It’s mid-December. All your holiday decorations are up and sparkling. You’ve already bought, wrapped, and skillfully hidden all the gifts you need to buy. You’ve got your holiday party planned and fully organized (all you need to do at this point is to shower, dress, and show up). You’ve got this holiday season totally under control — on time and under budget. Right?
Yeah, me neither.
But it’s definitely not too late to get it together. How can you create a holiday that is fun and friendly on your wallet and mental health? Here are 10 tips for saving time, money and stress.
1. Make a Holiday To-Do List
Some to-dos are:
-getting and sending out holiday cards
-planning your holiday parties and holiday meals
-taking care of holiday travel
-receiving guests over the holidays
-buying or making presents
There are a lot of moving pieces to juggle and a good to-do list will help you to plan and take the right steps. It will also help you remember important things to do. This will ultimately save you lots of time and stress.
A great place to start is the “Christmas Planning” list under “Ready for Christmas” on the Checklist Mom app. There you will find pre-populated lists that will help you plan for holiday cards, holiday decorations, holiday parties, holiday meals, receiving holiday guests, etc.
2. Make a budget and gift list before you shop
Next make a list of everyone you need to buy a gift for. Include gift ideas for each person as well as how much you are willing to spend – per gift and in total.
Need some gift ideas? Try the pre-populated Gifts lists from the Checklist Mom app. There you will find gift ideas for all ages and genders.
3. Enlist Help
First, get your kids and spouse helping with decorations, baking, wrapping gifts, shopping. You definitely do not have to do it alone, and it’s part of the holiday experience to do things together.
If that’s not an option or you find you still need more help, there are some budget-friendly ways to hire help.
A friend of mine hires help on Task Rabbit to help her handle her large holiday party. She prepares all the food and drink in advance, and during the party she relaxes and talks with her guests while her “Tasker” picks up and washes dirty plates, replenishes the food trays, makes and distributes drinks, etc. For her it’s worth every penny.
You can also use Task Rabbit for anything from putting up holiday lights around the house to wrapping your gifts.
Another gift wrapping service Kalamazoo Gift, a full-service gift concierge that will receive your shipment of gifts and return them to you professionally gift-wrapped. Gift wrapping starts at $15.
Last, but not least you can hire a virtual personal assistant, through a service like Red Butler, to take care of errands such as paying bills, buying plane tickets, making reservations, tracking down that out-of-print book your father wants, and more. Outsourcing these and other tasks will free you up to have more time to enjoy yourself and your family during this season.
4. Keep the Festivities Comfortable
Formal holiday parties and meals can be stressful and expensive. If it stresses you out and stresses your budget, you can let go of some of your stuffier holiday traditions. Your holiday party need not be a formal affair. Casual parties take pressure off of you and your guests. You don’t have to cook all the food. Consider hosting a potluck. Also, you can have meals that are buffet style, rather than a sit-down dinner.
5. Have a few extra gifts on hand
Sometimes we find there are extra guests, or we forget someone, so we can save time and stress if we have an extra gift or two lying around. Buy certain gifts in bulk, especially gender neutral “make everyone happy” gifts like boxes of chocolate or bake some extra goodies. Who doesn’t love a gift of fresh baked cookies?
6. Give everyone the same gift
Another time saver is to give the same gift to everyone. This will help you eliminate the long hours you normally put in towards finding the perfect individual gift. You can give gifts like engraved glassware, label-making machines, or homemade fudge. If you can’t think of one gift to suit all of your family and friends, break your list up into groups and give one type of gift to women, one type to men, and something different for all of the children.
7. Do your holiday shopping online
Do I really need to spell out how not having to drive to the mall, drive around for hours looking for a perfect parking spot, walking through store after store and aisle after aisle will save you time? I didn’t think so. Online shopping will definitely save you time. It can also save you lots of money.
Once you’ve made your holiday shopping list, you can sign up for email newsletters, download apps and set social media alerts for your favorite retailers. You can also do quick comparison shopping online to make sure you get the best deals. Last, but not least, you can find lots of online coupons at sites like RetailMeNot or get rebates back using Ebates.com to ensure that you get the best deal on your holiday purchases.
8. Wrap simply –
Use gift bags and/or wrap all of your gifts in one signature style — saving time and creating a finished appearance. You’ll save time, but it can still look good. Any solid wrapping paper will look elegant with fancy satin ribbon or cord. Simple can be chic — and it allows you to add gift tie-ons and tags tailored to the recipient’s interest.
9. Buy a lot of staples –
Buy a lot of baking staples (butter, flour, granulated and brown sugars, baking powder and soda, yeast, vanilla extract, etc.) and entertaining staples (crackers, nuts, cheese, etc.). This will save you time from having to make last minute trips to the grocery store. If you buy these things in bulk, you’ll further save money.
10. Enjoy activities that are free,
Free activities, such as taking a drive to look at holiday decorations, going window shopping, attending free holiday concerts, or making a snow person with children, are great for stress and budget. In the end these activities end up being more meaningful and contribute more to overall happiness than things, and they definitely help the bottom line.