bill! I contact people ahead of time that are known to move without telling people and make sure they’re at the same place, update my address spreadsheet and place my order at USPS for holiday stamps. If I were to attempt to find time to do this in December, I’d put it off and then it would never get done. I know many people who tell me how they meant to send a card but time just got away from them so doing it now ensures it doesn’t. Also, make sure to take advantage of post-holiday sales on Christmas cards. Most are 50% off the week after Christmas at places like Hallmark or World Market. Even Shutterfly or Snapfish run awesome sales in January if you’ve got some fun holiday pics or your own gorgeous photography you want to use.
If you’re lucky enough to do holidays the way we do, pretty much everyone pitches in on some level. Apps, sides, and desserts are divvied up depending on who wants to make what. I will usually do desserts and maybe mashed potatoes or stuffing depending on the holiday. When one person hosts, the burden of it all falls on them and even if they may thrive on it, make sure to ask if there is anything you can bring. If they want to prepare the dinner, maybe suggesting each guest or family brings one dessert so they can keep their oven free might be appreciated.
I can’t count how many times I’ve run myself into the ground trying to keep up with all of the festivities and plans of the season only to be faced with not being in the mood to cook dinner. Sure, I could order a pizza or eat out but that isn’t exactly healthy given all of the extra treats this time of year. Batch cooking can be a lifesaver or make double helpings and freeze the leftovers. I live for my Food Saver and that thing has paid for itself 200x over. It will save your bacon on nights when firing up the oven isn’t in the cards.
Here are my favorite freeze ahead dinners/dishes that reheat beautifully:
Believe me when I tell you there is nothing that will put a tangle in your tinsel faster than gleefully going to decorate your home or tree and a strand is out. Do it now when selection is plentiful even if they worked when you put them away last year. We have a specific color scheme to our lights so we’ve spent a lot of time scouring stores or the internet when a strand goes south. I can say that this Light Keeper has saved us more than a few times and is a good tool to keep on hand if you use miniature lights. Here’s the version for LED lights.
We’ve all done it…we’ve gotten sucked into Pinterest, created a board full of Christmas projects that make us ooh and ahh never to be seen again much less made. Go back through your Christmas project board and delete ones that no longer appeal to you then pick anywhere from 1-3 projects and actually do them. Start with an easy one and the creative spirit may strike you to do the next one! Or you could be one and done but at least it’s one you can actually say you did.
I always make my dough ahead of time because I bake for multiple people each holiday season. Some people ask for my cookies as their gifts and if I tried to make them all in addition to my own baking for us, it would be a miserable task. This video showing my holiday cookie dough hack is how I keep my sanity and don’t turn my passion into the pits. Labeling them the way I show in the video saves me so much time and all I need is my cookie sheet and scoop! I take one day and knock them all out. For the ones getting shipped, I like to send them in pretty containers I upcycled. Other cookies freeze beautifully once baked and taste just as good as the day you baked them. Here are a few of my favorites that freeze well:
I know, I know but hear me out! If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, this may not work for you because you might need the space where the tree would go or you don’t want to feel like you’re skipping the holiday to go straight into Christmas. If you’re not hosting, then if you’re a Christmas freak like me, this will allow you to go straight into enjoyment mode after Thanksgiving instead of going through boxes, stringing (and possibly replacing) lights if you didn’t test them *ahem!* and all of the hub bub. I would much rather come home from Thanksgiving with my family to our home being lit by the timer we set, plug in the tree, brew up some holiday tea, hear the sweet strings of Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” as his velvety voice croons “chestnuts roasting on an open firrrre” and snuggle with Mr. Kringle.
If you’re not already shopping through Ebates.com, you should consider it. I have been using Ebates for around 5 years and have gotten almost $500 of money I was already going to spend back in my pocket. I use it not only at Christmas time but the rest of the year to buy practically anything including booking hotels and rental cars on vacay. Some people get a ton more back but you can look through their list of participating stores and see if keeping some of your own money is your thing or not. 😉
This link will take you there and should you find you’re on board and sign up, when you make your first purchase, I’ll get a referal fee but so will you ($10!) if you sign up and buy between now and 12/31. The cool thing, is once you sign up, you can tell friends and family and do the same. Even if you don’t use my link, go check it out anyway. I just love telling people about it because your money is better in your own pocket and not a corporation, right?
I hope these tips will help you as much as they help me. I can’t count how many people tell me every year “you do it right, I’m going to do it your way next year.” Now I can’t say I get out of each season completely unscathed by stress and trying to squeeze in all the merriment we can but if I had to do all of this stuff on top of it? Yeah, I’d probably be curled up in the corner with a bag of truffles hissing at people.
How do you prepare early for a stress-free holiday?