Another holiday season has passed. By now, you’ve probably packed away the decorations, enjoyed a few days without relatives in your house (note to my relatives: Not you. You are great.), and possibly gotten a nice myocardial infarction from your Amex bill. So now is the perfect time to start planning for the next holiday season!
Wait, say what?
You probably fall into one of two camps:
Camp #2, hear me out. Getting started on next Christmas now will make for a much more relaxed, fun, and cheaper (!) holiday season in 2016. Because whether you like it or not…
Reason #1: Save Big on Holiday Decorations
January is the best time to purchase Christmas decorations, cards, holiday themed tableware, and even stocking stuffers. Yes, the selection is more limited if you don’t brave the crowds the day after Christmas but many stores still have a good stock online now with discounts of up to 50% or more.
As you are putting away decorations, take a moment to purge (donate, recycle, or trash) any items that you didn’t use this year or that have reached the end of their lifespan. Consider weeding out duplicates — you can only put one topper on your tree at a time. If you send out Christmas cards, update your list with any new addresses and figure out how many you will need for next year. Make a list of what you need or would like (new LED lights for the tree, 60 boxed Christmas cards, and a mini tree for the hall table, etc.) and hit the store or go online. January is a great time to pick up stocking stuffers like ornaments, holiday socks, and little gift sets at deep discounts.
You’ll get everything for a great price and get to avoid the mayhem (and temptation) of the holiday departments next December. Anything left that you can’t find this year? Leave the list at the top of the first box you’ll unpack next season so that you will know exactly what to get.
Reason #2: Give Awesome Christmas Gifts for Less $$
Make a list of everyone you gave gifts to this year and everyone you should have given gifts to (oops, Great Aunt Sally). I find a Google doc works great for this. It doesn’t have to be fancy – the recipients name, maybe their relation to you (oh, Bill is the postman), a column for gift ideas, and a check box for purchased items. Write in any gifts you already know you want to get. If you have any items you want to regift and you know the recipient will like the item, write it in here, wrap the item and stick it in with your Christmas boxes. Make sure to write in on the list so you won’t forget and duplicate.
Now, look over your list of gift ideas and see if there are any you can knock off for a good price now (White Sales on linens during January or holiday related items on deep discounts) or that you should start making (knitting sweaters takes time). Set a reminder in your calendar to check the list each month so that you can add in any new ideas and pick up items as sales come up (like garden tools at the end of the summer). There may be a couple items you want to wait until Black Friday for (like PS4 bundles) and you can figure out how much to put aside each month to buy them with cash.
It is so nice to have your Christmas shopping done finished on Black Friday. You’ll have time to enjoy pretty wrapped presents under the tree, spread the cost of the gifts over the year, and have time to focus on what matters — family, friends, faith, joy — during the holiday season.
Reason #3: Successfully Change Your Family’s Holiday Schedule
The traditions and emphasis on family that surround the holiday season and give it that warm fuzzy feeling also makes it an emotional minefield to navigate, especially during times of change like for newlyweds or new parents. Maybe you’ve spent the last three years shuffling young children from one grandparents house to another on Christmas day and want to start making your own traditions at your home. Or maybe you and your significant other want to alternate years and just travel to one side this year (no more Christmas day flights!). Heck, maybe you want to get away from it all and celebrate next year on a beach in the Caribbean. Now is the time to bring up changes you want to make for next year. Discussing it now with the holidays fresh in your mind let’s you come up with practical alternatives and gives 11 months for any hurt feelings to subside. A couple tips:
- Get on the same page with your spouse about what you want to do. Try to have a positive alternative – maybe Christmas morning is at your house this year but you can visit the grandparents the weekend before instead. Perhaps invite both sides to your home if you don’t mind hosting.
- He/she should take the lead with his side and you with yours.
- Be polite but firm and don’t over explain — this isn’t a group vote sort of situation. (“We love spending the holidays with you but we want to start our own traditions at home this year with the new baby and will be staying home. We would love it if you came to stay for Christmas!”)
- Revisit the plans again in early November so that everyone remains on the same page (“We’re looking forward to seeing you folks on Thanksgiving this year instead! What time do you want us to fly in?”)
Reason #4: Make the 2016 Holiday Season Festive and Restful (It IS Possible!)
By starting to prepare for Christmas 2016 now, you can avoid many of the common stressors of the holiday season. No long lines because your gifts and decorations are already bought. No blown budget – you’ve spread out costs over the year. No missed gifts or Christmas cards. No (or at least less) family drama. More time for baking cookies, taking walks, sledding, watching holiday movies, or whatever else makes the holidays special for you.
What are your best tips to prepare for the holidays far in advance? Are you a Buddy-the-elf (love Christmas all year round) or do you enjoy the 11 month break from holiday thoughts?