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Either because of a global pandemic, a hard year, or the time that has just escaped, sometimes the holidays point us in and bring a lot of stress! Years ago I started simplifying the holidays to be less stressed and I’m so glad I did!
Simplifying the holidays also makes lean years feel less stressful (because there’s no expectation of tons of gifts) and makes it easy to list to-do for moms (who usually take care of everything). One way to simplify your vacation is to plan and prepare well in advance. These are the ways to plan your vacation now (and save my sanity!).
Create a budget
The first thing you need to do to start planning your vacation is to do it create a budget. If you’re like me, the holidays end up being more expensive than expected! That’s why creating a budget is a great idea. So instead of buying things the way you see them, you have a better idea of what you need and what fits your budget, so there’s not as much surprise (or guilt in January!).
I create my budget by first deciding how much we can reasonably afford for all things holiday-related. Then I create sub-budgets for each category:
- Gifts – for children, extended family and hostess gifts! Get a full list of ideas here.
- Decorations – If there is any decoration that needs to be replaced or something new that I want, I put it on this list.
- Menjars – I try to keep in mind that we have to eat regardless of whether it’s a holiday, but making a budget helps me figure out if we’ll be serving steak or turkey for Christmas dinner.
- Activities – Consider any activity that requires a budget. This could include an ugly sweater party, building gingerbread houses or making holiday crafts.
Once you have a set budget, you can move on to planning other (more fun) holiday things!
Assess your decorating needs
If decorating your home is an important part of your holiday celebration, it’s a good idea to evaluate what you have and what you need.
If the funds are adjusted this year, this is an easy place to cut costs. Just plan on using what you already have in your basement! But if you want to buy new decorations, now is a good time to find out what needs to be replaced or what decorations you want to upgrade.
I like to have an inventory list of our decorations in Notion (previously in the Notes app on my phone) so you can easily see what we have and mark if something is broken or needs to be updated.
We make it pretty simple out there (no one has ever accused me of being Martha Stewart!), But to inspire you even on a budget, here are some simple holiday-themed decorating ideas:
All of these ideas meet my standards for 1) minimal supplies to make, 2) minimal long-term storage, and 3) easy to reuse for other stations! Win!
Plan your Christmas cards
If you are a lover of Christmas postcards, preparing and sending your Christmas postcards can be the highlight of the season. If this is you, make sure you plan now so it doesn’t get overwhelming. Here are my suggestions:
- Make a list of updated recipients and email addresses
- Decide what type Christmas card will you send: do you need to take a family photo?
- Mark on the calendar the day you want to send the cards (sending them the first full week of December is a good bet to get them on time but not too soon).
- Get your family photos or updates finished and ready to send before Thanksgiving so you don’t have to worry about Thanksgiving holidays or the following week.
However, if holiday cards become a burden for you, it’s also okay to drop them this year. You can redirect this energy and money to other holiday activities, such as gifts or family traditions.
Make a list of gifts
If you’re like me, when you buy gifts you wrap them in the back of a closet and forget about half of them before you even wrap them. If you have a tighter budget this year (or just want to simplify the holidays), making a gift list is a good way to get organized and not buy in excess.
I start by making a list of the items I would like to buy for family members.
Because the pressure to buy so many gifts often only makes moms overwhelmed and exhausted, we started a new tradition! We follow the philosophy of making “want, need, carry, read” gifts. We have children:
- a material gift (flight)
- a gift of experience (need)
- new pajamas or anything else they need for their capsule cabinets (clothes)
- and finally a book (read).
This simplified gift has made a big difference in the level of stress during the holidays, as well as in the way our children appreciate the things they have and experience.
Mother Exhaustion Prevention Tip: Creating a list and then buying what’s on the list is an easy way to avoid overspending or getting into the trap of wondering if I’ve bought enough!
Collect gift ideas and DIY tutorials
I like to make homemade gifts to make for extended family members as they always feel more special. But it can also be a fun family holiday activity! Homemade gifts are a great way to cut costs if necessary without sacrificing the surprise factor.
If you are planning to make homemade gifts this year, now is the perfect time to get organized. Some gifts take a while to get ready, so they may need to start early. Here’s what I recommend:
- Choose what gifts you will make. (These DIY gift ideas can inspire you.)
- Find out how long it takes to be ready (not only active time, but also curing / drying / infusion time).
- Mark on the calendar when you need to start the project so that it is ready for packing and shipping (if necessary). Filming during the first week of December is a good general rule for gifts that need to be mailed. You can wait a week or so if you don’t need to send your gifts.
- Create a supply purchase list (be sure to check your budget as well).
- Mark a day on your calendar where you will buy the material you need for the gifts … and then get started!
When you have gifts and decorations out of the way, it’s time to plan fun holiday activities. I promise to schedule holiday activities so we can be sure we get to some of our own favorite holiday activities together. It’s fun to sit with the family and brainstorm together.
Here are some things that are usually on the list:
- Cook holiday treats
- Go to a friend’s annual party
- Choosing a Christmas tree
- Decorate the house and the tree
I try to do this brainstorming and schedule a week or two before Thanksgiving in case there is any Thanksgiving activity I want to schedule. I will also try to schedule New Year’s events as planned.
In years when there are few community events, we are left with family activities at home or in the backyard. These can be just as enjoyable with a little preparation and creativity!
Plan your holiday meals
The last thing I think of for the holidays are the meals. If I’m the host, I’ll obviously plan an entire meal. If we are visiting family, I will plan a plate or two to take with us.
Here’s what I do:
This is the meal planning app I use this helps with these two activities! It’s called Real Plans and saves a lot of time.
By making lists early, I can grab extra butter one week and maple syrup the next. This helps spread out shopping for a few weeks or months instead of a shopping trip (it also shortens my list when I need to buy new things just before the holidays).
Conclusion: Simple but ready is where you stand!
We all know it’s true … many of us moms look forward to the end of the holidays rather than the beginning due to the stress of it all!
Take the time to plan early (and keep the plan simple) it’s been a great way for me to really enjoy the season with my family and let go of a little more of the overwhelm that unfortunately can come with the season.
When you feel stressed for the holidays, take a deep breath and review these steps!
What are your favorite ways to plan ahead so you can enjoy your vacation?