It happened. I finally feel like I’ve nailed how to simplify the holiday hustle.
The creeping in of the holidays happens to the best of us. We know they’re coming around every single year at the same general time. And yet we’re surprised when the radio stations start blasting Christmas music and Starbucks unleashes their peppermint mocha to the masses. When we finally get around to counting down the days to Christmas, we can’t help gulping a bit in dismay.
This year, it seems like everyone I know is amping up the Christmas spirit early. They’re already putting up the tree, decorating the house, and stringing lights. And I do get that when it’s been a grim year overall. Since we know we won’t be able to have those big family gatherings, we’re all collectively trying to make our homes look as happy as possible. I’m hoping to get ours ready before the view outside looks like this.
I am not a procrastinator by any means, and I despise last-minute shopping. But before we moved into our fixer-upper farmhouse, I found I just wasn’t enjoying the holidays like I used to. It felt like drudgery to me instead of something special. I spent a few years riding the holiday struggle bus, feeling stretched too thin and burnt out of all cheer. Then I finally got my collective crap together and figured out how to simplify the holiday hustle without all that dashing through the snow. When Christmas rolls around now, I’m ready to celebrate. I’m more relaxed instead of ready to knock back that bottle of Pinot Noir. So, without further adieu, here are my five tips to keep it together this holiday season.
1. Set a Budget and Set it Early
This is number one for me because it sets the course for everything holiday-related. Let’s face it, holiday expenses can stack up quickly – the gifts, the food, the decorations, the cards. Where the money is coming from is a cause of major holiday stress for a lot of folks. However, if you set aside money over the course of the year to fund your holiday budget, you won’t be stressing out when it’s time to buy gifts. It also makes you more accountable for your spending. That comes in handy when you really want to buy that new blouse for yourself when you’re out shopping instead of a gift for someone else. Guilty as charged!
It’s easier to say no to tacking on another gift when you know exactly how much money you’ve spent, and how much you have left before you’re at your holiday limit. Going overboard for the holidays and not keep track of your spending is typical for many families, but is it worth that giant bill come January? If you haven’t made a budget, start categorizing every single holiday expense this year. Keep all of your records so you can put a cap on each category next year.
2. Consult Your Calendar and Plan Accordingly
Things get complicated when your family starts moving out of the nest and expanding. Suddenly, you have to coordinate calendars in ways you never had to before. I have a special holiday cookie baking tradition with my daughters, passed down from one I had with my mom. It’s important to me that I set a date in December for this tradition every year. This time is reserved for us to bake, sip wine, talk, and laugh. In my mind, it’s sacred.
I also like to schedule certain days on the calendar for other holiday-related things. It’s another way to simplify the holiday hustle. That way, I can enjoy them instead of looking at them as tasks. For example, reserving a weekend day to decorate the tree and house. And choosing another day to write and mail cards. It makes the holidays more enjoyable overall and spreads to-do items out. This year, without larger gatherings on the calendar, it will be easier to do this. For me, a good, old-fashioned paper calendar is best to keep me on-task.
3. Take Stock of What You Already Have
Before I set one foot in a store or let my fingers walk online, I pull all my holiday totes out of the attic and do some inventory.
Do I really need more decorations? More gift wrap and tape? Batteries? Cards? Those little expenses can add up quickly, so doing inventory helps me to not overbuy. When it comes to decorating, of course, I want my house to look festive and welcoming. But, I also don’t need to buy brand new things to do that each and every year. Most of the time, I open a bin and it’s like seeing something I had for the first time.
4. Make an Organizational System for Gifts
I ask family members for holiday gift ideas and then consult my budget to determine what I’ll buy for them that fits. I keep all of this info on my phone so I don’t have to carry paper lists around. Then I cross their name off my electronic list when I’ve hit my max for each person. I keep all receipts and shipping information in one large envelope. If a gift ends up being returned, I don’t have to hunt down receipts in a million places. Every gift is stored in one place in my home until it’s ready to wrap. Throughout the year, I keep good quality, used shipping boxes in various sizes so I’m not scrounging around for them when I’m ready to wrap.
I typically like to wrap as I buy so it’s not so overwhelming, packaging several gifts for the same person into one box if possible. I also like to wrap gifts in plain kraft paper I buy from Michael’s and then accessorize with pretty ribbons and floral pics for pops of color.
5. Make Time to Enjoy the Season
The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, but all too often, the hustle and bustle can sap our joy. I like to set aside time between Thanksgiving and Christmas to unplug from the craze. One of the things I like to do is commit to a charity donation. Sometimes, it’s in the form of a toy, a coat, or a grocery bag full of food. A clear and sunny, yet snow-covered day is the perfect reason to escape for a walk in a park. I personally love enjoying the winter wonderland of ice hanging on tree branches and the crisp air this time of year. When holiday noise gets to be too much, just a few extra minutes spent in church can help the calm settle back in.
Do you have strategies to keep your holidays calm and bright? I’d love to hear them!