It’s official. The holiday season is here! From now through December, there is so much going on, and so much to do, that it feels like it should fit into six months, and not three. I so look forward to enjoying all of our favorite Christmas traditions, beliefs, and activities, and I really want them to be the highlight of the season–not feeling frantic, like I missed something, or haven’t done something the way I wanted to. I’ve discovered that the secret to being able to get everything done and still be able to feel like I’ve got things under control, is to have a master plan and start early!
When I say start early, I mean now! Yes, I know it’s October, but if you’ll make your plan now, you’ll have plenty of time to decide what’s the most important to you, and make sure they get accomplished this holiday season. You can actually start even earlier, in September, but we don’t want to get too crazy. :)
Here’s my list of ways you can plan ahead:
1. Create a timeline!
This is hands down my number one tip for a successful holiday season. I know it may seem like a simple thing, but it can really change the way you look at things, and allows you to schedule the most important things in first. When I schedule something on my timeline, and add it to a certain date, it doesn’t necessarily mean THAT’S the exact day I’m going to do it. It generally means for me that it’s the date that I need it done by, still giving me flexibility to change things around when things come up. Some items do have a set date, but others aren’t, and I can designate that on my timeline. It’s simple, but it works!
Some things I include in my timeline? Here are just a few…
-Budget set and shopping list (people) written out
-Shopping for advent calendar items/other advent items made
-Daily Christmas books chosen and wrapped
-Christmas card pictures taken, cards finished, envelopes addressed, cards mailed
-Teacher gifts made/purchased, and delivered
-Neighbor gifts decided upon, supplies purchased, gifts made, and delivered
-Christmas lights up
-Christmas tree and decorations up
-Christmas shopping (several dates, and a final deadline that I set for myself each year)
-Christmas gifts wrapped
-Gift delivery dates, if they differ from family to family
-When packaged gifts need to be shipped
-Decorations I want to make, projects I need to get done
-Handmade gifts–when to start, and complete
-All of our family traditions…(looking at lights, seeing Santa, ice skating, caroling, family shopping night, gingerbread houses, movie nights, service projects, etc.)
-Any travel dates
I created an Excel spreadsheet for my timeline, which I can easily add to, and either keep on my computer, print, or both! I included all three holiday months–October through December–so I can also keep track of all holiday happenings (Halloween and Thanksgiving), making it easier to know when I can schedule in my Christmas preparations. You can download the Excel file HERE.
2. Compile a list of ideas you want to implement
Are you addicted to Pinterest like I am? I’ve pinned a million ideas for the holidays, and now is the time to sift through those and decide which ones I really love and want to use in my home. Perhaps you’ve learned about other great ideas on blogs, from friends & family, or browsing online or through magazines, and really want to try them. Write them down, make a list of what you need, and then add completion and implementation dates into your timeline.
3. Compile all your addresses into a Word labels document
I know it sounds like a lot of work, but it will SO be worth it! It’s so nice to just hit print, and having all of those lovely printed address labels, instead of addressing all of your Christmas cards by hand. It saves SO much time! I actually put my kids to work–adding stamps, putting on labels, putting cards in, and licking the envelopes shut. I’ve got my own little assembly line, and they LOVE it…and so do I! :)
Once they’re there, you’re set! It’s so easy to add to, or to make changes when someone moves, and can be used for other things, like baby announcements, etc. You can also make them for your own address, which makes it even faster!
4. Decide on a budget–overall, per category, and per person
I’m sure this is a basic one for everyone, but I had to include it in my list. We usually keep a similar budget from year to year, and so even when I see things in January or February, I can add them to my budget for the coming Christmas, and know what I have to spend. I have another spreadsheet for gift budget, separated out category, and including a total overall budget. This is what a portion of looks like…
To the left I have my overall budget, which includes each budget category, and a total. I have individual tables for each child and my husband (family), then one for each of the other categories. I always include an actual spent, set budget, and variance area, so that I can tell exactly where I am at any given time. If I need to adjust along the way, I can see an overall picture, and just where that adjustment would make the most sense. All of the formulas are already set, so the math is automatic. I will be sharing this file today, and you can easily go in and change the names to the names of your own children, grandchildren, spouse, and categories. You can click on any cell and customize it for yourself. You can download the Excel file HERE.
5. Make a shopping list
This is another basic one, but now that you know your budget, and who you’re shopping for, you can start a master shopping list. Include each person, their budget, and gift ideas. This is also a place you can list stores, different prices, sales, and other information that’s going to help you make your final decision.
6. Make a family list…what’s most important?
There are so many fun and incredible things that can happen during the Christmas season, but it’s impossible to do everything. Sit down together and decide what the most important items are to you–service projects, concerts, holiday parties, family gatherings, family traditions–then make sure that those things come first. If other things need to be let go, that’s okay! A lot of things would be fun to do, but not all of them are necessary. You get to decide how much you want to do, or how little, and what you focus on.
7. Keep it all in one place
Either in a folder on your computer, or printed out in a binder, keeping information all in one place is the best way to stay organized. I do keep everything all together in a binder, along with a zippered pouch for receipts–in case I need to make returns, change my mind, or find a better deal. I’m going to be sharing a free printable for one soon…so stay tuned!!!
Now you’re on your way to an organized Christmas…getting things done and still enjoying the season! I LOVE this time of year!!!