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While December 25 is, for most of us, a day filled with gifts, food, and laughter, the lead-up to the big event is usually extremely hectic. Between family disagreements and trying to figure out exactly how Secret Santa is going to work this year, there’s a lot to think about and do. With a little planning, though, you can tackle the festive season in a more organized, efficient way, and be ready to relax come Christmas Day — with a glass of sparkling wine in one hand and a plate of food in the other.
1. Talk about the plans with your family.
Talk to your family now about where you’ll go and what you’ll do (games, anyone?). Avoid arguments and misunderstandings closer to the date by being open and transparent about what you’d like to do (and what your family is capable of doing, travel-wise and time-wise).
2. Design a loose menu.
After you’ve figured out where you’re going and who you’ll see, start to plan a loose menu — either as the host or co-host, if you’re going to someone else’s home. It doesn’t have to be too specific. Just think about dietary requirements (if there are six vegetarians at the table, a ham probably won’t work) and what you’d like to serve. If you’re planning on something substantial, like a whole turkey or even lobsters, order them now to avoid the rush.
3. Make decisions about presents early on.
Not what you’re actually gifting people, but what you’ll do this year. Is your family ready for Secret Santa (i.e. one gift per person), or does everyone still expect to give and receive individually? Again, having the conversation earlier makes it easier for everyone to be organized later on. You might also consider gifting children only, or having a “silly present” rule — that is, a small novelty gift with a price limit.
4. Stock up on booze.
If you think Christmas isn’t really Christmas without sparkling wine, look out for bulk specials now and take advantage when they pop up. Because really, you can never have too much sparkling wine, can you?
5. Prep your home.
If you’re going away, consider putting your house on Airbnb to earn extra income over the holidays. If you’re staying put and hosting, consider hiring a cleaner (now) to come in the week before Christmas to give everything a once-over. And think about other jobs that might need to be done before you invite the family over — window washing, for instance, or landscaping.
6. Make a budget.
If you’re the type who gets to the end of the silly season with credit card debt and a sense of regret, now’s the time to make a budget plan and stick to it. Allocate an amount for gifts, food, drinks, and entertainment over the Christmas season, and set the amount aside for spending. If you want to reduce your holiday spending and subsequent stress, you’ll need to make a budget and stick to it.
7. Use gift cards.
Got gift cards lying around? Use them over the Christmas period to save a little (or a lot of) money. Check out your credit card or frequent-flyer points, too — these can often be swapped for gift cards you can use for groceries, travel, or gifts.
8. Buy gifts now.
If you see something that you know would work well for a gift, buy it now instead of waiting until December and potentially missing out. Extra points to you if the item is on sale right now.
9. Allocate responsibility.
If you’re hosting, tell people now what they can bring. Again, it doesn’t have to be specific, but knowing that you have to put together a salad or dessert is easier if you have time to prepare.
10. Book something relaxing for yourself.
Book something like a massage or facial — now, for a week before Christmas. Those appointments fill up all too quickly in December, so get in now for a little pick-me-up that you won’t regret.
This article was originally written by Natasha Ledgerwood. For more, check out our sister site, Homes to Love.