The Holidays can be a last-minute scramble for even the most organized of us. We’re trying to put together a dinner or brunch for 15 people on Christmas morning, getting dozens of cards and gifts in the mail, trying to stick to a non-bankrupting budget while getting every last person the perfect gift, creating crafts, stocking advent calendars, baking, cooking, visiting Santa, getting the perfect family photo done and drafting family newsletters – and we have to do it all before December 25th, with a smiling face, and the rest of life to manage, too. It’s enough to cause baldness, as we tear out our hair, and even the best of us can get somewhat… snappy.
My solution? Plan way in advance and tackle the stuff on the horizon before the sun starts to rise. Here’s 15 ways that you can do it, too:
- Stock up wine now, so that you can have last-minute gifts for parties, people who weren’t on your list, surprise guests and to thank service providers, like your friendly mail carrier. Buying a case will save you some money and guarantee that you have enough on hand for these moments.
- Got advent calendars to stuff? Start picking up odds and ends now so you can cross that task off your list, ASAP. Ideas: stock up while Halloween candy is in stores and marked down (you can freeze it for December).
- Same for stockings. Purchase lottery tickets, trinkets and lumps of coal as soon as you can to get them off of your to-do list.
- Baking, canned goods and jarred recipes make great gifts, as do crafts such as knitting and crocheting – and they tend to be great money savers, too!
- Gifts cards make great last minute gifts to tweens. Stock up on iTunes, book stores and ‘credit’ gift cards to mail out to special, but far away, family and friends. You’ll save on postage, and they’ll get to pick out what they really want.
- Budget, budget, budget. Come up with your list now, including everyone you’re shopping for and how much you’d like to allocate for their presents. Don’t forget to include wrapping essentials and baking containers in your budget, too!
- Work backwards when budgeting, if you have a finite amount to spend. Start with your total amount, then subtract your wrapping supplies and containers, then cards (if you are doing them), postage, and baking/holiday meals. What you have left is the amount that you can spend in total on gifts. To make it easier on yourself, find the average amount by dividing your gift total by the number of people – you won’t spend the same amount on everyone, sure, but the amount you save from some people’s, you can allocate to others’!
- Purchase non-perishable foods for dinner, gifts and entertaining starting now when they go on sale. If you’ve got room for it in the freezer and pantry, buying supplies now, while they’re not on special holidays prices could save you a stack of cash. Think: turkey, fancy condiments and preserves for tarts.
- Shop around while you have the time, for gifts and make your purchases wisely. Don’t discount the value of ebay, Amazon or super sales and a good, old-fashioned hidey-hole. But a caution: it can be easy to spend more, when we feel like we’re being frugal and getting great buys. Stick to your budget so that your credit card statement doesn’t surprise you.
- Allow yourself generic cards. You can buy photo cards that you include your own prints in, order cards that have a universal family message, or draft up a quick letter or newsletter to include in every recipient’s card to let them know your thoughts and what’s new in the family.
- Prepare thyself for family drama and meltdowns – they happen to all families, really. The key is to prepare everyone, and yourself, for dealing with them.
- Delegate. Don’t even try to master the entire holiday season by yourself. Think of your blood pressure, woman!
- Coordinate holiday entertainment schedules with the busiest and least organized first and ink them in your calendar. Make sure to follow up often, as dates loom.
- Create a family calendar for all events, parties, school deadlines and the like, so that everyone knows as far in advance as possible where they’re going to be.
- Do everything in advance that you can. Stamp envelopes and address them now so cards and gifts simple to mail on December 1st, search for holiday baking recipes that can be prepared totally or partially in advance and frozen (there’s tonnes of cookies and bars that freeze for up to three months, and you can freeze a lot of doughs, too!), wrap presents as soon as you buy them and store them somewhere safe.
Tell me some more, lady. What am I missing, so that I can make my holidays fun, keep my hair and get everything done?