Christmas can be one of the most stressful times of the year. There is so much to do and it always feels like a massive undertaking to me. I end up exhausted by Christmas and I’ve usually not enjoyed hardly any of the Christmas season. But not this year! This year I’ve created a plan to spread out my Christmas to-do list over a six week period. This will allow me to do manageable pieces of Christmas preparation each week and have it all done, well before Christmas. The 6-Week (Stress-Free!) Christmas Planning Guide covers everything you need to be ready for Christmas.
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The Fun of Christmas
There’s not a lot I love more than sitting back and having a nice drink and looking at my Christmas tree all lit up and beautiful. Looking at all the wrapped gifts under the tree. Maybe listening to some Christmas carols on the radio? Or a Hallmark Christmas movie to that?! Those things make me happy from head
But it’s hard to relax and enjoy that moment if you are sitting there worried about the million things you have on your to-do list that are STILL left for you to do.
Breaking the Cycle
Christmas is my favorite time of year, and for years now, I feel like I’ve not been able to enjoy the season for my running around like a crazy person with a to-do list a mile long. Wrapping gifts ten minutes before you leave for that part of your Christmas celebration is NOT joyful.
Trying Something New
So instead, this year, I’m implementing my 6-week (stress-free!) Christmas preparation checklist. It’ll keep me going and on track to get all my Christmas to-do’s completed on time and stress-free!
The beauty of this list is that you get to pick what six weeks you want to prepare for Christmas. This is totally “Choose your own adventure Christmas prep.” If you want to start at the first of November, then you are done by mid-December and have 2 whole weeks to just enjoy the holiday season. If you aren’t concerned with having time to enjoy the season with nothing left to do, then don’t start your prep until mid-November and it’ll carry you right up to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. If you want MORE time to enjoy the season, start your prep mid-October and you’ll be done by the first of December. Totally your choice!
6 weeks of Stress-Free Christmas Preparation: Weekly Breakdown
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I’ve broken down my to-do list, week by week, in
Week 1: Get Organized
Week 1 is all about getting organized so that you know what you are planning for in weeks 2-6.
First and foremost, you need to come up with your budget (if you need help read here about The Smart Way to Budget For Christmas). Only do as much Christmas as your budget allows. Money and Christmas can be so stressful. Try to avoid going into debt if you can.
Gift Recipient List
Now that you have your budget, you can decide who is on your gift-giving list for the year. When you can combine the budget with the list of folks you need to buy or make presents for, you now have a target price range to match to each person on your list.
Request Gift Ideas from Recipient List
If you are at a total loss for gift-giving ideas from some of the people on your list, reach out and ask if there is anything they want or need. Or ask what their favorite stores are to shop. This will allow you to hone in on what they might like for a gift.
One of my favorite gift giving ideas is a gift card to a higher end grocery store. This way the recipient can get something they would like that they might not have bought themselves otherwise. Like a nice bottle of wine or a really good steak.
Brainstorm Travel Plans
Now is the time to put your heads together with your immediate and extended family members and decide what the travel plans will be for the year. Some families alternate between extended families. Other families stay home if they have small children. Some families go on vacation. All of these ideas are great. Now is the time to figure out this year’s plan.
Create Your OWN Family Wish List
Go ahead and get together a list of things for your family when you are asked what you’d like for Christmas. Especially if you have small children. You know what you have, what you would like to have and what your kids have been drooling over for weeks now. I am always immensely grateful to be told exactly what someone wants. So definitely don’t take it as being pushy. If you need a toy buying guide, try this post on Top Toy Picks for Your Special Needs Child. (It has great toys for every child in there, both typically developing and special needs!)
Plan for Donations
Do remember to add any planned donations into your budget. You don’t want to set your budget and then totally forget that you left off your charitable donations and then have to re-do the budgeting.
Matching Christmas Pajamas
I would suggest purchasing your Christmas pajamas this week (if that’s your thing!) before they are picked over and gone. Especially if you plan to use them for Christmas card pictures or anything like that.
That’s right, you are talking to matching Christmas PJ mom that poses the kids in front of the tree for Christmas card pictures in matching jammies. I’m not even sorry about it because they are so stinking cute. Just look at my little men!
Here’s some adorable ones on Amazon!
- PajamaGram Matching Christmas Pajamas for Family
- JumpOff Jo – Matching Family, Mens,
Womens, Kids, Infant Pajamas Set
- SleepytimePJs Christmas Family Matching Winter Fleece Deer Buffalo Plaid Pajamas
Week 1: Official Task List
- Set Your Budget
- Create Gift Recipient List
- Request ideas from any gift recipients
- Travel Plans – Brainstorm/Talk to Family
- Make a wish list for your own family to share with others
- Plan for any donations in budget
- Purchase matching Christmas jammies if that’s your thing (especially if you are using for Christmas card pictures)
- Find and contract a photographer if you are doing formal pictures any time in the coming weeks.
Week 2: Get the Ball Rolling
Purchase Entertainment Tickets
Now is the time to purchase any holiday entertainment tickets. For example, if you are going to see the symphony or a Christmas play, you’ll want to get your tickets well ahead of time. Lots of cities play nostalgic Christmas movies at the movie theaters during the season that will sell out quickly if you haven’t purchased your tickets in advance.
Firm Up Travel Plans & Make Reservations
Once you have settled on your travel plans, make any necessary hotel or flight reservations ahead of time.
Sign Up for Volunteer Times
You’ll want to sign up for any volunteer opportunities you want to take part in as well. Signing up early helps you fit the time into what works best for your schedule.
Family Christmas Photo Session
If you are having family pictures made or Christmas card pictures made, get those made this week at the LATEST. If you need ideas and tips for your shoot, read Supermom Shuffle’s Complete Guide To A Successful Family Photo Shoot.
Begin Shopping for Gifts
It’s time to begin shopping for gifts. There is a chance that you could get great deals if you shop around the black Friday and cyber Monday sales. So, if you want to wait for that, that’s totally fine by me. What I like to do is make the exact list and save links to the items I want to order. Then I can pull the trigger and order them as soon as I see a good coupon or sale start. I have saved a LOT of money over the years buying Christmas gifts this way.
Word of Caution
But, a word of caution, waiting until things go on sale usually ends up in me perusing all the sales. Which usually ends up with me buying lots of extra stuff for myself or my family that wasn’t on my list. But when things get put on THAT much sale, I’ll buy it for sure. So, for all the money I save on gifts… I usually end up spending it, and then some, on good deals. There’s no problem with that, just make sure you add that into your budget if you know this about yourself.
Week 2: Official Task List
- Purchase Any Entertainment Tickets for the season
- Firm up travel plans
- Make any reservations needed
- Sign up for Volunteer times
- Have Pictures made if using for a card
- Begin shopping for gifts
Week 3: Keep the Ball Rolling
For week 3, it’s time to REALLY get down to business.
You’ll continue shopping for gifts this week. As you order items, keep them organized when they arrive. Lots of times I just keep them in the box they arrive in and just stick a post it on the outside of the box with a name. And then keep them in piles/areas depending on if they need to be shipped out or will be given in person.
If you are planning on making any crafts for gifts or having the kids make crafts for gifts, now is the time to start. Sometimes crafts don’t turn out the way you thought they might OR you end up having to make a second version. It’s best to give yourself plenty of time to make sure it’s all working out in the craft department!
Favorite Craft Ideas for Kids:
- Unfinished Wood Ornament Kits
- Melissa & Doug Decorate-Your-Own Christmas Ornaments
- Child to Cherish Marshmallow Clay Baby Handprint or Footprint First Christmas Ornament Kit
- Midwest Products Garden Mosaic Stepping Stone Kit
Now is a good time to assess what wrapping supplies you have leftover, and which supplies you might need to stock up on at the store. I love to buy wrapping paper in the days after Christmas when they drop it down to 75-90% off. Let’s just say I’m stocked up on wrapping paper for SEVERAL years to come. But, it’s cheap, and it’s beautiful and it makes me happy.
But it doesn’t stop at wrapping paper. Make sure you have plenty of tape, gift tags, bags, tissue paper, ribbons and bows. That way your wrapping area is fully stocked and ready when you are ready to wrap gifts.
Fun Wrapping Supplies:
- Hallmark Reversible Christmas Wrapping Paper Set with Ribbon and Gift Tag Stickers
- Christmas Wrapping Paper Set | Kraft Gift Wrapping Paper with Reversible Designs
- Rustic Paper Bags Snowman Reindeer Santa Owl Sock Tree Gift Bags
- Christmas Drawstring Gift Bags Set
A Place to Wrap
While we are on the subject of wrapping gifts, it’s also time this week to clean out and create a place to wrap your gifts. It’s so nice and convenient to have a little space in your home where you can leave the supplies out and just go wrap a gift when you have a spare few minutes. Or if you need to wrap it as soon comes in the mail if you are that kind of person.
Deep Clean The House
This is an excellent time of the holiday season to give the house a good once over deep clean. I like to really make sure the house is in order and relatively clean for the holiday season. So many other things are going on during this time of year, it’s just so much easier if the house is clean and everything is put up where it’s supposed to be.
I’m not talking scrub the baseboards clean. But I like to make sure everything is just in good order. It helps me keep my sanity for the next few weeks that are going to follow.
Batch of Cookie Dough
I love Christmas baking. But I am easily overwhelmed by the mess and time it takes. However, if you prepare a batch of dough each week and freeze it, all that’s really left to do is thaw it and bake it. Most of the mess has already happened, and the labor intensive part of the baking is almost done by the time you make the dough.
I like to do at least 3 different cookies each year, so I’ll be doing a batch of dough each week for the next 3 weeks.
Here’s a guide from The Kitchn on How to Freeze Cookie Dough.
Week 3: Official Task List
- Continue shopping for gifts
- Begin crafting any homemade gifts
- Assess and Purchase Wrapping Supplies
- Clear out a place to wrap gifts
- Give the house a good deep clean
- Make-ahead cookie dough and freeze – Batch #1
Week 4: Take Care of Little Details
Week 4 is here! And man, we are elbow deep in Christmas preparation by now! But how great does it feel? Things are getting done and they really aren’t super stressful!!
Shopping and Home-Made Gifts
Continue shopping for your gifts! Keep perusing the deals and gift guides if you are struggling for ideas for family members! If you are in doubt on a tangible gift, maybe look towards gift cards for some kind of experience you can all do together. Is there a performance of some kind coming to town this year? Something you could all do together? I’m a big fan of giving experiences as gifts whenever possible.
How are the crafty gifts going? Hopefully well. Keep chugging along at those babies!!
I love to buy a special ornament each year for each of my kids, my mom and for me and my husband. I try to make it something significant for the kids each year, something that marks a milestone. Starting preschool, getting a bicycle, losing a tooth, etc. It’s fun to look back at those ornaments and remember each year. It’s like your tree is a mini-Christmas scrapbook.
Sometimes I get the more expensive Hallmark ornaments. And then sometimes I find a more fitting ornament out and about with my shopping. I just get the ornament that best fits the year and its events. I usually let everyone have their ornaments when we decorate the tree each year, that way they have it to put on the tree right then.
Purchasing stocking stuffers always seems to elude me and I’m rushing to do it at the last minute. But not this year! I’m on top of it and it’s on the list for this week! By now all the stores have their little displays of stocking stuffers all ready to go and you can go shop away. There are also great stocking stuffers online you can order. I always put in a food treat or candy, a little toy, crazy socks and maybe a book of some kind. Just a few small fun things!
Popular Stocking Stuffers:
- Neliblu Sensory Fidget Snake Cube Twist Puzzle
- ALEX Toys Rub a Dub Draw in the Tub Crayons
- Hog Wild Holiday Reindeer Popper
- Super Z Outlet Liquid Motion Bubbler for Sensory Play
- WikkiStix for Doodlers
Make sure you have some containers to give all these baked goodies away! I love to order some cute tins or little boxes each year, that I don’t expect returned to me. It’s just part of the gift I’m giving with the baked goods! You don’t want to end up baking all your treats and then not have anything to put them in.
Baked Good and Treat Containers:
- Gift Boutique 36 Count Christmas Tin Foil Containers with Lid Covers For Cookies in 4 Holiday Designs
- OurWarm 12pcs Christmas Gift Bags, Kraft Paper Bags Goodie Bags
- Christmas Cookie Treat Candy Boxes
- Juvale Christmas Tin Gift Box – 4-Set Square Cookie Candy Storage Containers with Lids for Confectioneries
It’s time to purchase or order Christmas cards! If you are doing a photo card, you will need the time to get those shipped back to you and then mailed out. And if you just do traditional Christmas cards, there should still be a nice selection at the stores and online at this point.
While you are ordering Christmas cards, take note of how many you intend to send and then buy your stamps for postage for your cards this week too!
The time has come! It’s time to start decorating!!!!!!!
I like to spread my decorating out over a few days/weeks. It seems less overwhelming that way. I like to do all the smaller decorating and then I end up saving the tree for last.
Depending on the age of your kids, you may decorate more or less each year. My kids are at an age where they really aren’t going to be able to leave some of the decorations alone, so I go lighter on decorations where they can reach them, and either put things up higher, or elect not to put certain things out that year. It’s no big deal. Just do what works best for your family.
Freeze Cookie Dough – Batch 2
Make a batch of another cookie dough that you want to use for your holiday baking! It can be a different cookie or more of the same from last week if you want to just do one signature cookie!
These are my favorite cookies to have for Christmas, and I freeze some of the dough each year. This is my Grandma’s recipe for Peanut Blossoms, but Land-o-Lakes has the exact same recipe up! There isn’t a better cookie on earth than a Peanut Blossom. I’m open to trying it if you’ve got something better! But I’m betting you don’t!
Week 4: Official Task List
- Continue shopping for gifts
- Continue work on
- Buy ornaments for the year
- Purchase stocking stuffers
- Order goodie containers
- Order Christmas cards
- Buy Stamps
- Begin Decorating for Christmas
- Freeze m
ake aheadcookie dough – Batch 2
Week 5: The end is in sight!
Week 5 is here already! And we are just coming right along! Things are really starting to come together at this point!
Final Gift Shopping
This week you’ll want to make your final purchases for gifts. Check and double check that you’ve covered everyone on your list. I also like to grab a few boxes of nice chocolates to have as emergency back up gifts. You never know when you may receive an unexpected gift and may want to reciprocate. Having the back up chocolate will help you not have to rush out to the store! And… if you don’t need them… well, then you get to eat chocolate!
Finish Home-Made Gifts
Any home crafty projects should wrap up this week as well. This gives your project plenty of time to dry or set before you need to wrap it!
If you are ordering any photo-themed gifts, this is the time to finalize and order those gifts. If you wait much longer you will end up paying shipping through the nose to get it here on time!
I love to give calendars with pictures of the kids as gifts. Now is the time to make them online and order!
Begin Wrapping Gifts
It’s time to start wrapping gifts if you haven’t already. You’ve got this week and next week to get it all done. Some people prefer to do a wrapping marathon and knock it all out at once. I am NOT that person. Wrapping isn’t necessarily my favorite thing to do, so I like to space it out and do a few gifts at a time. That way I don’t get insanely burnt out on the wrapping process.
It’s time to finalize and finish your decorating for the season. Finish up trimming the tree and clean all the decorating boxes up. Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy all the dividends of your hard work. Your house is beautiful for Christmas!
Make Room for New
I like to take a pass through the house and pull out any toys we aren’t playing with or that the kids have out-grown and donate them. It makes room for the new toys that are coming for Christmas, and keeps your kids from being overwhelmed with too many choices as well. You could always do this after Christmas as well, but I just find it’s easier for me to do it before the gifts begin!
Christmas Baking – Freezer Batch #3
It’s time for batch #3 of freezer cookie dough! After this you’ve got 3 batches of either one single type of cookie or 3 different cookies to make. All you’ll need to do is thaw and bake when you are ready.
I always like to try a new cookie each year, just for fun. Here’s Food Network’s list of Top Holiday Cookies.
Week 5: Official Task List
- Make final gift purchases
- Make & order any photo themed gifts (calendars, mugs, etc)
- Being wrapping gifts
- Finish Decorate for Christmas
- Start making room for new toys and donate old to goodwill
Make aheadcookie dough – Batch 3
Week 6: The Final Stretch
Can you believe?? Week 6 and you are in the home stretch! This week is finishing up all the loose ends and you’ll be ready for Christmas! Of course, there will always be a few last minute tasks to do as they come up as Christmas gets even closer, but for the most part, you’ll be totally done after this week! Eeeekk!
Christmas Cards – Seal and Send
Take some time over this week and those babies addressed and mailed! I keep a running address book in an Excel file and then just mail merge the labels. I love to send Christmas cards, but there’s no chance I’m going to hand address all of them by hand. No way.
It’s time to ship any gifts that may need to be mailed ahead of time. If you go ahead this week, you shouldn’t have to pay outrageous shipping rates to get the gifts there on time.
Christmas Menu & Grocery List
Decide on what your Christmas menu will be and prepare accordingly. If you want to try a new recipe, maybe give it a trial run this week and see if it turns out well. Plan our your menu accordingly and then go ahead and make your grocery shopping list. That way all that is left to do is pick up the groceries when it’s cooking time.
Finish Wrapping Gifts
All of the gifts you have ordered should have arrived by now. It’s time to finish wrapping everything this week. Enjoy all the beautiful packages underneath the tree all wrapped and pretty.
Christmas Morning Supplies
Last but not least, make yourself a little Christmas morning/ gift opening kit. ESPECIALLY if you have kids. You’ll need:
- Batteries of ALL sizes
- Pocket Knife
By having all these items gathered, you are ready to put batteries in and assemble any toy that comes along the way. I know my little guys get excited about gifts and are ready to play with them when they see them!
Week 6: Official Task List
- Address & mail Christmas Cards
- Mail Gifts – well ahead of time
- Decide on
- Make grocery lists
- Finish Wrapping Gifts
- Christmas Morning Supplies
You’ve DONE IT!
So now, guess what? You are TOTALLY READY FOR CHRISTMAS!! You’ve done it! You’ve worked hard for these six weeks and you are totally ready for Christmas now. There was no rushing and fussing. And there was MUCH less stress too! You’ve completed your 6-Week (Stress-Free!) Christmas Planning Guide!
Truly, all that’s left to do is bake your goodies whenever you are ready to share them. And perhaps put on your elf hat and assist Santa on Christmas Eve!
Past that, you are ready to enjoy your Christmas season. Take the time to relax and soak in the time with your family and loved ones.
So, the sooner you begin, the more time you will have to enjoy Christmas this year! I hope you try this method and as always, just keep shuffling!
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Bailey Bailey says
Definitely going to use this! Already put most of the items into my calendar!
Thank you Sweetness!!