Set a budgetand decide how you will pay for Christmas. For some people it’s easier to take out the cash and only spend that. If you do a lot of online or catalog shopping, maybe use one credit card or debit card. If you use a credit card you may want to tuck away your budgeted money into a savings account until the bill comes. This will prevent that post-holiday shock in January.
Make your list and check it twice. In order to set your budget, you’ll need to make a list of all the people you buy for. Include family, friends, teachers, charity donations and service people that you typically tip for the holidays. Estimate how much you will spend on each.
With kids, stick to a number of presents and not a dollar amount. Typically the little toys are cheaper and the kids don’t know the cost anyway. So if you spend more on your teenager it’s okay. That one IPod might equal 5 V-tech toys but that doesn’t mean you have to buy them to be fair. You could set a limit like: 3 toys, one outfit and one book per child so when the presents are un-wrapped it all looks even.
Shop efficiently. This could mean doing all of your shopping on-line. Many companies offer free shipping in Nov & Dec. Or it could mean going to a store only once. If you go to Toys R Us for example, take your list and get all the toy gifts at that time. It could also mean buying the same thing for multiple people. If you buy for your nephews, you could get each of them a sweatshirt in their favorite colors. Before you go shopping, take all your retail coupons in an envelope with you and check the fine print before you buy so you get the best deal.
Automate your holiday cards.With so many digital photo companies now, it’s easy to make a great photo card for all your family and friends. Make sure you do these early so you have them in time. Also, if you don’t have your address list on the computer, this is the time to do it. Printing labels is so much easier than writing. Plus, you can have the children help you stuff and address the envelopes.
Decide when and where the celebrations will take place. Speak to both sides of the family and make sure you leave some down time for your immediate family to spend together. This is a big cause of stress during the holidays – trying to make time for everyone else. Think about what you want too!
If you are hosting a meal, ask for help. Most people are willing to make a dish or bring a bottle of wine to a holiday dinner so don’t be a martyr. You provide the entrée and one dessert and let the guests bring the rest. If you make a big Christmas Eve dinner, then keep Christmas day simple and serve cold cuts.
Remember the kids. If you are traveling for the holidays even for a day trip to Grandma’s, remember to bring something for the kids to do. Adults might be fine with having drinks, snacks and catching up with the relatives. But the kids will be bored if that’s all there is. Bring along a special craft or a holiday movie to watch. Or even let them open a new toy when you arrive.
Remember the reason for the season. It’s not about the stuff you get. It’s more about the time with family and close friends, celebrating a wonderful season. It’s a little about what you give but don’t let that stress you out. Whether you like it simple and quiet or loud and fun, enjoy!
Manage your time. Like any other project, you have to set interim goals for the holidays. Here’s a sample schedule:
Decorations – outside decorations up during the first weekend of December.
Shopping – use the first 2 weeks of December
Wrapping & sending cards – use the 3rd week of December
Food shopping – make a complete list and go the week before the holiday.
Christmas tree – decorate the week before on a Sunday night.
Baking and food prep – one or two days before Christmas.