Toi Degree column: Planning for the holidays

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 31, 2021

By Toi Degree
N.C. Cooperative Extension

I don’t know where you are in your holiday planning, but let me be among the first to remind you that the holidays are just around the corner! November is upon us — Thanksgiving is 25 days away and Christmas 55 days away. And if you are like me, you aren’t ready for either. Keep reading for suggestions on how to make the holidays as seamless as possible.

Plan ahead. 

It was Benjamin Franklin that said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

Sit down with a cup of something and a notebook, computer, your calendar, and do a mind dump of all the things you usually do or need or want to do during the holidays. Include it all: family traditions, church or work or community events you need or want to participate in, people you want to give gifts to, food you want to make, meals you want to serve, parties you plan to host or attend, etc. After you’ve captured it all, take a look and ask yourself:

  • How realistic is your list (keeping in mind daily commitments, stage of life you’re in, etc.)?
  • What can you cut from the list and still have the kind of holiday season you want to have?
  • What can you move around or change now to set yourself up to have the time and energy you need to do the things you want to do?

Develop a budget for the holidays.

Think about how much money you’re willing to set aside for each person you want to purchase a gift for. Having a budget written down now might help you resist the urge to overspend as the holidays get closer.

If the budget is an issue, take steps now to avoid uncomfortable situations during the holidays. Talk to extended family about skipping gifts, giving gifts only to the children, drawing names, and setting a cap on the amount (so nobody feels embarrassed because somebody else gave a more extravagant gift).

Shop ahead.

The steps above will help make it easier for you to get your holiday shopping done sooner rather than later. If you have the list of people you want to give gifts to and then brainstorm ideas of gifts for each, you’ll have it top-of-mind when you’re out and can be watching for those perfect gifts and watching for sales on the things you want to give.

Members of The Productive Woman Community offered some great ideas in their Facebook group discussion:

  • Ayrika, a mother of a small child, finds that doing Christmas layaway early works for her. By doing this, she hasn’t been as tempted to use credit cards as Christmas day draws closer.
  • Setting a budget and shopping ahead: Here is how Alsion made it work for her. She created a budget and bought all her Christmas presents early. They have been wrapped and are in the closet. With that done, her only expenses now will be any events/charity gifts.
  • Georgy said, “I always try to buy my gifts way ahead of time.” Georgy said that he focuses more on shopping at outlets, markets, etc., and not department stores.

Start decluttering.

Cluttered space contributes to anxiety and a lack of focus. On the other hand, a clean, clutter-free space helps lead to a more relaxed and peaceful frame of mind.

Starting now you can:

  • Clean out refrigerator and pantry well before it’s time to do holiday cooking; non-perishables that you won’t use can be donated to a food pantry.
  • Declutter kids’ rooms and find things to discard or donate. This might be a new holiday tradition of choosing gently used toys to donate to a shelter. Get the kids involved.
  • Declutter and refresh guest bedrooms and bathrooms that might be used by guests during holiday parties.
  • Declutter the master bedroom and make it a refuge for you during the busy holiday season.
  • Clean out the coat closet and make space for guest coats.
  • Clean out a closet or space for gifts, wrapping paper, etc., as you buy them. If you have the space for it, you could even set up a gift-wrapping station where you have everything you need at hand to wrap gifts.

Cook/bake ahead.

Are there any dishes or treats you traditionally serve that can be made ahead and frozen? Are there things you can have in the freezer to pull out to take to a party or to serve unexpected guests?

It may be a good idea to bake up a bunch of treats in advance and freeze them. Items such as loaf cakes, cookies, and pies freeze well and are easy to access for last-minute guests and parties.

Get a jump on your holiday cards or letter.

Take a family photo now; assemble/update addresses and begin addressing cards. I have heard of some people starting on their Christmas cards as early as October. The earlier you get started on them, the more likely you are to finish them up. Just don’t forget to mail them.

Make it meaningful.

Be intentional about your priorities, and think about what’s important to you and your family. Think about what things made the holidays memorable for you and incorporate those traditions.

For some, it may be preparing a special dish or stuffing stockings with goodies and trinkets.

Make personal time and self-care a priority, even during the holiday season.

Include some time for self-care and schedule your holiday-time appointments (hair? nails? massage? brunch with a beloved friend?) now.

I hope you have a smooth entry into the holiday season and enjoy every second of it. Now, let’s get planning!!

For additional resources visit:

Toi N. Degree is associate family and consumer education agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Contact her at 704-216-8970 or at .

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