Do you feel what I feel? That is the feeling of anxiety of the holidays fast approaching. Maybe it is concern over having enough money to buy the perfect gift or worry that there simply is not enough hours in the day to get everything done. I can tell you that if you are going for perfection, it probably isn’t going to happen. But if you strategically stagger things into workable chunks you may possibly be the happiest you have been come January 2013.
Here is a checklist of things to start to think about that will make the next 8 weeks go a little smoother.
- Set your budget. Figure out right now how much money you have to spend. Try using only cash and put the plastic on ice. Seriously, put your credit cards in the freezer in water and make a big ice cube out of them. That way when you feel the late night urge to splurge, you would need to do some defrosting first.
- Put time on the calendar now for personal care. Maybe you need a massage to help you relax before the relatives come. It could even be getting your hair colored before you go out of town to visit relatives. Whatever it is that makes you relax and less stressed, schedule it now!
- Think ahead. What can you get done now to ease the stress come December. Is there baking, shopping or gift wrapping that is easier to do now?
- Go through and find all of the addresses for holiday cards that you will be sending. I use a service called Send Out Cards that I imported all of my addresses from an excel sheet and now I simply check a box of who I want my cards to go to. I even design my cards right on this site. I hit send and I don’t even have to lick a stamp! Last year it took me, from importing the addresses to designing the card and hitting the send button all of 90 minutes to send out over 100 cards.
- Find a good family picture. If you are the person that does send holiday cards find the pictures you want to use now. If you don’t have the right one, start snapping. We get our family pictures taken in August or September every year. I like to do it then as we have some color to our skin and we don’t look like the Cullen family from Twilight.
- Check your wrapping supplies. One of two things usually happens; you either think you have too much and you don’t buy and are scrambling at the last minute or you don’t think you have enough and buy more, only to realize that you overbought last year during the clearance sales. Keep it simple and go with one color or style of paper. Variety is not always the spice of life. Storing two large tubes of wrapping paper is much easier than storing 25 smaller ones. Take two minutes and figure out what and if you need to buy! And don’t forget the tape.
- Figure out if you have to entertain. Entertaining costs money, a lot of money. If you are expected to host the friends or family gathering make sure your budget has that taken into account. And remember you can always ask for help. Maybe Aunt Judy is a terrible cook and wants to bring something, have her bring a few bottles of wine or cases of drinks.
- Gather recipes. Make sure you know where all of your recipes are so that when it comes to making that special sweet potato casserole you know right where it is. You can quickly see what ingredients you need before you run to the store and you will know how to prepare it as the recipe is right where it is suppose to be. I have a file on my computer where I put all of my holiday baking recipes. I organize all of them with a program called OneNote which is like a digital filing cabinet. I store this in the cloud so if I am traveling and away from my physical computer I can access it all remotely.
- Making DIY gifts this year? I know I am for many of my friends. However, i am hoping that they are not following my Pinterest boards because they will see all of the cool ideas for holiday gifts. Pinterest is a great source for DIY gifts for those who are on a budget or those who like to be green and up-cycle something.
- Set aside small chunks of time to work on your holiday to-do list. Maybe you dedicate your lunch hour every Monday for the next 6 weeks and start checking off the items on your list. You will be surprised how easy it is to shop when it is not a weekend. My personal favorite time to shop is right when the stores open. I get in and get out as quickly as I can. Better yet is to support the local brick and mortar shops that are locally owned as they tend to be less crowded and give great customer service.
- See what others can do for you. It is ok to ask for help. For me, I hate wrapping gifts. I like finding the perfect gift and finding the wrapping paper, but I hate wrapping the gift itself. Good thing I am married to OCD man who makes sure the paper is cut straight and the corners are crisp and smooth. That is a great skill set to have as a spouse! Last year my 18 year old son who worked at Mosaic catering and Mezzaluna restaurant prepared our family Christmas Eve appetizers extravaganza (I truely know how lucky I am!). Even if you aren’t able to outsource within the family, you can always look outside the family. For example, you can get gifts wrapped by local groups doing charity fundraisers or you can get prepared gourmet appetizers at grocery stores or places like Sam’s Club or Costco.
I think the best advice I can give is to not get caught up in the gift buying and huge holiday entertaining. Sometimes having a cup of coffee with a friend for two hours is the best gift. Or maybe it is sitting on the couch and watching the Matrix trilogy with your spouse that would mean the world to them. So be cautious with your time and spend less time in packed stores and less time over the the kitchen sink and spend more time listening and laughing with friends and family.