Simplify your holiday activities so you can get everything done and still have a little time left over to enjoy the season. How? Build a holiday notebook. The best way to build a holiday notebook is to start during the current season and add things that occur to you. Keep it handy all season long including the month after Christmas, so you can organize after Christmas purchases for the next year.
Get a three ring binder with a couple zipper pockets, CD holders, and dividers. Organize your notebook into categories that make sense to you. The following outlines one approach.
Put a calendar for the month of November and December in your notebook. Schedule everything from kids' events to office parties.
Devote another section to gifts. To keep spending in check, establish a realistic budget. The expected per person expenditure for gifts in 2005 is about $750. That's a lot of moolah. If you can afford it and it gives you joy, knock yourself out. If you woke up January 2 last year with a big credit card bill and a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, a budget will help. Get creative—it's fun!
If you haven't set a budget or have no idea how to control your spending, save receipts for each person or use a budget application like Quicken to just log spending as it occurs. If you have a couple kids, it's a good way to make sure you're being reasonably balanced with them. Run a total of expenditures every so often. That alone will stop you dead in your tracks if you tend to get a little crazy.
Make a master list of everyone you want to buy a gift for. For each person on your list, put a target dollar amount to spend. Make a page for each person and add those pages behind the master list. If there is personal information you want to add such as the shoe sizes of your kids, nieces and nephews, and the collar size of your brother-in-law, this is the place to do it. Add other bits of info like personal preferences for color, brand, special interests. Brainstorm ideas and list them.
When you purchase gifts, list the amount spent. Use the total amount, plus shipping costs, to set your budget for next year.
Watch ads and shop sales when possible. Make gifts. Buy a case of good wine; many stores offer case discounts. Use your imagination and start early enough to avoid rushing around at the last minute.
Make a list of everything you need from tape, paper, and ribbon to tree and outdoor lighting. Assess condition of everything and note items that need to be replenished. Buy only what is essential to make it through this season. Purchase everything else after Christmas. Replace what you use this year with after Christmas clearances on wrapping paper and such. Don't pay full price if you can avoid it
Assemble wrapping and ribbon, shipping boxes, tape, and peanuts ahead of time. Don't get everything ready to go, then have to make a special trip to find a box. That delay can stretch out and you'll miss your window of opportunity for shipping. That equals unnecessary stress. . Use your shredder to make additional packing material. And if you want to recycle what you have, wrap gifts in brown paper from grocery bags and tie with raffia.
Pace yourself to get gifts that need to be mailed or shipped out in the mail early in December. Don't lolligag and have to ship overnight at the last minute. This can save you a ton of money in shippingl charges. Keep a record of the shipping costs, so you can factor those into your budget next year.
Make menus for the entire month of December. Review your recipes; print and include these in a section of your notebook. For many families, it's just not Hannukah or Christmas without traditional favorites.
Most of us don't have the means to hire event planners to pull off our small gatherings in style, but with a little advance planning and lots of list making, you can have wonderful celebrations with family and friends. Add pages as needed to track activities. The more lists and pages you add, the more detailed the history and the easier your planning will be next year.
The point you start with, which is to open your home and hospitality to friends and family, shouldn't get lost in a frenetic rush to make everything perfect. Relax. Take a deep breath. Count to ten. Smile. Love the ones your with.
You may have other categories to consider such as traveling, itineraries for yourself or other family members, holiday rentals of equipment or that cabin on the mountain. Add them as you see fit.
After the holiday season is past, consider adding a journal section to record what worked and what didn't. It makes a memory to keep and helps plan the next year. More likely than not, you'll forget from one year to the next, and it's supremely helpful to know what you gave as gifts two years ago. Over a couple years, your notebook forms a very interesting history.
Clean and store holiday decorations, dishes, music, and so on together. Note location. Almost half of all Americans can't find their Christmas stuff the following year, so they have to buy new.
Store your Christmas notebook where you can find it all year long.
If you're under the gun with too much to do this holiday season, consider hiring a maid service to help with big cleaning jobs. ContractorNexus can provide friendly, qualified pros to help.