Christmas checklist

Christmas Checklist: Your Ultimate Guide for a Stress-free Holiday

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Do you tend to feel a little crazy as the holiday season approaches? I do! There are so many things to get done! We are getting ready to wrap gifts, plan a budget, buy decorations, prepare holiday meals, and plan parties. No wonder we feel stressed! Nobody wants to spend the holidays stressed, even if that happens more often than not. Thankfully, I’ve found that a Christmas checklist can be just the thing to avoid all of that stress.

My Christmas checklist evolves with every passing year, as new traditions emerge and priorities shift. Regardless, having a good checklist helps me never forget an important detail or overlook a precious moment with my loved ones. So, whether it’s your first time creating a Christmas checklist or you’re an experienced planner, the idea is to be organized and excited for the most wonderful time of the year. Here we go!

Getting Started Early

When it comes to making a holiday checklist, it’s essential to begin making plans at least a couple of months before the big day. This allows you to tackle preparations in smaller, more manageable steps. In fact, you may even benefit from getting started on your holiday planning as early as October to get a head start on all the holiday essentials. Having a well-thought-out plan ensures a more enjoyable and stress-free season for your whole family.

October Preparations

Begin your holiday preparations in October by brainstorming gift ideas for your loved ones. Create a Christmas gift list, so that you can take advantage of any upcoming sales or promotions. As you start browsing for Christmas decoration ideas, make a note of what you already have and what you need to buy. Christmas decorations can fly off the shelves by late November, so don’t wait to grab what you really want. Your tasks for October’s Christmas checklist are to:

  • Create a gift-giving list for all of the important people in your life.
  • Create a budget for gifts, decorations, parties, and meals.
  • Decide what decorations you think you’ll need for the upcoming season.

November Planning

November is a crucial month for organizing Christmas plans. Get as much done this month as possible, so that you can relax during December and enjoy the season with your family. Your tasks for November’s Christmas Checklist are to:

  • Start shopping for gifts (taking advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals).
  • Plan your holiday menu and, if necessary, make reservations for dining out.
  • Review your calendar and schedule any holiday parties, events, or gatherings that you’ll be attending or hosting.

Thanksgiving Activities

Thanksgiving can be stressful on its own. Make time to enjoy Thanksgiving and the autumn season. However, if you find you have capacity during this time, Thanksgiving is also a great time to sure up some of your Christmas shopping and plans. Optional Christmas Checklist items during the week of Thanksgiving include:

  • Hitting Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
  • Finishing last-minute Advent Calendar activities and plans.
  • Beginning Christmas decorating.
  • Finding an enjoyable way to start December on a positive note. My favorite is that our little family opens Christmas pajamas on December 1st, and we do a dance party. It’s our December 1st Tradition so that we can all wear our Christmas pajamas all season long.

Read also: 60+ Advent Activities for Families

December Final Preparations

In December, shift your focus to finalizing your Christmas plans. Your tasks include:

  • Wrap and send gifts and Christmas cards for family and friends who live far away. Finish wrapping early in the month when you can. No one likes to stay up late on Christmas Eve wrapping gifts.
  • Decorate your home with Christmas lights, stockings, and a tree.
  • Bake Christmas cookies for neighbors and friends.
  • Enjoy holiday events, such as Christmas parades and visits to Santa.
  • Make a timeline for the days leading up to Christmas, so you know what tasks need to be completed before the big day.

By getting started early and staying organized, your holiday season will be more enjoyable and less stressful. I hope that this will allow you to truly embrace the joy and magic of Christmas.

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Budgeting and Organization

Creating a Holiday Budget

All Christmas preparations should start with a solid holiday budget. No one loves the feeling of being in debt come January. A good holiday budget can help so that you don’t overspend. It also helps you to allocate funds appropriately for gifts, decorations, and other holiday expenses. As you plan your holiday budget, it’ll help if you take the following steps:

  1. Calculate your total budget: Begin by determining the total amount of money you can comfortably allocate for Christmas. This amount takes into account your savings, any bonuses, and your ability to set aside money in the months leading up to the holiday season.
  2. List your holiday expenses: Create a list of all the expected expenses during this time, including gifts, decorations, travel, meals, and even the cost of postage for holiday cards. This helps you have a clear picture of where your money will be going.
  3. Distribute your budget: Allocate funds to each category on your list, making sure the total budget still holds up. It’s important to maintain a zero-based budget, meaning every dollar should have a job.

Master Gift List

Having a master gift list is essential for your holiday planning. It’ll help you stay organized and make sure you don’t forget anyone when buying presents. Here’s how you can create and manage your gift list:

  • List recipients: Write down everyone you need to buy gifts for, including family, friends, coworkers, and service providers, like your mail carrier or hairdresser.
  • Assign a budget: Allocate a specific budget for each person on your list, considering your overall holiday budget. This ensures you spend your money evenly and don’t overspend on one person while inadvertently shortchanging another.
  • Gift ideas: To make your shopping experience more efficient and less stressful, brainstorm gift ideas for each individual based on their interests and preferences.
  • Track progress: Keep track of the gifts you’ve bought, the prices you’ve paid, and whether you have wrapped and delivered them. This ensures you don’t buy too much or too little, and it helps you stay on budget.

By following these steps, you can maintain control over your holiday expenses and make sure everyone on your list gets a thoughtful and budget-conscious gift. Keeping everything organized with a holiday budget and a master gift list helps you enjoy a more peaceful and enjoyable Christmas season.

Decorations and Tree

Selecting and Decorating the Christmas Tree

When you’re selecting your Christmas tree, try to choose a tree that will fit well in your designated area. If you are choosing a live tree, pick one that’s lush and green, and will last throughout the holiday season.

There are a number of beautifully designed fake trees that will last for years to come. They can, however, be expensive. If you don’t have a fake tree yet, budget for this throughout the year so that you can afford a tree you love.

Once you’ve brought your tree home, start decorating by stringing Christmas lights. Work from either the top or the bottom the tree and work towards the other end, wrapping the lights around the branches. After the lights are in place, add ornaments and other decorations.

Purchasing and Organizing Decorations

When it comes to purchasing and organizing  Christmas decorations, make a list of the existing decor items you have and any new items you’d like to add. Your list might include the following:

  • Christmas lights
  • Ornaments
  • Garland
  • Wreaths
  • Stockings and stocking hooks
  • Table and mantle decorations

Once you know which items you need, head to local stores or shop online to find the perfect decorations. To stay organized during the decorating process, designate a specific location in your home for storing all of your Christmas decor. This space should serve to keep everything easily accessible but also help you keep track of your existing decorations.

As you decorate your home for Christmas, it can be fun to incorporate fresh greenery, such as garland, wreaths, and potted plants. Including natural elements like pinecones, cinnamon sticks, and oranges adds festivity and warmth to your decor. Remember, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to decorate your home for Christmas. A few well-placed items can do the trick!

Planning ahead for the right Christmas tree and decorations can help you enjoy a beautifully decorated home during the holiday season.

Gifts and Shopping

As the holiday season approaches, it is essential to create a well-organized Christmas checklist, focused on gifts and shopping. In this section, lets cover Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, online and in-store shopping, and tips for wrapping presents and attaching gift tags.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals

Keep an eye on Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions since they offer great opportunities to grab the best deals for your gift list. During these events, make sure to:

  • Make a holiday budget to track your spending
  • Compare prices among various retailers to find the best deals
  • Sign up for newsletters or notifications from your favorite stores to stay updated on discounts

Online and In-store Shopping

Online shopping is a convenient way to find unique Christmas gifts. But even those who love online shopping might need to visit stores in person during the holiday season. To ensure a successful shopping experience, try to:

  • Take advantage of online shopping for hard-to-find or personalized gifts.
  • Visit in-person stores early in the season to avoid the holiday rush and traffic.
  • Create a  Christmas gift list to keep track of the gifts you’ve purchased for your family and friends.

Wrapping Presents and Attaching Gift Tags

Wrapping presents and attaching gift tags can be a fun and creative process, but it also requires some planning. Here’s how you can approach it:

  • Stock up on wrapping paper, ribbons, and gift tags well in advance.
  • Set aside time for wrapping presents, so you don’t get overwhelmed. Don’t wait until Christmas Eve. I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t end well!
  • Keep an assortment of holiday cards to accompany the gifts.
  • Create unique, handmade tags for a personal touch.

With proper planning and organization, the holiday gift-shopping experience can become enjoyable and stress-free. By taking advantage of deals, shopping both online and in-store, and adding a personal touch to gifts, you’ll find that it’s possible to spread festive cheer without breaking the bank.

Christmas Cards and Letters

As the holiday season approaches, it’s time to prepare your Christmas cards and letters. Sending out cards, whether via email or through the mail, is a heartwarming tradition that helps us stay connected with family and friends. Let’s discuss the process of creating and sending Christmas cards and writing a letter to Santa.

Creating and Sending Christmas Cards

Christmas cards are a time-honored tradition by many people. They can also create a lot of stress.  Decide if you’d like to send out a digital Christmas card via email, or if you will be sending paper copies in the mail. There is no right or wrong here. If Christmas cards stress you out, skip it. If you love it and love seeing them in the mail, let’s talk about how to make this process less stressful. Here are some tips that will help:

  • Have family pictures taken earlier than October. By the time October is here, most family photographers are booked up on family sessions. Not to mention that adding family pictures to an already full fall schedule is stressful. If you want to send out a family picture with your Christmas cards, do not try to schedule those pictures after October. Ideally, you’d have your pictures taken earlier in the year.
  • Pick out a beautiful card design and try to have Christmas cards ordered no later than early November. There are a huge variety of options when it comes to Christmas cards, so just find one you love, that fits your budget and go for it! Some of my favorite Christmas cards have been from the local photo center. Easy and simple.
  • Create a Christmas card list. Decide how many cards you can reasonably afford to send, and then make a list of who you’d like to send those cards to. This list might include:
    • Family members
    • Friends
    • Colleagues
    • Neighbors

Next, gather envelopes, colorful pens or markers for writing, return address labels and stamps, and holiday stickers for a festive touch.

Some card companies will write your return address on the cards for you, but you can also snag a customized return address stamp like this one. I love ours so much and we use it every year! Grab one like mine below!

Once you’ve written heartfelt messages, added photos, and enclosed any small surprises, like family newsletters or children’s artwork, it’s time to send out the cards! Double-check mailing addresses, apply the required postage, and drop them off at the post office in early December to ensure timely delivery.

Writing a Letter to Santa

For kids, writing a letter to Santa can be a magical experience. If you have young children, help them write to Santa! It can be so fun for everyone involved!

Gather festive stationery or printable templates, and colorful pens, pencils, or crayons. Kids can include drawings, stickers, or even a family photo.

After the letter is complete, seal the envelope with the address to Santa’s North Pole workshop. You can either drop it in a designated Santa mailbox or hand-deliver it during a visit with Santa at a local event. I like to make a copy of my kids letters to save and keep to look back on later. It’s fun to see what my kids have asked for in years previous.

Preparing Christmas cards and writing a letter to Santa is a cherished part of the holiday season. These traditions allow us to connect with others, and create memorable moments for ourselves and our loved ones.

Need ideas from your family about what they’d like for Christmas? Grab the printable list here!

Food and Cooking

Grocery Shopping and Baking

Plan the menu for your main Christmas and Christmas Eve dinners. This can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. The key is to choose meals that feel realistic and not too stressful for your holiday celebrations! Once you’ve finalized the menu, create a detailed grocery list.

When it comes to baking, start early to avoid last-minute stress. When you can, prepare dough in advance and freeze it, so you are ready to bake whenever you have some free time.

Setting the Table and Serving Meals

Social media can make it feel like everyone has an elaborate meal setting for every holiday. And while this is a great time to pull out your fancy dishware, you shouldn’t feel obligated to set the table in an over-the-top way. If you love setting a nice table for the holidays, then do! If that’s not your style, go ahead and buy those paper plates and save yourself some time and energy!

Activities and Entertainment

Creating a Christmas Bucket List

Creating a Christmas bucket list can bring holiday cheer into the season. My family loves making a holiday bucket list! This helps us to fit in all the things that we love to do. This might include things like:

  • Building a gingerbread house with family or friends
  • Writing a letter to Santa Claus
  • Decorating the Christmas tree and hanging stockings
  • Making a Christmas to-do list to stay organized

Creating a bucket list helps us to manage our holiday cheer and ensure that we make the most out of the festive season. Our family loves to create a “Family Time” Advent each year where our bucket list is incorporated into our advent. Read about that here.

Organizing Festive Activities and Games

Start planning festive activities and games early on! It will reduce your holiday stress and ensure everyone (including mom and dad) enjoys the holiday season. Some of the activities and games that you can include in your Christmas preparation checklist are:

  • Start baking cookies and other holiday treats
  • Plan a family visit to Santa Claus or include a Santa Claus visit to the party
  • Organize Christmas movie nights
  • Set up holiday-themed arts and crafts projects

To ensure that my family and friends experience the holiday cheer, you can keep a variety of games and activities on hand for all ages. Some of our favorite holiday games include:

  • Christmas charades
  • Pin the tail on the reindeer
  • Christmas Pictionary
  • A holiday-themed treasure hunt

Remember, getting everyone involved in the festivities is a great way to share the holiday cheer and create lasting memories together. Happy planning!

Travel and Accommodations

Booking Flights and Making Travel Arrangements

When it comes to booking flights and making travel arrangements for Christmas, remember to start early to avoid last-minute stress. Begin travel preparations around September, especially if you are traveling to a popular destination with limited availability. To find the best deals, browse various travel websites and compare prices of flights and accommodations.

When booking flights, ensure you have enough time for layovers and consider potential weather delays. Double-check your travel documents, such as passports and visas, to ensure they’re up to date. To stay organized, download a travel app to keep track of reservations and schedules.

Preparing for Overnight Guests

If you are expecting overnight guests during the holidays, make a list of necessary items and preparations to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay for them. Here’s a checklist:

  • Clean guestrooms and bathrooms
  • Provide fresh linens and towels
  • Stock up on toiletries such as shampoo, soap, and toothpaste
  • Prepare a designated area for their belongings
  • Ensure you have enough groceries and snacks to accommodate dietary preferences

Communication is key, so ask your guests about their arrival and departure times, and if they have any specific requests or needs during their stay.

Planning travel and accommodations for the holiday season can be a smooth and enjoyable process if you prepare ahead of time. Stay organized, research options, and communicate with guests!

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