Holiday planning

Ahhh the holidays.  When did the most wonderful time of the year turn into the most stressful time of the year?  I try to plan ahead as much as possible and do holiday tasks around the year so that I can actually enjoy the special time.  Here are some ways to make it as stress-free as possible.  Make sure to view the printables at the end for a holiday to do list countdown and a list of gift ideas.

  1. Buy gifts throughout the year.  Keep a “gift bin” at your house (a large plastic bin with a lid will work great).  You can find gift ideas in this post.
  2. If finances make it difficult to buy gifts throughout the year, keep a list (see the printable at the bottom) of gift ideas for each person.  Making decisions on gifts is one of the most stressful parts of the holidays.  Deciding ahead of time what you want to get for everyone will help you stay within your budget and prevent wandering around the mall for hours wondering what to buy.
  3. Keep plenty of gift wrapping supplies on hand all year.  I always buy wrapping paper, bows, and labels on sale shortly after Christmas and save it for the next year.
  4. You can also buy decorations shortly after holidays on sale and save them for the next year.
  5. Sometime during the year when you have some extra time, type all your friends’ and family members’ addresses onto a document to store.  Microsoft Office has Word and Excel formats that fit onto labels you buy at the store.  Once you have them typed, you can reuse them each year, which will save time sending not only holiday cards, but birth announcements, party invitations, and any other mass mailings.
  6. Keep return address labels on hand all the time.  You can buy special ones for the holidays.
  7. Buy pre-stamped envelopes from the United States Postal Service website.
  8. Buy the same gift for multiple people, rather than getting everyone a different gift.
  9. At most grocery stores they sell gift cards for many stores and restaurants (gift cards, by the way, are the ultimate gift).  You can get almost all of your gift shopping done in ten minutes and one stop.
  10. Keep the cooking as simple as possible.  You don’t have to make everything from scratch just because your grandmother did.
  11. Buy your gifts online.  See this post for wonderful gift-purchasing websites.  Trust me, they have something for EVERYONE.  You can finish your holiday shopping in under an hour.
  12. If finances are tight, consider sending a Happy Holidays email, rather than cards.  Or, you can give the cards out in person to save on postage.
  13. Instead of ordering personalized photo cards, consider printing just your family photo as a 4 x 6 print and inserting it into a greeting card.
  14. Consider making holiday gifts instead of buying them.  If you go to a craft store, you will find many simple holiday gifts to make including ornament kits, jewelry, or easy woodcrafting.  If you spend one-afternoon making gifts, you will take care of many people on your gift list and save a lot of money.
  15. Prioritize your parties.  You don’t have to attend all the holiday parties to which you’re invited.  Unless you have the time and flexibility to attend more, choose the 3-4 that you would most like to go to, and skip the rest.  If you feel guilty, you can send a hostess gift for the parties you’ll miss.
  16. Buy your children one large gift instead of many little gifts.  Most people prefer one large gift, and it will likely last much longer and get used more often than many small gifts.
  17. Make a plan for everything.  Use the printable at the end of this post as a guide and plan your gifts, parties, decorating and baking.
  18. Go to public places during the least busy times and days.  Try to avoid the mall on the evenings and weekends, and do your holiday grocery shopping well ahead of time.
  19. Set your holiday wardrobe, and your children’s, well ahead of time.  Try to buy any holiday clothing as early as possible so you don’t have to make last minute trips to the store.
  20. Take shortcuts when possible: pick up a dish from the store for holiday potlucks; hire a housekeeper for a one time visit (if you only use a housekeeper once per year, this would be the time); use a few eye-catching decorations instead of many small ones.


I like to keep my Holiday Countdown list in my Family Notebook, and my Gift List in my Personal Notebook.  Do what works for you!

Holiday To Do List Countdown in Word: Holiday Countdown Checklist

Holiday To Do List Countdown in PDF: Holiday Countdown Checklist

Gift List in Excel: Gift List

Gift List in PDF: Gift List