All you need to know and do to get yourself through Christmas stress and worry free without skimping on the good times, or breaking the bank.
Some of us love Christmas, don’t let my desire to wait until after Remembrance Day to get into the game fool you, I love Christmas. And some of us hate it. I find those who hate Christmas are usually moms, who end up doing everything during the holiday season, and it’s not Christmas itself they hate, so much as the stress and work associated with it.
Now, I’m a planning. One of my favourite quotes is ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’. I love to plan because it makes everything so much easier, clearer and gives you control over your environment. That’s why I’m putting together this Epic Christmas Guide.
My intention is to lay out the next few weeks, leading up to Christmas and throughout the Christmas and New Year celebrations in a way that allows you to plan it out, make the most of your time and the best of your resources. I hope this plan helps you to say ‘no’ to over commitment or extra shopping. To me, a plan like this allows you to give yourself tasks and goals, and open up space for you to get work done in advance, with more time for relaxation and enjoyment after you eat that frog as my cousin would say.
The goals of this plan are to:
- Be organized and feel in control. Much of the stress from Christmas is the chaos and the feeling of being pulled in a million different directions with so many commitments. This guide aims to lay out in advance a plan, then stick to it.
- Just say no. In line with the point above, having your schedule planned will allow you to visualize your holiday plans, avoid over commitment and give you a clear justification to ‘just say no’.
- Spend less money. With scheduled shopping dates and gift lists, as well as meal plans, cooking in advance and grocery lists, this guide should help reduce last minute shopping. Or browsing that leads to more shopping, or vanity shopping. Long story short, having a list and a plan will put you in the store less, which will give you less opportunity to spend your money.
- Share more quality time. Entertaining is daunting, keeping up with your family obligations is challenging. Over the holidays you need to keep children entertained, the house clean, cook amazing meals and look fabulous at office work parties. It’s a lot. Advanced planning can help you make the best use of your time, and also empower you with an attitude of ‘if it’s not done now, it ain’t getting done’ accept it, walk away, and move on.
What this guide is not meant to do:
- Add more stress. If you’re overwhelmed, walk away now, don’t force yourself to follow a system you don’t like. I love to plan. This approach helps me, but it’s not for everyone.
- Eliminate spontaneity. Just because you have a schedule does not mean you have to miss out on exciting events that come up. As a matter of fact, having the plan laid out will better enable you to look at what you can cut out of your schedule and make it easier to rearrange commitments to do the fun things which always come up during the holidays.
- Make you feel like a failure. This guide is not meant to pressure you into keeping up with the Joneses, or be a super hostess or the best mom with a Christmas activity every night. Do as much or as little as you want.
And always remember, I’m not the boss of you, only you are the boss of you. You matter, what you want to do matters, and it’s ok to ‘just say no’. This is only a guide. Merely one random woman on the internet’s suggestion of her preferred way to plan for the holidays.
So what’s the plan? It can be broken down in various steps…also, I have a PowerPoint for planning, let’s call it a PlanningPoint, because yes…I’m like that.
The first thing to look at is the calendar I find it helpful to make one with the next six weeks on it, so you can lay out an overview of everything going on throughout the entire holiday season. Once you have your template; whether it’s your day planner, kitchen calendar or the print off available in this article; start to fill it in. I would start with your work schedule, because that is probably what you have the least flexibility with, then your children’s school and commitments, basically mark down all the day-to-day life expectations you would have regardless of the time of year. Then put in the unavoidable holiday commitments, dinner at the in-laws, children’s Christmas concert, Nativity play at the church, work Christmas party, in other words, all those holiday event which are obligations not options. At this point also lay out any long standing traditions you may have, things that don’t change from year to year, for example if your family always goes to get the tree on the same day every year or if Boxing Day is someone’s Birthday which is celebrated at the grandparent’s house.
Next look at your vision, what do you imagine for this holiday season? Do you want to spend your time with just your immediate family in your cabin in the woods, disconnect from technology? Do you want to spend it working in the church, celebrating the holiday religiously not commercially? Are you the young adult generation of your family planning a party extravaganza for all the sisters and brothers and cousins? Or do you just want to follow your traditions without all the hassle? The first thing to do is get your vision of what you’d like to see this holiday season in your mind, but not set in stone, be flexible so you can adjust as necessary and also make the most of any opportunities as they arise.
Then you want to take your vision and make it into a reality based on the actual resources you have available to you. You may want to spend the holidays in a castle in Scotland, unfortunately you might not have the money for that. You might want have children too young to travel comfortably or want to spend time with family members whose health is failing. So look at your family situation, your money, house size and a million other factors; most importantly, if your family is Republican you obviously don’t want to have to put up with them over Christmas, so keep that in mind, and don’t offer to host if it’s going to make you miserable. One of the biggest factors of course, will be your finances, so getting a holiday budget in mind is critical, it doesn’t have to be exact, or line by line, but your need to have an idea how much money you to spend, so you can plan accordingly.
So now you should have a handle on your commitments, what you want to see happen and the resources you have to make it happen. The next step is to develop a list of tasks to make your vision a reality, flush out your calendar and keep track of your resources. This should be distilled down into task lists to prepare for the holidays, a detailed calendar and budget tracker.
Top 7 Holiday Tasks:
- Decorate outdoors;
- Decorate indoors;
- Buy gifts, and wrap them (gag – get your awesome cousin to wrap them for you);
- Grocery shop;
- Cook; and
Obviously your task list will be filled out depending on your commitments and vision. If you need to make a costume for your children’s Christmas pageant that’s another task on the list, if you need to make an ugly sweater that’s another, cooking for the church potluck and doing brunch for the family on Boxing Day, are all other tasks, depending on your vision, traditions and family commitments.
Your task list then should be double checked against your resources, make sure you have the money to make it happen, the time, transportation if you need it and any other factors which may impact your ability to accomplish your tasks.
After you have your tasks listed and looked at the resources you have to make them a reality, put them into your calendar. This should help especially when it comes to be expenditures such as gift shopping or travel plans, buying tickets or flights, you’ll be able to visualize when you’ll get paid, what bills you’ll need to pay and what money you’ll have to spend on your plans.
So the above is the basic outline of how to plan your holidays successfully, no matter what you hope to accomplish and below I have a quick template to get you started. Stay tuned for details as I work on my own holiday plan and provide more great holiday planning tips and tricks.
Hope you find these templates useful, I used PowerPoint to create them, so if they inspire you, that’s what I would recommend to customize something for yourself.
All the best, and good luck!