How to Prepare for Christmas and the Holidays
Have you ever told yourself you wouldn’t put yourself through the hassle of the holidays in subsequent years? All the last minute shopping and overspending many of us take part in during November and December each year places undue stress on all of us. Here are a few tips to help you relax and enjoy the holidays.
Relaxing During the Holidays
Shopping is a fun event for many people, but the hustle and bustle of finding the perfect gift can be mind boggling. If you haven’t been buying gifts all year long you can still take a few steps in advance to help you prepare and not overspend on gifts.
Step 1: Make a list for shopping, mailing and other holiday activities.
Take the time to make a list of all the individuals you expect to purchase a gift for along with a list of Christmas cards to mail out. This can help you to relax knowing you haven’t missed anyone. Once you have your list complete you can mark off the individuals as you mail out a card or purchase a gift for them.
You can also make a list to help remind you of everything you need or want to do and when you have to have it accomplished. This could include hosting a party, going to a special event, calling special people to wish them Merry Christmas, preparing for a Christmas dinner, putting up Christmas lights, decorating the inside of your house, or baking your treats to give to friends and family.
Step 2: Be decisive.
Once you purchase the gift stick with it. Don’t try to out due yourself even if you find the same gift for a few dollars less. The hassle of making a return or price correction is often not worth the time you will spend in line. The only exception to this would be a price difference over $10 or $20.
Step 3: Plan before you shop.
Know how much you want to spend and stick to it for each person. If you spend just a few dollars more on each person then it will add up and you may be faced with a much higher credit card bill than expected in January.
Think Outside the Gift Box
If you are having a difficult time finding the perfect gift for someone who has everything then think outside the gift box and look for a gift that your recipient can enjoy without unwrapping it. Restaurant gift cards, annual memberships, travel and tours, or monthly gift clubs/baskets are all great ways to show someone how much you care. Many great deals can be found during the holidays for restaurant gift card purchases where you receive bonus bucks. Often the bonus bucks need to be used before February, but they are still a great add on!
Giving an annual membership for a zoo or museum for a family can help reduce the stress of buying multiple gifts and is less expensive when being mailed. Our family received a museum membership one year and it was great having the access all year long. We thought of the gift givers during each trip we made. It was a great gift that kept giving all year long.
One Trip Shopping
Step 1: Research on-line before you go shopping.
Running around town can lead to an enormous amount of stress. After you make your shopping list you can research on-line to find the best location for purchasing the product. On-line promotions may be better than in-store promotions, so this can reduce your running around. Just be sure to make note of your purchase on your list so you don’t buy two gifts for the same person. Also write down any delivery and confirmation information along with a telephone number of the company. This will reduce the need to worry about what has arrived, when things should arrive, and what is still being waited on.
Step 2: Divide and conquer by sorting the gifts by purchasing location.
For everything you can’t buy on-line or simply choose to buy in-store, categorize the gifts based on where the products are sold. If you can buy 7 items at Home Depot, 15 at Meijer, 9 at Best Buy, and the rest of the items at the mall, then aim to get all the items at each location in one trip. This will reduce stress and the number of trips you need to make through the holiday traffic.
Purchase Stamps and Mailing Supplies
Make an early trip to the U.S. Post Office to pick up mailing supplies. This may include First Class Stamps, Flat Rate Boxes, or custom forms if you are mailing overseas or to deployed military family and friends. Gathering all of the supplies you will need will reduce your stress as you sit down to prepare all of your holiday greetings. (Don’t forget the stamps for after Christmas Thank You notes!)
You can address the envelopes, place stamps on them, and mail them all in the same day. If you can’t get all of your cards out in one day, be sure to keep track of who you mailed the cards to avoiding duplications! Other packaging items you may need are packing tape, mailing labels, scissors boxes, gift wrap, tape, pen, permanent marker, bubble wrap or tissue paper.
Set a Date
Being able to enjoy the holidays with your family and friends is really the spirit of the season. Set a date you expect to have all of your shopping and mailing accomplished and stick to it (such as December 15). Set aside enough time for party planning, house decorations, tree trimming and decorating, holiday baking, hanging up your own Christmas lights, seasonal events such as train and light displays using your annual zoo or museum membership, local theater events, musicals, church productions, or concerts. Other winter activities include ice skating, skiing, tubing, or visiting with friends and relatives. Look for free activities throughout your community to help reduce cost.
Take Time To Visit
Taking time to visit with an elderly relative, friends you haven’t seen in a while, or simply with your family to reconnect can help to build your relationships and reduce your stress levels. Plan an evening in playing board games, watching classic Christmas movies, or making holiday candy. Doing so can help you reduce stress, save money on Christmas and holiday gifts, and have fun while enjoying the holidays. You can also plan small get-aways to Pigeon Forge, TN, Niagara Falls, Ontario CA, New York, NY, Atlanta, GA, or other cities to get into the spirit of the holidays.
Have fun during this joyous season. Make memories to share, relax, and enjoy all there is to offer! Merry Christmas!