Everyone knows that the holiday season is full of stress. Gifts to buy and wrap, parties to attend, children to keep on best behaviors, and many other factors. Every year we all sit back afterwards and promise that next year will be different. Yet many times it isn’t. So why not make the changes now, start work in January to make an easier Christmas, or which ever holiday you celebrate, easier. This year has been a rather calm year for us, yet it has and is one of the busiest we have had so far. I’ve learned some things in years past and this year that I changed to make it a better Christmas for us.
1. Take each day, event, activity as they come. Worry about the current and not the future. Things will work out and if you take it one thing at a time things sometimes just work themselves out. The weekend before Christmas we had 3 Christmas parties in 24 hours, 2 kids parties and one adult. We even were able to stay the full time at each event, and managed some sleep in between. We just took each event as it happened. We also didn’t worry about what our kids were eating. Sure they probably ate more cookies and chips than normal, but we made sure they ate things like eggs and bananas for breakfast or in Amy’s case dinner as well. So that while we were out if they didn’t eat the best or eat at all at least when we were home they ate better. I also did a little preparation in the morning for our evening Christmas Party for my hair and make up so when I got home I just had to freshen up and slip on my dress.
2. Santa sacks! I cannot praise my hand made bags enough this year. It is so much easier to place the items in a bag and pull the draw strings than to spend hours cutting and taping paper in odd shapes. I spent about 1 – 2 weeks in evenings last January making these bags so they were ready for this year. I also reused our old Christmas cards into gift tags to pin to the bags. The only thing I have wrapped this year was a couple larger gifts for the boys, I decided not to do the stockings this year also. Which has pros and cons, I may do it in future years as it does keep the kids busy for a bit so we can either sleep in or get a few things ready before the big show. Santa presents don’t get wrapped in our house so that isn’t a worry for me. This year I have begun a project to make and laminate gift tags so that next year I have those to add to my collection. I will be able to use dry erase markers to put names on them and again use them every year. All of this will help save us money, maybe not lots but enough on tags, tape and paper that just end up in the trash every year. After Christmas is also the perfect time to pick up fabrics at a discounted price. I got all mine for 75% off 2 years ago, just be sure to watch what the regular price per metre is for the fabrics as they can easily still be $20.00/m for some of the really nice prints. Michaels sells all their Christmas ribbons too for around $1.00 a roll, instead of $3.49 starting boxing day.
3. It is ok to say no during the holidays. I really wanted to participate in another cookie exchange my friend was having but it just wasn’t something I could manage this year between school events, Dave ending up sick and in bed for a few days, and everything else our family juggles. So I had to say no, and that it OK. Next year I can join and I will be well ready for it. She was even so nice to make me a package with a few of the cookies she had, and they were so delicious! Don’t feel bad if you cannot do everything. We also had to turn down a family event on Dave’s side. We only found out the day before and it was on our weekend of 3 parties. It would have been nice to see extended cousins and aunts & uncles but it just didn’t work for us since we already had commitments.
4. Shop all year round for gifts and stocking items. If it is an item you think or know someone will like then pick it up, especially if it is on sale. Movies are great for movie lovers, kids don’t always need to watch the latest movie right when it comes out anyways. Pick it up and tuck it away, if you need it before hand then you have it, if not another gift off your list. Make sure to make a list of who you have to buy for so you don’t end up buying something and forgetting about it. If you are not against used gifts, check out Value Village and Goodwill, January and February probably have a huge increase in toys from all the families who clean out after the holidays to make room for the new items, board games and puzzles are great to pick up used, look for legos and build up a big box of them as a gift for kids. I also have a smaller rubbermaid bin in my closet that I keep trinkets and small items for the kids stockings. Colouring books I find on sale, stickers, small crafts. That way I only need to maybe pick up a few current items around the holidays like a treat or a magazine. I also raid that box year round for kids parties we might last minute be invited to, for easy additions or a gift bag of treats. The more you can prepare for the holidays with your gifts the better, that is a huge stress factor. Also keep a list for yourself. Every time you think of something, or find yourself saying “I could really use a…” write it down, that way you don’t have to say “I don’t know” when friends and family ask what you would like. Keep a list too for other members in your family. Dave is always blank for ideas come Christmas.
5. Have a cooking day in November to stock up your freezer. Spend a whole day making meals you can easily thaw and throw in the oven during a busy night or week. I did this, but not with the holidays in mind, and found out how helpful and handy it was during the busy nights and weeks leading up to Christmas. If you do not think you can set aside a whole day plan 6 or so meals where you make double and freeze the other half. It doesn’t take too much extra time to cook up double the food and split it up. This will help cut back on take out during the holidays especially if you are already worried about holiday weight gain from too many treats and fancy meals. Add a salad in a bag and you are set, or fresh-cut veggies with dip. You can also look to prepare and freeze holiday treats. Just be sure to set aside a few for snacking, it will also help keep others from sneaking them. It will also help curb the weight increase you may experience from eating way too many because you baked way too much and can’t stop eating them. A current problem in my house. I didn’t make much but what I did make made a lot and I have a terrible sweet tooth. Good thing I got Just Dance 3 for Christmas.
6. Stock up on holiday items after Christmas. Now is a good time to buy your tape and wrapping paper for next year (if you use paper). You can also get good deals on decorations and lights. Then you won’t have to worry about finding more of what you need next year and you get it all for dirt cheap. Just make sure to buy what you will use. No sense in storing items you won’t use in the future or too many of one item.
7. Don’t be afraid to make your holiday cards or get them ready in the summer or even right after Christmas. It can save lots of time later on. I have a label file saved with all our friends and family we mail cards to ready to print each year. I simply make any address changes right before then print. That has saved me a lot of time and it only took about the same about of time as if I had hand wrote those addresses, I have used it for a few years now. As my card list grows I’m so thankful, especially after I have written my blessings in each card. I also have labels ready with our names on it as well.
8. Hit the dollar store or watch for sales on totes and bins before the holidays. That way when the gifts start coming out of the packaging you are ready with places and home for things to go in. Our girls always get lots of things with little items or craft projects, having boxes and bins ready for them helps me out greatly, because everything is supposed to get put away when it is done being played with.
9. Be realistic about your list and set a budget. Our kids get one gift from Santa, 1-3 from mom and dad (usually a pair of jammies is one of those), one from a sibling ($10.00 limit) and a joint gift they all share, like a movie or wii game. They don’t need more than that from us. They have 3 sets of Aunts & Uncles and 2 sets of grandparents who buy for them also, they will not be short on new toys or clothes. It is hard especially when you see lots of great things you know they will want, but be strong and keep with it. They will play with and enjoy a fewer toys, rather than forget about them if there are lots of options. You just end up wasting your money. I wait until right before Christmas to pick up Santa gifts, unless they know far in advance and don’t seem to be changing their minds. This way I know I am getting what they really want from him and will get the smile and reaction I hope for. I got exactly that from Amy who had been asking for an Ariel baby doll, it was the “it’s so fluffy I could die” reaction when she screamed and saw it under the tree for her.
10. Stick money from family in a bank account for later. Sure kids like getting money but if they are young enough not to want to go and spend it on something useful right away, tuck it away for them. Since we live far from lots of family we often get a card or two with some spending money. So we save it for things like family outings to somewhere we don’t normally go because of cost, or something bigger they may need later on, like a new bike. We have recently decided to save this years for our family trip we are planning for Disneyland or if the kids want to do a summer camp this year.
Even though the holidays are past us now. It is never too early to start preparing for the next year. No matter how hard we may try, a lot of work goes into the holiday season and it seems to pass by in the blink of an eye. With careful planning we can all learn to cut back and have an easy stress free holiday season. I hope these tips were found helpful. Sorry I haven’t gotten them out sooner, it has been a zoo here, a stress free zoo, but a busy one.