To efficiently plan for the holidays, you need to make lists and lots of them!
I don’t consider myself an expert in anything, but when it comes to holiday planning, I’m close.
We have hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas many many times. It doesn’t matter if you have planned big holidays for a long time or this is your first time, make no mistake, it is a lot of work!
There is no need for the holidays to be overwhelming and stressful. All you need is an organized plan for completing tasks each month so you can relax and enjoy the holiday season.
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As a mom who plans holidays, you know it doesn’t matter if your children are little or grown, you still want to make their holiday a memorable one.
That is the payoff for all of your hard work, right? Holiday time is family time.
I like to have most of my holiday tasks completed by the end of November. When we get to December, I feel well prepared and can enjoy the holiday festivities with my family and friends.
Download my first 6 FREE Printable Lists and use whatever works for you. All Holiday Planning Lists are printable, but if you would like a digital version, we can do that.
Start checking things off your lists right now.
Lists Included in the Holiday Planner:
Get these now:
- Holiday Planning Master List
- September through December Calendars (blank, use year after year)
- Weekly Holiday Planners for each month
- Holiday Budget List
- Gift List for each person on your list. (includes ideas, purchases, price, and wrapped)
- Holiday Greeting Card List
Watch for these lists in upcoming posts:
- Black Friday Shopping List
- Cyber Monday Shopping List
- Menu Planning
- Christmas Eve Planning List
Not In the Holiday Spirit?
I certainly am not. You don’t have to worry about being in the holiday spirit. This is by far my favorite candle to get me in the spirit.
Truth is, if you follow these steps and use the lists, you will enjoy the spirit when it does hit you.
You Need a Master List
First of all, organize what needs to be done first by months and then by weeks.
Read over the Holiday Planning Master List and put a check mark by all the tasks you want to accomplish each month.
Fill in your monthly calendar with everything you checked on the Master List. You can also choose to organize your with Weekly Holiday Planners and add more details if you’d like.
Follow my posts for the next few months as I share tips and detailed “to do lists” to help you create the holiday season you want for your family.
Lists for September:
- Holiday Master List
- Calendars to Plan Monthly or Weekly
- Special Events List
- Budget List
September is all about planning with your lists.
1. Your first task is to make a “Master List” of all the things you need to accomplish this season as described above
2. Start shopping when you are in a store or online. You think that is crazy, right?
If you find a generic gift on sale, buy it. I start buying stocking stuffers in July, but more on stocking stuffers later.
Find a place in your closet or somewhere to store early gifts. You won’t be sorry.
3. Start a budget. Include expenses for gifts, food, tickets, etc. A Budget List is included in your downloads.
Having a budget at least lets you see how much you are spending and where the money is going. There are many hidden expenses that add up quickly. Be sure to keep you completed budget for planning NEXT year.
4. Search for holiday concerts, plays, parades, and other activities in your area.
Make a list of special events with dates and prices. If there is a special event that sells out each year like A Christmas Carol or Rudolph, buy your tickets!
If it turns out later, you can’t go, they will be easy to sell or make them a nice gift for someone. In our family, we have a tradition of seeing the Christmas
Carol play every year and it is money well spent. Don’t forget to add your special events to your budget!
Lists for October:
- Gift Buying List for Family
- Gift Buying Guides for everyone on your list.
1. If you send out holiday greeting cards, now is the time to think about a picture. Start shooting photos or make an appointment with a professional photographer
2. Start your Gift Buying List. Write down every idea you have for each person.
3. Advent calendars are fun for kids of all ages. There are so many wonderful varieties to choose from.
Do not wait until November to buy the calendars you want, there are many more choices if you buy in October. Here are a few favorites.
Gift Buying List – Family
This list is actually a worksheet that you will be editing as you shop and wrap.
Questions to answer when thinking about gift buying:
- Who are you going to buy a gift for?
- How much do you want to spend on gifts for everyone on your list?
- Are you doing stocking stuffers this year? – I have started going back and forth on this. We put out stockings for our adult children and that can get quite expensive, so I usually pick up things all year.
- For gift buying advice go to 7 Best Holiday Gift Guides for Everyone on Your List
1. Order Christmas Cards.
2. Start making serious gift lists the 1st week in November. You aren’t going to buy everything you are just going to brainstorm.
- When you hear about a good gift idea at work, write it down!
- What are things your family may want that they won’t buy for themselves or splurge?
- Make a list for each person you want to buy for. I make lists of ideas for our immediate family on the same list I put final purchases.
- Encourage family members to create a wishlist on Amazon. I can’t tell you how much I LOVE this!
- If there is a wishlist made for your grandchildren, even better, because it is so hard to know what to buy each age group if you don’t live close.
- Be ready for exchanges and parties with co-workers and friends.
- Have a few things on hand like candles, gourmet chocolate, tree ornament, etc for the person that surprises you with an unexpected gift.
4. Check your list for Christmas cards. Do you need addresses? Buy stamps. Are you a person that likes to write a holiday letter? – Do it now
5. Decorate your house.
6. Put up your tree the week before Thanksgiving.
I know there are people who don’t want to do that until after Thanksgiving and that is fine, however, there are good reasons not to wait. You have a lot to do after Thanksgiving and it is nice to check decorating off your list.
Plus, the tree and decorations are only up until the New Year. That is a lot of work for 4-5 weeks, so take time to enjoy it!
7. Shop! You have a gift list- Do it.
Mid-November, take a closer look at your gift list where you are penciling things in up to this point. Go to the 7 Holiday Gift Guides For Everyone On your List for more ideas.
We all know Black Friday has been ruined a bit by retailers opening on Thanksgiving and even earlier. There is some truth to the prices going down at the retail level the closer you get to the holidays, but you run the chance of not getting what you want.
Still, you have to love getting the ads from the Thanksgiving newspaper and going through them while eating pumpkin pie with cool whip!
Both online shopping and actual store shopping work for me on Black Friday, I make sure to get a combination of both.
Want to plan a Holiday Appetizer Party? Here is what you need.
Black Friday Doorbuster Tip!
When you are going to shop retail on Black Friday, go to a store like Macy’s and head for the luggage doorbusters because someone always needs a piece of luggage. We buy a set and use the two largest to put our packages all day! Buy luggage with swivel wheels and fill them up!
There is a lot be said for staying in your pajamas and shopping on Amazon on Black Friday. I enjoy texting with my kids who are doing the same thing from their own couches. That is “family time”.
Don’t ignore Cyber Monday. It has become the biggest shopping day of the season. The problem for many people on Cyber Monday is that they are working during the day and have to wait to get home to start shopping. At least that is the expectation. Do you need to wonder how much work is getting done, right? Oh well.
I do buy presents on these two special shopping days, but make sure I have my gift lists ready and have found pretty good sales. I enjoy looking at all the things on sale that I NEVER would have thought of buying if it didn’t show up as a “lightning deal”. However, I admit to buying more for myself.
One of the surprise sales on Cyber Monday last year was Holiday Family PJs! However, I don’t advise waiting that long if you want to buy these. I bought matching pajamas for each couple and their children and we all wore them, Christmas Eve. Lots of fun.
If you have time a great idea is to make a slideshow of family photos with holiday music to play on your TV screen on Christmas Eve. You can still work on this in December.
Are you ready?
During the month of December, I set up a table with a holiday jigsaw puzzle for family and friends to work on together. It has been enjoyed by family members of ALL ages and so now it has moved to one of the top activities on our list.
1. Put out Advent Calendars on December 1
2. Plan and purchase materials for family traditions or activities you have planned.
3. Finalize menus and make a grocery list. I will be including suggestions, tips, and recipes for Christmas Eve in another holiday post.
4. Wrap gifts – my least favorite task. Some people love it, not me. One important tip: as you wrap gifts, go to your list of who it is for and check it off as wrapped! And always, always put the tag on right away. Don’t get stuck opening gifts to see which was which or run the risk of someone getting the wrong gift.
5. Finalize Christmas Eve or Christmas Day preparations.
Let me know if you want digital lists that you can modify and change, or do you want a binder of printables to take notes on? Maybe both. Finally, the important goal here is that next year you have this year’s lists to refer to so you can have well planned holiday every year.
WAIT! Here are the Gift Guides I promised to help with your Christmas shopping:
Watch these for upcoming posts soon with more detailed lists to help you plan ahead for a wonderful holiday season.