Holiday Prep

Holiday Prep | 11 Ways to Plan Ahead

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well…almost! While I’m not trying to rush through November and Thanksgiving, I still 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.

Today I’m sharing 11 ways to plan ahead for the holiday season as well as a few items to help along the way.

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Reflect on Years Past

Before you even start prepping 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.

Christmas Memories

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 during this time of year.

Consider getting (or making) a holiday planner that you can refer back to from year to year. This year I bought a holiday journal from Plum Paper, and I also looked at a few on Amazon. I got lots of ideas from them all, but in the end, I decided to create my own!

To keep me organized this Christmas season, I plan to use my EC Life Planner as I always do to keep track of our day-to-day schedule. I also bought a coiled notebook with a fun holiday cover that I plan on making into my holiday planner.

My idea is to section it off with tabs to keep track of various things like addresses for Christmas cards, people I want to buy for and gift ideas, a holiday bucket list, elf on the shelf ideas (yes, I’m starting that this year!), family traditions and a section for holiday recipes. Finally, I want to keep a running list of holiday-related to-dos so I can refer back to it in years to come.

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.

We personally have 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 aren’t tempted 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 only give gifts to the kids or you can have a name pull so everyone gives and gets only one gift.

Take Inventory

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.

Christmas Cards

This is a task you can and should knock 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.

We like to schedule our Christmas pictures in 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 do budget for a mini-session with a photographer because I love (hopefully) getting a great family picture! I shared on my Instagram stories how I pick out our outfits.

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.

Start by doing a declutter of your kids’ toys. Donate anything that they no longer use or play with and make room for the new gifts they will receive.

Go through your pantry and baking cabinet. Throw out any food items that are no longer good and re-stock 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.

If you plan to have company during the holidays, make sure the area where they will be staying is clean and tidy. This can easily be done ahead of time.

Finally, clear out any pictures or videos from your camera if you use one. The last thing you want to do is run out of memory space while you are trying to capture those priceless moment.

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 ahead of time and brainstorm a list of things you want to do during the holidays.

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! I have a really fun post coming next week with everything you will need to make Christmas magical for your littles…stay tuned!

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!


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 also 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 ineviatble during the Christmas season, so you want to be prepared. You should have already taken inventory to see what items you had leftover 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 the tips of my fingers. When Christmas is over, all the leftovers can get 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 this festive Scout bag!

Holiday Outfits

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.

I love the yearly Southern Living Christmas book and this book by Six Sisters where I can get tons of inspiration.

Also, don’t forget about cookies for Santa! This multi-cookie cutter makes the process so much easier!

I hope you find some of these 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, this is 2020 where nothing goes as planned! Enjoy the time and make great memories because it will be over before you know it. Thanks so much for reading and sharing! XOXO


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