In the past I always prided myself on being really organised for Christmas. It helped that it was always a nice family day, and even though we never had a big family Christmas, it always had its traditions. But the older I get (and being married to a man who is a definite Bah Humbug about it, and has to work on it), I’ve slackened off. Christmas always seems to happen, but it would be nice to be a bit more organised like I used to be.
If you’re one of the people who hasn’t got everything organised by the end of September but mid-December would be a nice target for you, then here’s some great tips for being more organised for Christmas.
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Tips to prepare for Christmas – early
1, Write lists
It doesn’t matter how you do them, but you can’t do Christmas without a list. Well, you can if you’re someone who has a PA spouse or partner to do it for them. But most people need a list of some kind.
Have a calendar, spreadsheet (or 2), notepad, or use an app. Just write down everything you think you might need, then you get the satisfaction of a) forgetting less and b) ticking off items you’ve done.
The type of lists I have are:
- Presents – spreadsheet and phone notes
- Cards – spreadsheet
- Food – whether hosting or not, you’ll likely need to stock up to avoid having to go to the supermarket too much over the holiday season – paper or spreadsheet.
- Events – include family, friends and work events. Make them easily visible to the whole family, so a calendar is the best option
2, Agree the plans for Christmas season
If you’re not hosting Christmas for family or friends, then you’ll have less to think about. But if your family need to visit two sets of family start making plans early on and know timings, locations and how the travelling fits in with other holiday season events you might have. Remember to book flights, public transport tickets and check for train works over the Christmas period which can mean delays or cancellations. Booking 12 weeks out gets the cheapest train fares, and airlines have set dates when the cheaper options run out.
If you’re hosting get a plan in place and work backwards for what you’ll need. And invite people early. There’s no point leaving it til November when people may already have booked something else. Decide if you’re cooking or if you’re going out for Christmas lunch/dinner.
3, Audit what you already have
Don’t go out and buy anything until you know what you need. That includes decorations, food (some long life food like condiments you might already have in the cupboards and might not need to buy more), cards, gift wrap and tags, Christmas clothing.
Don’t forget to check your lights!*
4, Start early to spread the cost
Some people start buying a year ahead in the January sales. I’ve done that in the past, but unless you have a set safe location for gifts and remember what you’ve bought it can cause hassles. You may also find that buying for children that early is a disaster because they change their mind so frequently, and they grow a lot in a year. Start planning in the summer writing down gift ideas, and as you see items in the sales, buy them and stash them away safely in a Christmas cupboard.
Be efficient in your shopping and you’ll save a lot of angst.
5, Present buying
You need to know who you’re buying for, what the budget is for each person, and what kind of things they like. Use your list to cross check what you gave each person last year, and what you received from them to avoid duplication. Also, agree in the family (formally or informally) who you’re buying for. Are you going to opt for a Secret Santa? Or just buy gifts for children? Or buy family/parent joint gifts or experiences? Or opt for vouchers/money for children once they’re a certain age?
Once you’ve a list of ideas for each person start with window shopping, get hold of gift catalogues (they usually come out around late-Sept-Oct) and then buy.
If you’re buying online, use cashback sites like Topcashback* to get money back as you shop. Remember to think about how you’re getting the gifts to people. If you’re going to post them, order heavy gifts to be delivered directly to the recipient to avoid having to pay postage twice. Also, try and buy online in November to ensure there’s plenty of time for stock to arrive if not already available and to avoid a last minute panic about non-delivery.
6, Christmas cards
I still love to receive Christmas cards especially if they’ve someone’s news in (I used to love going home for Christmas, reading my mum’s newsletter she would send out for that year, and reading all the newsletters from family friends and relatives I’d not seen for years). But many people have stopped sending them.
If you still want to send a Christmas note, then ecards are an option, or donate money to charity and let people know that you have.
If you want to write a newsletter to include, allow for extra time to write and print out.
My tip is buy Christmas cards in the sales, look for the charity cards. Then spend a couple of nights writing cards. Allow time to find postal addresses, buy stamps and know the postal dates for worldwide (usually a month before for UK mail), Europe and 2nd class. There’s a big different between first and second class stamps, so if you send a lot of cards, get them sent mid-December in plenty of time.
7, Decide on a theme / colour scheme
If you like to go to town on your decorations and change them every day, then start thinking about your colour scheme. Make use of what you have – if you get rid of old decorations, try recycling them or freecycle them rather than throwing them away. Or why not swap with friends.
8, Book any Christmas events early
If you’re going out for Christmas meals with work or friends, book early. Look up Christmas menus and try non-weekend dates if you can be flexible.
9, Plan food for the season
Again, spreadsheets work well, or just draw in a notepad.
Plan meals for set dates – Thanksgiving, Christmas eve, Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day. I flick through magazines or the internet for meal ideas and timing plans, then write shopping lists based on long life food and perishables. You can spread the cost by adding a couple of items of long life food to your weekly shopping basket, then you just need the perishables nearer the date.
Remember if you’re online shopping, Christmas delivery slots go quickly as soon as slots open, so if you don’t get one, work out when you’re going to be able to get to store without it being manic.
10, Dig out your Christmas jumpers
If you’re a Christmas jumper lover, then dig out those winter clothes early, refresh them, upcycle old jumpers to make Christmas jumpers or swap with friends. Charity shops are worth a look if you don’t want to spend a fortune on something you might only wear once.
11, Declutter whether you’re hosting or not
Christmas, even if you don’t make a big thing of it, can mean lots of new items to find space for. Declutter beforehand to make space for decorations, gifts and guests.
The aim of being prepared for Christmas is to know what you’re doing, when you’re doing it, and what you need to do to make the season what you want it to be. If you don’t mind the last minute panic then keep doing it. But if you want to get ahead and not have a last minute rush, it’s worth a bit of planning earlier on.
What do you do to get ready for the Christmas season?
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