I’m making a list and checking it twice.
Actually, it’s more like five lists and I’m checking stuff off everyday. After a lovely and extended Thanksgiving with houseguests, I turned my attention to Christmas and realized I have a lot to get done. I absolutely love Christmas and a big part of that is the preparations. In religious terms this is the season of Advent, a time specifically set aside for Christians to spiritually prepare themselves for the celebration of Christ’s birth.
The spritutual concept of Advent can be applied to the practical preparations neccesary for the holidays as well. (This applies to all people and all holidays.) Taking a few moments at the beginning of the month to organize yourself and your family enables a less stressful and more peaceful holiday experience. Here are a few ideas:
1. Book all appointments now.
Hair salons and photography studios book up early at this time of year, so make some calls today if you haven’t already. Think about your timing. If you are attending a holiday party it might be nice to get your haircut on the morning of the event. The normal styling and blowout after your service will do double-duty and you’ll look great that evening. On the other hand, kids sometimes need a week for their hair to settle into a new haircut, so you might plan a photo shoot a bit later. Check your photo studio’s time frame for ordering prints. It can be 7-10 days after the initial sitting. Make sure that works for you, particularly if you are sending framed photos as a gift.
2. Make several lists: To Do, To Buy and To Make
Take an half and hour to think through what needs to get done this holiday and jot it all down. Think about parties, gifts and regular household maintenance. Take another 10 minutes to divide your list. This will help you plan your errands in an efficient way.
Maybe a big box store has a great sale on an appliance gift, pick up some party supplies their too as well as extra rolls of toilet paper. It’s an awful feeling to get stuck in the last minute shopper crowds just because your baby needs diapers. Planning ahead and making sure you have enough basics to get you through until the new year will save you from that hassle.
Look at your To Make list. Is it realistic? This is the time to get any supplies you need because it will take extra time to make them into gifts. Here are some amazing lemon gift ideas for that sweet, homemade touch.
Don’t forget little details like hemming pants and wrapping gifts for your To Do list. Understand that this list will be growing as things pop up. Think ahead and try to do all your dry-cleaning and ironing at the beginning of the month, so you don’t struggle at the last minute.
3. Save money and time by giving experiences, rather than presents.
This works especially well for families. It can be hard to know what children would like and don’t already have. A gift certificate for an experience they can share could be the coolest thing they receive. Google attractions near that family for ideas. I’ve given a whale-watching trip, tickets to a show, admission to a science museums and zoos. This is the kind of gift that makes memories for a family and is as easy as a phone call or a click for you.
4. Use technology to find the best deals.
Smart phones have barcode scanners, but a quick Internet search at home may work best, so you can head to the right store initially. Also google “coupons for_________” before ordering anything online or going to a store. Almost every retailer is offering some sort of promotion. Yesterday I needed to get some clothes for the boys and had a gift card to The Children’s Place. I googled and got 25% of my entire purchase. I have another coupon for a free sitting fee and 40% off my order at a portrait studio. It doesn’t take much effort and the savings are great.
5. Don’t lose sight of value when looking for a deal.
It’s great to save money and everyone wants to get the best price, but don’t drive yourself crazy. Just as the newest gadget will be replaced in a few months, the thing you buy today may go on sale tomorrow. Do your best to get a good price, but then let it go. The cost of gas for driving all around town and the price of your time all contribute to the value of the deal. Stores offer new promotions everyday because they want us to shop everyday, but that’s ridiculous. We have to draw a line.
6. Delegate or obliterate parts of your To Do list.
If you are the person responsible for creating the celebrations for your family, your name is probably Mom. I love creating magic for my family, but it can get to be too much. If you are overwhelmed and know that you can’t complete your lists with any sense of cheer or free time, start editing. Family members may balk as their favorite traditions are axed, but it’s time for them to step up and help. If your husband wants to send Christmas cards, let him do it. If your kids want the annual party, assign them the tasks to cleaning the house, decorating and playing sous chef in the kitchen. Holidays are for everyone, including mom, and everyone needs to help. If they don’t, just ignore their crocodile tears. People step up if it matters to them. If your entire family doesn’t want to do something, it’s OK to let that tradition fall by the wayside.
7. Schedule fun!
Ice-skating, frosting cookies, doing crafts, playing board games and watching favorite holiday movies are just as important as buying gifts. Actually, they are more important. Plan ahead and sprinkle in fun throughout the holiday season. Don’t wait until your errands are done, because they never will be. So much can pass by blink of an eye. Our children will never be this small again. Next year there may be a new family member added, one lost, or an unexpected move in your future. Celebrate now! Love now!
8. Give what you can and nothing else.
Stick within your budget. A real friend or a loving family member doesn’t want you to give something you can’t afford. Nobody else matters. There is no magic in dishonesty, so don’t spend what you don’t have. My husband and I give to our kids, our mothers and our sisters’ families. That’s it. We try to reach out to other people we care about through a holiday party, a plate of cookies or a Christmas card. We can offer those things with love and within our means.
That is what makes a gift meaningful.
That is what keeps holidays meaningful.