It seemed like as soon as November 1st rolled around this weekend, I couldn’t help but start thinking about one of my favourite times of year – the holidays! The last few years I have been determined to get organized leading up to December so that I can actually enjoy that month with all the festivities. It really helps cut down on frustration and stress, and lets us enjoy a simple, joyful holiday season. Over the next couple of months, I’ll be sharing many posts for the holidays, but I wanted to share some things today that you can do to help you get ready…or at least get the wheels in motion. With only 51 days until Christmas, it’ll be here before you know it, so why not get some of the hard work done now so you aren’t scrambling at the end. Come December, I’d rather be at home in pajamas, snuggling with the dogs, a big mug of hot chocolate, the lights on the tree twinkling and a classic Christmas movie…than in a crowded mall scrambling to finish my list.
My free 2014 Holiday Planner is going to be released this week (so excited!), so be sure to check back for the tools to help you get organized this holiday season!
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1. Stock Up on Wrapping Supplies
Now is the time to start looking for fun ribbons and unique gift wrap before all the good stuff gets picked over. Many stores will start to have big sales and promotions in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for it. I went on my lunch break last week and picked up these festive ribbons that fit in the red, linen and gold theme I’m working on this year. If you want to find the best deals for the cutest stuff, now is the time to stock up (and don’t forget to check back after the holidays for more great clearance deals for next year!)
2. Make Your Master Shopping List
This week I’ll be sharing my 2014 Holiday Planner, which will really help you with making up a master list for all the seasonal shopping. Some years I’ve done it in a notepad in my purse, but this year I’m going digital, with a version you can keep on your phone. That way, when you’re out running your normal errands, you can start checking things off your holiday list too – and save yourself some time. Don’t forget to add the homemade gifts, as well as gratuities and giftcards (for the babysitter, hair dresser, etc) so that you can get those while you’re out too.
When making up your budget for the holiday season, it’s good to think about all the other things that could come up, besides gifts, food and travel. Make sure to set aside some of your budget for things like winter tires, hair appointments leading up to holiday parties, the cost to ship gifts to out-of-town family, hostess gifts, alcohol, carpet cleaning, snow removal (like our giant ice storm last year), the dishwasher breaking, etc. These things can all add up, during a time of the year that many people are stretching their wallets. Set aside money now to help offset any of these unexpected expenses.
3. Go Through Magazines and Cookbooks for New Ideas
I like to keep my favorite holiday magazines every year and go through them each holiday season for some inspiration for recipes and decor (and gift ideas too). I also pull my cookbooks off the shelves and make note of new recipes that I’d like to test out before the holidays come around.
4. Make a Christmas Card List and Order Cards
The 2014 Holiday Planner has a great Christmas Card List (coming this week) that will help you keep track of everyone you’re mailing a card out to and any address changes. Once you know how many cards to send out, it’s time to take your family photos and order them! Right now, Tiny Prints has 10% off all Christmas card orders as well as free shipping on orders of $49 or more. I love their holiday designs this year, especially the letterpress, foil-stamped and laser cut cards – so cool!
5. Buy Stamps
Now that you know how many cards to send out, it’s time to buy the stamps. The really good Christmas designs often sell out quickly, so make sure to pick yours up early. Check the postal service in your country – you can often order them online and have them shipped right to your front door for no charge.
6. Stock Up on Household Supplies
Leading up to the holidays, you don’t want to be in a mad rush to go to the store to grab baking powder or toothpaste because you ran out, right as you’re baking cookies or brushing your teeth before a cocktail party. Sit down and make a list of all the essentials you could need in the next 6-8 weeks to last you through to the beginning of the New Year. Check your supplies for laundry soap, paper towels, dish soap, toliet paper, toothpaste, lightbulbs, cleaning supplies, batteries, makeup, etc. This is a good time to check your pantry for your Christmas baking essentials too, like sugar, spices, cooking oil and chocolate. I like to make a list of all the essentials and then buy them when I see them on sale. It’s also a good time to replace anything that has been sitting too long in your pantry. We don’t use flour very often, so I grab a new bag around this time of year so that I know my holiday baking is with the freshest ingredients.
(The picture above was from a baking marathon with my friend Amy back in 2010. We worked out in the morning and then balanced it out by baking for pretty much the whole day…complete with taste tests!)
7. Freeze Makeahead Meals for Busy Weeknights
Knowing that we’re going to have some busy weeknights in the coming months, I like to start planning some freezer meals now. If I’m making a big casserole, I’ll double the recipe and freeze one for later on. If you do this even just two times a week, by the time December comes around, you’ll have a freezer full of dinners made!
8. Plan out your Handmade Gifts
9. Take Stock of Your Holiday Decorations
10. Make Travel Plans
Whether you’re just heading down the road to your parents’ house or planning a cross country trip, now is the time to firm up your holiday plans so that there is no last minute confusion. Buy plane tickets now, if needed, as the rates will be going up before the holidays (and flights can sell out!) For us, our holiday plans have always worked around Garrett’s work schedule. For the past few years, he has always worked on Christmas Eve or on Christmas – but thankfully this year he is off for both!
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I hope that you’re able to take some time to sit down, think about what’s really important to you this holiday season and start planning. By getting more stuff done now, while you have the time, you’ll be able to enjoy the holidays in December and spend time with loved ones.
Do you have any good holiday planning tips and tricks? Share them in the comments below!