I know, I know… You took a stroll through Hobby Lobby in June and rolled your eyes at the Christmas decor, already proudly displayed. Your Pinterest homepage is full of holiday ideas and recipes. You have Facebook friends who are already posting a countdown to Christmas, and you want to “unfriend” them for it… But just go with it.
I always start planning for the holidays in the summer. I usually start in June, but this year I had a baby in June and I am a little behind. I am just now getting started, but my husband is showing some interest in helping, so I’m sure I’ll still finish with very little stress.
This year, I will be hosting Thanksgiving dinner at my house. I don’t have a big house and my kitchen is decidedly tiny, but it’s still a good time. I have already planned the meal in my head, now I just need to write it down in my planning notebook. (Yes, I have a planning notebook. It makes all of this so easy! I found some free printable forms on Pinterest to help keep me on track: Living Well and Spending Less is a blog I often look at to help me simplify things. The author has a great holiday planning workbook that she has shared for free. She also has some other tips and insights into making life simple and peaceful. Check it out. You may look through it and find that some of the pages are useful to you and some are not. That’s okay, just print the ones you would use and stick them in a binder!) Back to Thanksgiving. This year I am keeping my menu simple and familiar. Last time I hosted, I tried a couple new recipes and they just didn’t turn out right. I am eliminating that stress by sticking with my childhood traditional dishes: turkey, my mom’s dressing, sweet potatoes, green beans with bacon and onions, a salad and rolls. It’s not about impressing everyone with new and different foods. It’s about enjoying the company of family and friends.
Now on to Christmas planning. Note that I said “planning,” not “decorating” –my husband won’t let me decorate for Christmas until after Thanksgiving. I do this early planning (and shopping, too) so that I can fully enjoy my family and friends when the holidays actually get started. Every year it is my goal to be finished with my Christmas shopping by Thanksgiving. It is still a tradition to go shopping on Black Friday with my mom and sisters, but if I’m already finished buying gifts, I just get to go along for the ride and enjoy the company of my family.
- I start by making a list of everyone I will be giving a gift to. Then Husbee and I sit down and figure out our budget by person. For example, we will be spending more on our own children than on our nieces, so we decide just how much to spend on each person (or group of people).
- Next, I take my list and actually decide what to give to each person, keeping my budget in mind. I may make them a homemade gift, give a gift card, or go buy something. **Side note: My sisters and I stopped doing gifts a couple years ago and we do an ornament exchange. It’s a nice tradition that saves money. We don’t need gifts from each other.
- The next step is done simultaneously with the previous: Shopping! Because I start so early, I have the advantage of shopping around for the best price. I look online, I look in stores at my leisure and then decide where to purchase from, again keeping my budget in mind. I don’t make myself have every single gift chosen before I start this process of purchasing gifts. I have used several different forms for planning gifts. You can search the internet to find these, or you could just use some plain old lined notebook paper. Whatever works best for you! I really like the on that is included in the planning workbook from the link above. Whatever form you decide to use, be sure to write your allotted budget for each person next to their name and then write the amount you actually spent after you purchase their gift.
- Once my gifts are purchased, I have to find a place to store them all before I am ready to put up my tree. I haven’t ever wrapped them early, but it’s not a bad idea- especially if you have left over wrapping paper from previous years. (You know it’s super cheap the few days after Christmas!) This part is difficult. I have always just stuffed them in a box in my closet, but now my older daughter is getting old enough to find them. I will either hide them in my attic or at work. (Don’t worry, she can snoop in my closet, but she can’t read yet!)
I get excited about the holidays every year. Because I plan so far in advance, I never feel stressed about it and that means it is a truly peaceful season for me.
Enjoy some comedic relief on a Wednesday!