Inside: Set yourself up for success by preparing for the holidays better this year. Find fun activities and events, win with money and check off your gift list early. These things and more will have you feeling more “It’s a Wonderful Life” and less “Scrooge” this year.
Confession: I’m writing this post in what can only be described as the dog days of summer. The heat index has far surpassed the 100-degree mark for over a week, making the sheer fact that I’m writing this post feel nothing short of insane.
There are still so many exciting and fun things to check off the list before (gasp!) the holidays….the first day of school, Halloween…heck—Labor Day.
But the holidays? We look forward to this time of year ALL year long. And spending a proper amount of time focusing on making those two months of a year a success, are well-worth it.
And then it hits you….the holidays are Here.
Panic sets in and your mind starts racing with a brand new list of “to-do’s.”
This year was going to be different. It was going to be the year where you had everything locked down by December 1st. A cash-only Christmas season. One filled with lots of great memory-making activities, family photos and the perfect gifts for all of your loved ones.
And now you’ve done it…again.
If only you’d stumbled upon a helpful post filled with inspiration on preparing for the holidays that makes you truly excited and ready for them this year—you’d be ready with a clear vision and set plan of action.
As with anything in life, the more prepared you are the easier it is to navigate through it smoothly.
*By the way, if you’ve haven’t yet, take a peek at my checklist on preparing for the holidays, you can do it now. But keep reading, because I’ll go into much more detail below.
Getting Intentional This Holiday Season
1. Create a Holiday Budget
There are two ways to do gift-buying for the holidays:
#1. Treat it as if it’s an unexpected emergency. You may know the drill. Throw everything on the credit card now, and worry about it later. Falling into this autopilot spending trap isn’t difficult to do. It can happen to those of us with the best intentions when we’ve been too busy to
In my experience, this last-minute mindset (and having a million other things on my mind) causes a lot of stress. Something has to give somewhere. Sadly, the old credit card frenemy is always there when I want to do some mindless spending. I’ll admit, it feels good in the moment to buy the perfect gifts throwing caution to the wind with cost. But you’ll be paying for it in more ways than one when the bills start rolling in in January.
Love yourself more by planning ahead.
short list of tips to stay on track:
- Make a list of everyone you plan to buy for. Click here to download the Holiday Gifting Memory Jogger and Gift Tracker.
- Determine your budget for gifting. When it’s all said and done—how much money do you want to set aside to cover the cost of gifts this year. From there, allocate a dollar amount to everyone you have listed. Check out these other great resources for tips on budgeting for Christmas: Budgeting Made Easy & EveryDollar.
- Don’t forget the details. Things like postage and wrapping supplies can add up—so make sure they’re factored into your overall plan as well.
- Start saving early. If you haven’t started for gifts already, take the total amount you’d like to spend on gifts and divide it by the number of months you have to save. Then, add a line-item into your monthly budget for that amount and save it. You can withdraw it as a cash fund, or create a savings account and deposit the money there.
- Remember to account for the cost of activities you’ve planned to make the holidays memorable (special food, plays, photo sessions, breakfast with Santa, sleigh rides, etc.)
2. Create a Holiday Activity Calendar
Now that you’re ready to get intentional with your money this holiday season, but just as important (and maybe more-so) is getting intentional with your time. Take a moment to ponder the following questions.
- What were some of your favorite traditions growing up? Were those the things that made the holidays feel like the holidays?
- How will you incorporate some of those same traditions (and those of your husband) into your immediate family’s life?
- What new traditions would you like to create?
I have great memories of our family getting dressed up to see the Nutcracker each year. A different experience with each city we lived in. Denver, San Francisco, Detroit, Manhattan. Sure, it was special to me as a kid. But the real gift was the memories that those outings created for me and my sisters. This is a tradition that Erik & I were so happy to carry on with Emerson starting this past year (and Luke when he gets old enough to sit through it).
Activity: Make a bucket list of anything you and your family would like to do this season. Write it down, along with the estimated cost next to it—and have fun checking them off the list come November & December.
Another one? Making Christmas cookies together as a family. Any song by Nat King Cole or Jonny Mathis takes me right back to our kitchen table. Baking flour spread across the table (and everywhere else). The feel of the dough as I squeezed it between my fingers. The sweet and delicious taste of the almond flavored sugar cookie dough. Because sneaking little bites of when my mom wasn’t looking was the best part of the whole event.
Another low cost tradition that brings big smiles? Making Christmas cookies together as a family!
Any song by Nat King Cole or Jonny Mathis takes me right back to our kitchen table. Baking flour spread across the table (and everywhere else). The feel of the dough as I squeezed it between my fingers. The sweet and delicious taste of the almond flavored sugar cookie dough. Because sneaking little bites of when my mom wasn’t looking was the best part of the whole event.
Activity: Make a bucket list of everything you and your family would like to starting on Thanksgiving-eve and ending New Year’s Day. Write it down, and hang the sheet up on your refrigerator. Have fun checking them off the list come November & December! Be sure to budget for any items that’ll cost you some cash.
Related Post: Giving the Gift of Presence
3. Family Photos
There are so many great reasons to get professional pictures of your family at the holidays.
- You can never have too many quality photos of your family to put up around your house.
- These pictures make for great holiday card photos and decorations in your home for years to come.
- Mini sessions are EVERYWHERE right now. A mini session is a 15-30 minute photoshoot in a themed setting. Shorter durations help keep the price affordable and is perfect for the short attention span of littles. Be on the lookout for mini sessions NOW because they tend to book up FAST.
The best places to find them? I have great luck on Facebook. Search in local mom’s groups or even just searching photographers in your area. Take a look around their page and, if there’s nothing listed, send them a quick message to get the 411.
4. Holiday Greeting Cards
When it comes to remembering loved ones, there are so many different ways to do it. From newsletters to greeting cards to the most popular photo cards (see above!).
It’s a tradition that seems to have fallen victim to technology, social media, and lives that are packed to the brim with busyness. But it’s a tradition worth keeping alive!
keeping it simple:
I’ve found that keeping things simple is key. Overcomplicating the project can lead to overwhelm—and ultimately, a failed project altogether.
1. Pick a card creating service of your choice.
There are a million great ones to choose from these days. Some key things to consider are price, printing and delivery options and design options. Most companies offer personalized envelope options, while others will go so far as to also print your recipient’s address as well. If you’re really in the mood to delegate, a special few will even stamp and ship your cards out for you. Here’s a great holiday card round-up from Refinery 29 on card companies to choose from.
2. Create a Christmas Card recipient list.
An Excel or Google Spreadsheet will work best. This way, you can easily send it to a card company if you choose to have your envelopes professionally addressed or mailed for you. Or, you can easily print your own Avery labels to label your own cards.
Gift giving is definitely one of the most fun parts of the season. It is also one of the easiest areas to lose control of your budget if you aren’t Uber-aware and intentional about how and what you buy.
Key Questions to Ask Yourself:
1. Who will you be buying gifts for this year? Determine a set monetary amount you want to stay within for gifts this year and break that down per person. Every line item under this one has added costs associated with it compared to other times of the year. So, in all actuality, July might not be such a crazy time to start planning after all! Click here to get access to my free Holiday Expense Memory Jogger, which will help you in brainstorming all of the extras you’ll need to account for in November & December.
November and December are unique in that, along with the regular meal planning we have to do—we also have to plan for the bigger holiday meals as well! Here are some things to keep in mind for each of the big holidays.
Will you be hosting Thanksgiving or having a quiet holiday with immediate family only? This matters, because if you’re headed to Grandma’s house, you’ll need to account for, not only your world-famous pumpkin pie, but also any travel costs and gifts you’ll be bringing.
Christmas & New Years
A lot of the same points above are relevant for Christmas Eve and Christmas.
Since we live far from family, we’ve grown accustomed to spending a quiet Christmas at home. Our typical Christmas-eve is pretty low-maintenance. We eat a light lunch and fill up on cookie dough as we make those fresh, delicious cookies for Santa.
Nighttime is usually jam-packed with
Christmas Day? We like a great make-ahead breakfast casserole that we can throw into the oven to have baking while we spend time watching our kids tear through the gifts that Santa brought.
We usually do a larger meal as an early dinner. It’s not unusual for us to spend $100+ just for the foods we’ll consume between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
New Year’s is much the same! We love splurging on fun appetizers and
But for us, the first step is being mindful about our tendencies, and then preparing for them properly.
7. Set some time Aside for You
The holiday season is undoubtedly one of the most stressful times of the year. Even if you’ve done a great job of prepping ahead of time and cut your stress in—half—say, there’s still a lot more to it.
There are a million activities and events to attend. People everywhere are in a massive rush, making a simple task like going to the grocery store or mall feel stressful. It can feel hard to slow down with so much going on.
That’s why it is SO important for you to INSIST on an outlet or opportunity for self-care. A massage, facial, pedicure or hour to yourself to curl up and read a good book. Whatever it is that fills your cup, do it. My #1 recommendation is to make a promise to yourself to make sure that it happens. And the best way to do that? Make an appointment or reservation somewhere TODAY for sometime in early to mid-December. Mark it on your calendar in permanent ink. And when they call to confirm your appointment a week prior do NOT cancel. It may seem indulgent or impossible. But it’s necessary.