holiday planning

11 ways to prep for Christmas now (and relax later)

Bethany RamosHoliday, Homeowners, Lifestyle, Organizing

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It’s not even Halloween yet. Should you really be thinking of Christmas? If you want to cut your holiday stress significantly (or even completely), then preparing now makes perfect sense.

Plan ahead for the holidays in 11 simple steps

For it being the most wonderful time of the year, Christmas certainly isn’t restful. As many as 65 percent of people experience some type of holiday stress, whether it’s money-related or feeling the pressure of an overly-packed schedule.

Want to beat the odds and actually enjoy your festivities? Lighten your load with these tips:

1. Create a budget.

This could be enough to eliminate your financial stress right out of the gate. Sit down and decide how much you can realistically afford to spend this holiday season to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Break down cost by category — such as $300 for gifts, $40 for Christmas cards, $150 for holiday dinner, etc. By putting together a budget months in advance, you have enough time to start saving.

2. Make a list (and check it twice).

Write out your gift list now, and thank yourself later. You can use this detailed list to better build your budget. Make sure to leave some wiggle room for extra or forgotten gifts that may arise — for teachers or extended relatives coming through town. Shopping early gives you the chance to save even more versus waiting until the prime (and premium-priced) weeks leading up to Christmas.

3. Organize your decorations.

Having a Christmas closet (or room!) that’s a hot mess makes you totally and utterly human. Set yourself up for success by tackling this project months ahead of time. Buy organizing bins, if you don’t have them already. Dust off your label maker. Throw out broken ornaments and faulty lights. Come up with an organizing method that works for you to make this year’s holiday teardown more pleasant.

4. Plan your menu.

Pre-holidays, while your brain is still fresh, start brainstorming what you’d like to serve on your Christmas menu. This may include old favorites, like Grandma’s classic stuffing recipe, as well as a few new items that you’ve always wanted to try, like shrimp puff pastries or crostinis. If you’re doing dinner potluck-style, see number seven and use your family’s contributions to flesh out your menu.

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5. Purchase your Christmas PJs.

Shopping online for your annual Christmas pajamas, before the holiday rush, is a brilliant move. Not only will you have a greater selection, you’re also likely to get a better price and experience fewer shipping delays. If you want to join in on the matching family #christmasjammies trend, just make sure you buy your family set with growing kids in mind — at the size that will fit everyone at Christmas.

6. Round up your DIY supplies.

DIY gifts provide a personal touch, and they can also be a money-saver, making them friendly to your budget. Gather your supplies and craft away on an upcoming weekend. Most DIY projects are easy to make ahead and can be wrapped and stored for later. Gifts like hand-lettered ornaments, bath scrub, and crocheted scarves and socks are some beginner projects that are bound to be crowd favorites.

7. Start a group text.

Consider it an honor that you get to be the annoying one who brings up the holiday planning conversation this early. Getting details nailed down in advance ensures you won’t have to worry about it at the last minute. December fills up fast, so figure out date, time, location, and who’s bringing what at least a month prior to your event. Now’s also the time to look into travel if you need to book it.

8. Stock up on the basics.

What holiday goods can you buy now that are going to cost you more later? Wrapping paper, fancy-looking paper plates and napkins, Christmas lights, ornaments, yard decor, and even frozen cookie dough are a few great examples. If this is the year you plan to make the switch to an artificial instead of a real tree, you can save hundreds by buying it “off-season,” a.k.a. well before Christmas.

9. Take Christmas card pics.

Booking your Christmas card photo shoot in the fall gives you another chance to save. This is the time of year when many photographers advertise mini sessions that take roughly half an hour and cost under $100. If you want to do it yourself and capture a great candid, this also gives you plenty of time to scout a location, get your kids in a good mood, and take multiple shots to choose from.

10. Troubleshoot last year’s snafus.

It’s the moment everyone’s been waiting for: last Christmas’ year-in-review. Ask yourself what went wrong, and what could be improved on. If you sent out your Christmas cards a few weeks too late, see number nine above. Family members that don’t get along may be harder to handle; weigh your options, whether it’s changing up seating or hosting separate gatherings altogether.

11. Try a new tradition (or two).

If you’ve been itching to test drive a new tradition, don’t add to your stress by waiting until the last second. Spend the months leading up to Christmas researching and buying the necessary supplies to get the party started. Some popular-yet-simple holiday traditions to incorporate include Elf on the Shelf, doing a DIY or cocktail White Elephant exchange, or cooking a themed breakfast.

Make this your happiest season

It’s true: Buying and selling around the holidays can be quicker and easier than almost any other time of year. It’s also when you’re most likely to get the lowest price on a house.* Ready to take the first step? Prequalify now.

*“Winter Home Sales Prices Yield Best Bargains for Buyers.” ATTOM Data, 2020.

For educational purposes only. Please contact your qualified professional for specific guidance.

Sources deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

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