11 Tips to Help You Prepare for the Holidays
In between parties, gift shopping, and planning your meals, the holidays are the busiest time of the year. The kids get to play outside in the cold. Dads are busy putting up lights and setting up thee tree. Moms might spend more time in the kitchen, whipping up delicious gingerbread cookies, brewing hot chocolate, and preparing the family’s holiday favorites. Certainly, these are events that most families don’t get to do on a daily basis. But the holidays, well, they’re an exception.
While it’s all fun, cheery, and even sentimental, celebrating the holidays can get more than a little stressful. This is especially true if you do things at the last minute. You could end up giving generic gifts, whipping up the most convenient food, or booking an expensive spur of the moment trip. All in all, the lack of preparation and the busyness of the season can take a toll on you, as well as your finances.
You can make the holidays as easy and breezy as possible with some careful and advanced planning. There are many things that you can prepare beforehand, such as shopping for gifts and planning for trips so you get the most deals and avoid stress. After all, it’s the season to be merry and you can be. You just need to plan some things ahead of time and make the most out of your holidays.
Importance of Sharing the Holidays With Family
Many of us go the extra mile while celebrating the holidays. It’s a very special season when the kids are off from school, parents get to take a several days from work and family and relatives get the chance to get together. That alone is a great reason why the holidays are important. However, there are others why spending time with family during the holidays is even more essential.
Reconnect with Family
The holiday is the perfect time to step away from our busy schedules and reconnect with the people we love. It’s easy to stay connected with family around the world with the help of modern technology, but nothing beats one-on-one, face-to-face interactions.
Strengthen Your Family Bonds
Being able to spend several days away from our jobs lets us to enjoy our family time. It’s a great time to let everything else go and take our roles in the family to heart a little more deeply.
Time to Relax
Imagine having a couple of days without a boss hovering down your neck or working so hard just to reach your sales quota? Imagine a moment when you can pack your suitcase and take a trip without work beckoning you? Most of us go through the motions of our jobs that come to a point of burning out. The holiday is a great way to be away from work and put ourselves in a more peaceful, loving environment, even if it’s just for a few weeks. A well-spent holiday with the family guarantees renewed energy upon our return to work.
The holidays are some of the rare opportunities for families to be together, share, bond and feel loved. It is essential that families plan their holidays accordingly to make it memorable, fun and stress-free.
How to Prepare for the Holidays
Celebrating the holidays is even more meaningful if you spend it with family. There are a number of things to plan and prepare for to ensure a fun and wonderful holiday. From observing family traditions, whipping up the menu, and shopping for gifts, the celebration can get a little stressful.
We’ve rounded up 11 things you can plan and prepare for in advance so you can get into the spirit of the holidays feeling relaxed and happy while everything is in order.
Your family photo is the most personal and heartwarming gift you can give to family and friends. Many people have made it a tradition to have their family photos taken before Christmas so they can send them as postcards to their loved recipients. And for people who you don’t get to see you often, these family photos show how your family has grown over the years and is a great way to stay connected.
With that said, you need to do some planning with regards to taking the best family photos for the holidays. You can start with deciding on a theme. You can opt for a photo near your beautiful Christmas tree or take it outside, against the white backdrop of snow. As far as theme is concerned, there’s a lot of online resources you can pull ideas from, such as Pinterest and stock photo websites.
Next, you need to decide on your outfit. As a family, it would be a great idea to have matching outfits so you’re all coordinated. However, if this is not your cup of tea, there’s no harm in wearing whatever you want.
Lastly, you have to decide if you’re going to hire a professional to do your photos. If you have a good camera and some basic photography skills, you can capture wonderful family photos yourself and avoid paying hundreds of dollars. However, if you’d rather pose and smile without getting stressed out, hiring a professional photographer is also a sound idea.
If you’re planning to give some of those photos as a gift to family and friends, it’s wise to decide on a size now and shop for frames early.
Plan Your Gift List
Receiving gifts druing holidays is only half the fun. The other half is giving them. You might feel some pressure in nailing down the perfect gifts for specific recipients (without blowing your budget), so it’s always best to plan your gift-giving strategy as early as you can.
Of course, the first thing you’ll need is a list. Sit down and list all the people you’re going to give gifts to. Next to the person’s name is the gift you have in mind. And then write down a realistic budget for each gift. Keep this list handy because you’ll never know when the items will go on sale and you can save some cash in the process.
If you’re sending gifts to another city or country or any faraway place, it’s best to call or email the recipient and ask for gift ideas. On the one hand, this might blow the surprise factor of gift-giving, but it also ensures the receiver will find your present lovely and most useful.
As for keeping things within your budget, you want to check your list twice. Consider your overall budget for gift-giving and determine if there are cheaper, but still nice, alternatives to certain gifts. Instead of giving moderately-priced products to colleagues you barely talk to, why not consider baking treats and goodies for them? There are ways to make gifting fun and heartfelt without forcing you to tighten your purse strings for the people closest to you.
Plan Your Trips & Reunions
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are the busiest times for travel. Thanksgiving is busier by 54% and Christmas/New by 23% than the regular days of the year.
So if you’re planning a trip over the holidays, you have to plan ahead of time. Ideally, you should have a destination in mind a few months in advance for this year’s trip. Picking a vacation spot on a whim will be so stressful and expensive. There are several things that you need to consider like airline tickets, hotel accommodations, rental cars, and so forth. Consider saving up and reserving them early so you don’t have to charge everything on your card.
Family reunions should also be planned in advance. From the last reunion, decide who will organize the next one the following year and figure out where it will be held.
Most people prefer vacation rentals because they’re more spacious yet less expensive than hotel rooms. If this is the route that you’re going to take, consider picking a place that’s most convenient for everybody.Second, designate tasks to minimize the stress and expenses. Ask for people who could take care of food and drinks; money matters, games and entertainment and so on. This is a family reunion after all, and there’s no reason why you should be doing it alone. Enlist the help of everyone who can chip in their time and resources.
Remember, there are many things to consider and details to iron out to achieve the perfect family reunion. You might need to take some extra time off work, save money for the trip, or re-arrange your calendar.
Look Up Holiday Meal Recipes
Food is one of, if not the main star at holiday gatherings. Families bond over food, so it makes sense to make your meals and recipes a notch better than your regular meals.
Plan your holiday meals at least a couple of weeks before so you can get an excellent head-start on grocery shopping and cooking some meals in advance. Like shopping for gifts, going to the store without a list can lead to impulsive spending.
What you can do is look up holiday meal recipes. Perhaps you’d want to keep your traditional meals on the table with a few new ones for some variety.
If you feel like the holidays are going to be too demanding on the food front, consider cooking certain meals in advance so you can save more prep time. For instance, desserts, casseroles and puddings will keep well in the fridge. Just thaw and reheat a few hours before mealtime. Also, there are a couple of meals that you can throw in at the last minute, perfect for when some guests arrive unexpectedly and you’re afraid of running out of food.
Lastly, take out your slow cooker and learn how to recycle holiday meals into wonderful next-day recipes. This should help eliminate waste, save you time, and make things a little easier for you in the kitchen.
Buy a Turkey / Ham
A Thanksgiving table is never complete without turkey the same way Christmas dinner is never complete without ham. Without them, the holidays aren’t just the same.
It is important to time your purchase so that you don’t have to stuff your freezer with turkey and ham. For instance, five pounds of turkey typically thaw in at least a day, so it’s best to consider how many people are coming so you know how big of a turkey to get. If you’re only feeding your immediate family, you should be able to find small to mid-sized turkey easily.
And just like your Thanksgiving turkey, you should also keep in mind how much ham you need to buy. If you’re serving it as the main course, it’s best to plan on each guest having at least 1/2 pound of ham (if it’s bone-in ham). If it’s boneless, each guest will probably have at least 1/3 pound of ham.
Make A Christmas Playlist
Playing Christmas songs instantly lights up the mood and brings cheer to your home, whether you’re cooking some last-minute dishes or decorating your home. With a Christmas playlist in the background, everything just seems to feel more cheerful. These tracks also add more meaning why you’re celebrating the holidays in the first place.
There’s a wide range of songs that you can download and play for the holidays, spanning from various niches and generations. However, if you’d like to keep a few classics and favorites, consider Jingle Bells, Twelve Days of Christmas, Holy Night, Silent Night, and Rudolf the Rednose Reindeer. For more variety, also save Santa Baby (Madonna), All I Want for Christmas is You (Mariah Carey), Underneath the Tree (Kelly Clarkson), and all of Michael Buble’s Christmas hits.
Decorate All The Things
Spread the holiday cheer and vibe by making it Christmas-y wherever you go. Your home in particular, should look alive with the holiday spirit with festive lights, ornaments, and garland.
So as soon as the Halloween is over, take those skulls and spiders out and store them in your basement. Take out your decorations from last year and do an inventory. Even if you’re changing themes or colors this year, chances are, most of them get to have their space in some part of your home anyway.
But first, you need to decide on the tree. As far as holiday decors go, the tree takes center stage. Are you going with a fresh tree this year or the synthetic one in the attic? Either way, you should be able to find one locally, but you need to shop early in order to get the best price (and pick of the litter).
Second, take a look at your lights and make sure that they’re safe to use. When in doubt, just buy new ones. Not burning down your house always takes precedence over saving $20.
Now, for most decorations like wreathes, ornaments, candles, and Santas, you can always recycle and upcycle what you already have. If you feel like you need to add more, list them down so you don’t forget when you hit the stores. Also, it’s always best to shop early because that’s when you get the best prices.
Don’t limit yourself when it comes to decorating. You can add a holiday touch to basically anywhere. You can put up lights outside your home, and hang some more on your windows. Decorate your entryway, stairs, kitchen, dining area, and even your bedroom. Every nook and cranny should appear festive and cheerful as long as you’ve got something to decorate with.
Shop Early & Look For Deals Online
It is very likely that you’re going to spend some money on gift-giving, but it also pays to plan your holiday shopping methodically in order to save more time and money. The key strategy here is to shop early.
Some people pick up pieces of items all throughout the year and simply store them until it’s time to give them away for Christmas. If you find an interesting antique that your mother will love at a great deal, then it’s probably to spend for it now than wait until the holidays roll in. As the law of supply and demand teaches us, more people will be spending for this season so merchants are also in the best position to increase their prices. And if you don’t keep a rein on your spending, you’ll always have the tendency to go overboard.
So before you hit the stores and take your cash or card out, you need to keep these things in mind.
First, you need to have a budget. Have an honest, open discussion about gift-giving with your family and make sure that you’re all on board about your gifts’ budgets. If you’re financially pinching right now, it doesn’t hurt to scale back with your budget. In fact, you don’t have to spend a lot of money just so the recipient feels that he/she is loved. You just need a gift that you can give from the heart.
Second, shop early. If you’ve been planning this year’s holidays since last year, you would have started picking gifts during off-season when prices are incredibly lower. If you wanted to give your wife a nice but affordable swimwear to wear for this year’s summer vacation, last autumn or winter would have been perfect for shopping because of the lesser demand. If you wanted to give the kids some art supplies, you’ll find prices cheaper at the end of the school season.
But if you haven’t done any shopping for the holidays several months back, you can still snag some great prices as long as you do it early. Hit the malls when they’re having discounts and clearance sales. Or look for cheap deals online. Even better, try to figure cheaper alternatives like giving personalized crafts to friends and colleagues or sending out your delicious holiday cookies to your close neighbors.
As much as possible, avoid the holiday rush because that would make you more vulnerable to overspending.
Buy Scented Candles
Don’t make scented candles an afterthought because they’ll make your holiday setting even more inviting. Once all the lights are up and your favorite holiday music is playing in the background, doesn’t it feel incomplete without that familiar holiday scent?
Scented candles are the best welcome to visiting family and friends because they’ll instantly smell a scent of Christmas as soon as they enter your front door. This year, make sure to stock on candles with your favorite scent, light them up, and position them neatly inside your home. Let’s not forget that a holiday table setting is never complete without candles!
Want to add more cheer into the air? You don’t have to limit yourself with candles. You can use fresh greenery to give your home a pine-y scent. You can also use pine cones, peppermint sprays and scented fire starters to further bring the holiday smell inside your home.
Watch Christmas Movies
Kids will have more time watching TV now that they’re on a holiday break, and what better way to instill and remind them of the reason for the holidays than a great Christmas movie? After all the cooking, decorating and finishing up small details, you can now spend your down time with the family all snuggled up before the television.
There’s a whole range of Christmas movies to choose from. There are tearjerker films, funny ones and even cartoon/animated movies for kids. If you’re looking to download or stock up on DVDs before things get busy, consider getting these films into your list:
- Miracle on 34th Street
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
- It’s a Wonderful Life
- Home Alone
- Frosty the Snowman
- The Nightmare Before Christmas
- Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
- A Christmas Carol
Make An Advent Calendar
Build up the fun and excitement several days leading to Christmas with an advent calendar. All kids and most adults love a surprise, even if it’s just a chocolate treat or candy every day. Advent calendars are similar to regular calendars. However, advent calendars are more exciting and creative because kids can open a surprise corresponding to the day’s date.
While you can purchase ready-made advent calendars from the stores, why not make one? With a cardboard, glue, scissors and some art materials, you’ll have a creative personalized advent calendar to display in your home. You can also ask guests and family to leave a holiday message on the calendar.
LET’S BE JOLLY!
The holidays are understandably a busy season, but it’s also one that most of us look forward to as a family. At this moment, we get to step out from our school or work routine, connect with family and bask into the cheer and merriment.
But the holidays can also get demanding, especially with your time and money. In between shopping for meals and gifts, booking trips to taking care of logistics, you might find yourself way more stressed than you ought to.
You can save yourself from the stress and worries if you’ve already set up a budget, created your holiday menu and planned your trips. Start preparing for the holidays now so you can be jolly and stress-free!