We all want the holiday’s to be easy with less stress, right? Here are easy steps you can take now to prepare for the holidays. Really, there is no need to procrastinate nor feel overwhelmed when it comes to getting prepared. Personally, it’s not my first time at the rodeo and know exactly what to expect. Problems arise, however, when I’ve not prepared accordingly.
1. Set Realistic Expectations: The number one thing I can do to be fully prepared for these next two months is to set realistic expectations. Not the ‘expectations’ we see all over cyber world. Seriously. Last year when I was a crazed fool going to school full time I had to let things slide. And to be honest, it was hard. It felt ‘weird’ doing 95% of my shopping online vs going into stores. Kind of felt like I was cheating. After the season passed and I was able to reflect, the reality was nobody noticed. Kids did not care that the majority of baked goods were bought or that we became a regular drop off for the UPS guy. Nobody cared and truthfully, nobody noticed.
So, yes, lowering expectations is now my #1 go to.
2. Establish a Budget: The next most important sanity save, to me, is establishing a budget. Christmas could be viewed as a project. I’m a believer that every project needs a budget, which means this time of the year is no exception. When it comes to gifts for Christmas, we save all year so I actually did this step in January. BUT…it’s easy for me to over purchase in an effort to ‘fill in’.
Do you have ‘fill in’ gifts? My kids typically get one larger item and some smaller items. Then it seems like some even smaller items than that. Let me tell you, the smallest “things” are generally what is forgotten.
This is a complete drag because when I allow this to happen here is how it plays out: my kids are excited and focus on the items they truly wanted and don’t give much thought to the smallest filler gifts. This is WASTE. That money could have been put to far better use by doing something generous with my kids such as Operation Shoe Box, donating to the Red Cross or baking treats for people who need cheering up.
3. Plan a Cookie Swap: Another step to take now, in preparing for the holidays is to plan a cookie swap. It need not be elaborate and fancy. It can be a large or small gathering. PLEASE, check out this blog post about hosting a cookie swap. The ideas are AMAZING.
Set aside one night and invite your pals over. The gist of the idea is each person bakes an established number of a single cookie. Everyone gets together and you ‘swap’ them. Meaning, you will have a large variety of holiday cookies without the hassle of spending an entire weekend baking them.
4. Wrapping Plan: Plan what day or night to wrap gifts. Make sure the area you are doing this in doesn’t give you neck aches (I speak from experience here). This might be something that is divided out between a couple of different days. Last year, I set up a 4′ table in my bedroom, grabbed a diet coke, found chick flick I had wanted to watch but my guys would not dig and holed up in my bedroom wrapping up a storm while enjoying the movie. My plan is to repeat that process again this year!
Presuming gift wrap wasn’t purchased at the end of the season laste here, here’s a little money saving tip when it comes to gift wrap: Costco has great wrapping paper. It’s thick, reversable and a good deal. Another saving tip is to use simple brown craft paper and dress it up with ribbon. The blog, On Sutton Place has a great article and more tips on beautiful gift wrap. Clearly she is talented. Finally: look at Marshalls, Home Goods or TJMaxx. They have great paper too.
5. Freezer meals: Freeze some meals, need more be said? On those busy nights, this allows us to just pull out a meal, throw it in a crock pot and not worry. This doesn’t need to be a huge production. When making a favorite meal, just double it and freeze it.
6. Lights, Lights, and more Lights: We live in Wisconsin, land of cold weather. Last year before Thanksgiving we were hit hard with bitter cold temps. Hang the outside lights on the bushes, trees and shrubs while the weather is pleasant. The lights don’t need to turn on until after Thanksgiving. Putting lights up when it is warm is far more enjoyable than subzero temps. Also, the cords are more pliable and easy to maneuver. If you are looking for great ideas, go over to Christmas Lights Etc, and see some beautiful photos.
7. Deep Clean: It’s standard practice to put up Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving. In my house during the holidays I want to get snuggly and may not feel like taking on a deep clean. The best cure for that is to do it in the next couple of weeks before the holiday onslaught. If I can take care of baseboards, tops of cabinets, vacuum out vents, etc before the season is upon us, I’ll feel ok lounging with a blanket and hot tea.
8. Stock the pantry: The grocery stores are bursting with some great sales right now. Keep eyes peeled for money saving opportunities for your baking needs. This is a good time of year where I will hit Costco for my chocolate, nuts, and other delicious fat enhancing foods! YUM!
9. Organize the calendar: This time of the year becomes incredibly busy. If there are parties to attend and know the dates ahead of time, get them on the calendar now. On the opposite end of the spectrum, consider planning ‘home’ nights or family nights. Even if there is a party everyone you know is attending but you don’t feel like it, it’s ok to say no. A quote I heard recently is this:
“A truthful no is better than a dishonest yes”
10. Order Cards: If you mail out Christmas cards, take care of that now. My my boys were little I always waited until right before Christmas to take care of our cards. Primarily because I wanted a Christmas tree in the Christmas photo card. No more of that. Now, I try to get a photo done in the fall and cards ordered by mid-November. Minted has truly GEORGOUS cards. They are out of the realm of what I’m willing to pay but I love, love, love looking at their options…weird, right?
Oh, one more thing about cards: you’ll see ridiculously perfect people, props, and locations when looking for ideas. Refer to back to suggestion #1 after perusing ideas.
These are easy(ish) steps you can take now to prepare for the holidays. Will they eliminate all of the stress associated with the holidays? Probably not. But here is what I have learned over the course of 18 years of marriage and parenting parent for some time now: don’t sweat the small stuff. Easier said than done I realize. But when my kids think back to Christmas they won’t remember if I baked the cookies from scratch or if all of the wrapping paper under the tree matched and had perfect bows. Nope, not a chance they will remember. This is because they don’t care about matching things like that.
I hope they will remember that we go to church on Christmas Eve, that monkey bread is served every Christmas morning, without fail. We also eat cookies, nuts and chocolate for breakfast and laugh a lot. If they can walk away with those memories, I will be one happy momma.