Chrismas may be a few months away, but it’s never too early for a little holiday prep! The holidays will be here before we know it and it will make yours so much more enjoyable if you plan ahead.
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I like to do as much holiday prep as I can in advance. This helps to ease the stress as Christmas gets closer and allows me to enjoy quality time with those I love most.
My goal is usually to have the majority of my holiday prep done by the end of November. That was December can be left for enjoying all the fun events and making memories with those I love most.
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Today I’m sharing 11 ways to plan ahead for the holiday season as well as a few essential items to help along the way.
Reflect on Years Past
Before you even start your holiday prep for this year, reflect back to last Christmas (or even years before that). Scroll through pictures to help jog your memory about what you loved. Make a list of what worked well and what traditions you want to continue.
You can also think about what did not go well. Maybe you waited until the last minute to buy gifts and were scrambling to think of ideas. Or maybe your Christmas cards didn’t get mailed in time (or at all.) Decide what areas you can improve on from last year and write those down as well.
Now that you have a list of the good and the bad from Christmas past, it’s time to start prepping for this year.
Plan It Out
We all know that the holiday season is a busy time. Apart from your normal schedule of everyday life, there are many other things to keep track of. To help cut down on the craziness, find a place to keep all the information you will need this time of year.
To keep me organized this Christmas season, I plan to use my EC Daily Duo Planner as I always do to keep track of our day-to-day schedule as well as weekend parties and events.
For more specific holiday planning I created my own HOLIDAY PLANNNER filled with over 50 pages to keep you organized and on track. My 2023 Holiday Planner comes complete with monthly and weekly calendars, budget spreadsheets, checklists, gift trackers, and more.
Set a Budget
We all know Christmas can be expensive. Between the gifts, the decorations, the cards, and the outfits it can feel like we are constantly spending money. Decide early what your budget will be.
Our family personally has a Christmas sinking fund that we put a little money into each month throughout the year. That way when Christmas rolls around we know the money is already there, and we don’t have to use our credit cards.
Think about ways you can save money, too. Maybe this means cutting back on the number of gifts you give your kids. I personally love the idea of giving only four gifts: something you want, something you need, something to read, and something to wear.
You might also consider giving homemade gifts to neighbors, friends, teachers, and community workers (mailman, garbage men, delivery men, etc.). Homebaked goods or crafty projects are such a thoughtful sentiment.
Finally, if your family is the type to buy gifts for EVERYONE (cousins, siblings, nieces, and nephews, etc.) suggest changing it up. You can either give gifts to only the kids or you can have a name pull so everyone gives and gets only one gift.
Before you set out to buy anything, you should take inventory of what you already have. The last thing you need is to end up with tons of multiples- it is a waste of time and causes unnecessary clutter.
Areas that you will want to inventory may include your holiday decorations (especially checking to see if your lights are working), you and your kids’ wardrobe, gift wrapping necessities, and your baking and craft supplies if you intend to make any homemade gifts or treats over Christmas.
Holiday Card Prep
This is a task you can off your to-do list as early as possible. While sending Christmas cards isn’t a necessity, it is one of my favorite things about the holidays. I love how personal it feels to receive cards from friends and family both near and far.
- Schedule your picture location and date if you are using a photographer
- Gather inspiration for what you want your cards/outfits to look like
- Take your holiday card picture
- Pick out and order the cards- make sure to update any addresses that have changed over the year.
- Address and mail cards
- Update addresses for next year- I like to check the return addresses on any cards we get to make sure they are the same as the address I have.
We like to schedule our Christmas pictures for late October or early November. This ensures I have more than enough time to order, address, and mail them by the first week of December. Plus many sites like Shutterfly (my go-to) offer great sales in November!
When it comes to Christmas cards, I try to keep the pictures as stress-free as possible. I budget for a mini-session with a photographer every year because I love (hopefully) getting a great family picture! You can also easily snap your own family picture using a tripod and setting the timer on your camera or phone. Or you can use any pictures of recent activities to create a memory-style card of your year.
Take some time before your photo session to look at Pinterest and get some inspiration on what you want your photos to look like. If you go in with low expectations (especially if you have young uncooperative kids), you won’t be disappointed.
Holiday Home Prep
Getting your home ready for the holidays can feel like an overwhelming task. Whether you are hosting a large family and friends or just keeping it low-key with your immediate family, you still want your home to feel festive and welcoming.
Here are a few tips to help you get your home ready for the holiday.
Declutter and Organize
Take the time before the busy season begins to declutter and organize the high-traffic areas of your house. The last thing you want to be stressed out about is how your house looks or where you will put new items coming in. You should be free to enjoy the holidays with those you love most.
One of the best areas to focus on is your kids’ toys and clothes. Clean out their rooms, closets, or play areas to make room for new things they will get this year.
Throw away anything with broken or missing pieces and make a donation run with any gently used items that can make someones else’s holiday a little brighter.
Finally, clear out any pictures or videos from your camera or phone to free up storage. The last thing you want is to run out of memory space while you are trying to capture priceless holiday moments.
Cooking and baking are always a huge part of the holiday season. Take a day to get your kitchen prepared for all the activity it will soon see.
Go through your pantry and baking cabinet. Throw out any food items that are no longer good and re-stock them with fresh ingredients. I love to store all my baking supplies in these OXO containers because they keep food fresh and I can easily see what’s inside. I also use these Lazy Susans in multiple cabinets of my kitchen.
For more ideas on how to get your kitchen in tip-top shape, check out these pantry organization ideas.
Get Ready for Company
If you plan to have company during the holidays, ensure the area where they will be staying is clean and tidy. This can easily be done ahead of time.
To add an extra special touch, you could throw on some holiday bedding and make a festive basket filled with toiletries, hand towels, linens, and the wifi password. This will make your guest feel right at home during the holidays.
Create a Holiday Bucket List
Now that I have a family of my own, I love passing down and starting new holiday traditions with my kids. Make it a family event to sit down before the holidays and brainstorm a list of things you want to do.
Grab your FREE holiday bucket list in my printables library by signing up for my email list HERE.
If you have younger kids, plan out some fun Christmas-themed activities. Buy all the materials you might need ahead of time. If you need some ideas you are in luck! My Countdown to Christmas packet is filled with 24 fun activities your entire family will love.
You can also come up with ideas for your Elf on the Shelf, make a list of movies you want to watch, and books you want to read, or prep a fun Christmas Eve box for your kids!
Holiday Grift Prep
As much as I love giving gifts, this is often the most stressful part of the holiday season. Every year I tell myself I won’t wait until the last minute. However, every year I am left scrambling the week of Christmas to finish my shopping. Do as I say, not as I do! Get your shopping done early.
Keep a list of all the people you like to give gifts to (teachers, neighbors, friends, delivery, and service workers, etc) so you don’t forget anyone. Start a running list of gift ideas in your planner or on your phone. When you see something that would make a great gift or when you think of an idea, write it down so you don’t forget.
I also recommend buying a few extra miscellaneous gifts for those unexpected situations that you sometimes find yourself in.
Finally, I like to keep a wish list of gifts that I would like. That way when my husband, mom, or mother-in-law asks what I want, I have a few suggestions ready.
Prep your Wrapping Paper Station
Wrapping gifts is a task you know is inevitable during the Christmas season, so you want to be prepared. You should have already taken inventory to see what items you had left over from last year.
Don’t wait until the last minute to buy the supplies you need. In fact, many stores offer good discounts on wrapping supplies in the months leading up to Christmas. I typically choose 2-3 different patterns of wrapping paper to keep a cohesive theme. I also buy lots of tape, ribbons, and gift tags.
We don’t have a ton of extra space in our house, so I recently bought this wrapping paper storage bag that fits under the bed. When Christmas rolls around I can easily pull it out and have all my supplies at my fingertips. When Christmas is over, all the leftovers can be neatly stored away until next year.
Finally, don’t forget about a bag to transport all your gifts and food items if you are going somewhere for Christmas. I love these festive reusable bags!
Another task that you can easily check off your list early is buying holiday outfits. Make sure everyone has what they need when it comes to wardrobe options so you aren’t fighting the holiday crowds at the last minute looking for shoes or pants.
I like to make sure everyone has at least two good outfits ready to go, especially if I’m not sure what our plans are. That way if an event pops up at the last minute, I don’t have to stress about what we will wear.
Don’t forget about those holiday pajamas either. Every year I get a set of matching PJs for the whole family and a few sets for the younger kids. They sell out quickly, so make sure you buy them early. Check out my top 10 places to shop for holiday jammies.
Plan your Christmas Day Menu
Decide ahead of time what your menu will be for Christmas Day. Figure out what you will have to make, what others might help with, and what you can buy in advance.
Maybe you have a tradition of eating a specific breakfast every year. Maybe you go to a family member’s house and just have to bring a few side dishes. Or, maybe you’re in charge of desserts. No matter the case, have all your recipes written out (in your holiday planner) with the list of ingredients to make it that much easier when it’s time to grocery shop.
Also, don’t forget about cookies for Santa! This multi-cookie cutter makes the process so much easier!
Don’t forget to grab your FREE holiday prep checklist in my printables library by signing up for my email list HERE.
I hope you find some of these holiday prep tips useful as we near the Christmas season. Remember that the most important thing about the holidays is being with the ones you love.
Don’t stress if things don’t go exactly as you had envisioned. After all, if the past few years have taught us anything it’s that nothing goes as planned! Enjoy the holidays and make great memories because it will be over before you know it.
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