It is no secret to anyone who knows me, I like to be organized and I like everything to go as planned. But we all know that never happens. Which is why around the holidays, I try to get as much done ahead of time as possible. That way if something comes up at work, with my freelance clients or with my team (I am coaching again at Nichols) I am not forced to rush through something.
But getting organized at the holidays is no easy feat and takes planning and discipline. It can be hard to manage everything, especially if this is your first holiday season in a new place, with a new job or it is your first time on your own.
I have been there and figured out what works for me so that when my vacation from work starts (December 23rd) I can sit down with some cookies and a holiday cocktail with my family and not be scrambling. In the last couple of weeks, I have had many of my friends and co-workers ask how I get everything done so early. So I thought I would share my secrets to staying sane with so much going on around the holidays.
I think this year I bought my first gift in the spring. I don’t like just buying gifts for the sake of buying them. Which is why throughout the year as I see things that I know someone would like I buy them.
Almost all of my Christmas shopping was done by the middle of November; I would say approximately 90%. (I will also say that all the birthday presents for my family through the month of March have also been purchased and wrapped, not to brag). But when you are in the spending mood it makes things easy.
One of the things I don’t like about the holidays is all the wrapping that must be done. I come from a big family which means there are at least 50 gifts under my tree right now. So my secret is to not procrastinate the wrapping. The second I get something, I wrap it. I use a lot of the pre-wrapped boxes (the ones with the designs on the covers; as well as, a lot of bags. This makes it easier.
But you may be asking yourself how do I remember what is what? That is my tip #2.
Keep a List (and Check It Twice)
Every year, I have an entire excel file stored on my computer that outlines who is getting what. Sadly, my computer decided to delete this file in mid-December this year. Thankfully all of my shopping was done at that point and everything already had labels on it. If that had happened any earlier, my system probably would not have worked out so well. My recommendation to myself next year is to keep a backup of this list whether it is on my external hard drive, a USB drive, or a physical paper list. So that I am not stressing if this happens again.
Because I had this list, I knew exactly who I had already bought for and who I still needed to buy for. I don’t get as elaborate as I know some do with prices and things like that because frankly the amount I spend on people doesn’t really have to equal out in my mind because the gifts I buy for people are ones I know they will like and are so specific to them that price doesn’t matter (outside of breaking my bank account of course).
The only time price does matter at this point in my life is for office parties or the Girl’s Annual White Elephant where we set limits. I am sure this may change when I eventually start a family.
This year, I bought several misc. gifts from Amazon to have on hand as I was thinking about specific gifts for people. These were gifts that I knew two or more people in my family would like so if I found something for one of them then this gift would go to the other.
At the holidays, I always get my money’s worth for my prime membership because I order so much. And even better was this year, Discover offered 5% cashback on all purchases made on Amazon July-December. So it was like everything was at least on sale a bit. Or all my Christmas purchases were getting me closer to my cruise!
For the first time this year, I used Prime Day and Amazon Deals. They were great to see what was coming up on sale and buy it before the deal opened up to the masses thanks to my Prime Membership.
I highly encourage anyone to get Amazon Prime due to the free 2-day shipping benefits. Not only is it great for the shopper who buys ahead of time but also for the procrastinator who needs a last minute gift for a birthday or holiday! Plus, with all the added benefits of Prime Video and Music, it is like getting Netflix for free. Personally, I find their movie selection way better on Amazon Prime but Netflix still takes the cake when it comes to shows. At just $99 a year that is less than you pay for your Netflix subscription over the course of the year, so why not?
I am someone who grew up in a decorated house at the holidays and I just remember the look on everyone’s faces when they walked in. It is hard to not smile when you see the stockings over the fireplace or the Christmas tree in the corner of the room.
But we all know life gets very hectic (and I don’t even have kids yet). So don’t stress about decorating. Do it little by little or all at once, whatever works for you. Since this is the first year for Brian and myself in our new house, I went out and bought more decorations (I usually wait until the day after Christmas to get them all on clearance but I splurged). We had a lot already from our last place and from me in college but I wanted the house to feel like a home at the holidays.
We have an artificial tree because we aren’t home for the actual week of Christmas like many young professionals and know we would just come home to a dead tree and needles all over the ground.
I started decorating the house the weekend after Thanksgiving and it worked out great. Our tree only had lights on it for about a week as we wanted to make sure we decorated it together. But we weren’t worried. We knew we would be able to do it and eventually it got done.
Don’t Stress this Holiday Season
The holidays are stressful enough with trying to get wrapped up before the books close at work and have everything organized for your family time. Don’t sweat the little things this year. Setting yourself up for success early, before the malls get crazy and deals start selling out can pay off. After all, no one wants to be like those who are trying to get an Amazon Alexa just days before Christmas. All those people will be waiting until January 20th for it to be delivered. Being ahead of the game can save you the time of having to panic about what your backup gift will be.
It may be too late to not procrastinate this year but why not set yourself up for success next holiday season with post-holiday tips.