Christmas is definitely my favourite time of year. All of the build up, the excitement, the lights and the smells are magical. But, I have found that over the last few years I’ve had a tendency to allow myself to get stressed in the build up to Christmas. I’ve overspent, overcooked, and generally tried to do too much. I’ve realised that I’ve put far too much pressure on myself and I’ve made a conscious decision that this year will be different.
I’ve been thinking about how to ensure that this Christmas is stress-free (or as near to stress-free as it can be). I know that this will involve lots of planning and self-control so I’ve come up with some top tips for a stress-free Christmas. I’ll be taking my own medicine and instigating these in our own Christmas too!
Now this is an area I have actually had under control over the last few years. We had one Christmas where we blitzed the credit card and quickly lived to regret it! Ever since then, I’ve started to save for Christmas from January. This might sound extreme but it has been THE BEST WAY I’ve found to make sure we don’t have a last minute panic. A friend initially introduced me to saving for Christmas like this and I’ve stuck to it for the last few years. I put aside a set amount from our weekly budget and it goes straight into a separate savings account that I’ve called “Christmas”.
No matter what you’re trying to plan for, it’s vital that you have a budget, you can read more about budgeting here. Only once you’ve sat down and worked out your budget, can you figure out how much money you want to put aside and how much money you can afford to put aside for Christmas. Find out more about saving for Christmas here.
With three children of our own and a few other kids in our extended family, presents are definitely our biggest expense. It’s so easy to massively overspend on presents if we aren’t organised. I’ve thought about how we can combat this with a little forward-thinking.
- Write down a list of everyone you plan to buy for.
- Work out how much you’re going to spend on each person – be realistic and stick to it.
- Write a list of presents you already know you plan to buy.
- For the kids, consider buying one “big” present, a few small presents and some stocking fillers.
If you’re trying to stick to a budget, it’s also worth thinking about approaching friends and making a pact not to buy each other presents. This is a great way to save money, and let’s face it, lots of us give and receive gifts that’ll inevitably end up stashed in a cupboard never to be seen again!
Food & Drink
I am renowned for buying far too much food at Christmas. I don’t know why I do it, it’s not like years gone by where the shops shut for a few days. The majority of the big supermarkets are shut just Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. That’s it. Even then, the petrol stations and lots of corner shops continue to open 24 hours a day throughout the festive season. So there’s no need to do this panic buying that I insist on.
This year, I’m determined NOT TO OVERDO THE FOOD.
- Write down which meals you’ll need to prepare & how many people you’ll be feeding.
- Write a shopping list of every item you’ll need for each meal.
- Think about extras such as chocolates & desserts.
- If all your visitors will be driving, you probably don’t need lots of wine with Christmas lunch.
- Think about what soft drinks you’ll need.
- Bulk up on veg to make the meat go further.
Decorating the tree
Now I know this should be a magical experience where all the family gets involved in the wonderful togetherness of decorating the masterpiece that will form the centre-piece of the home throughout the festive period. If you’re anything like us though, it can quickly crumble into a stress-filled experience of unravelling lights, trying to convince the toddler not to climb the tree and figuring out where the hell the ginormous thing is actually going to sit!
I don’t have any magical tips to relieve the stress of actually putting up the damn tree. All I will say though is that this year I’m making a pact with myself not to get stressed! I also plan to have a pep talk with my husband before we start so that he’s in on the plan too. Fingers crossed it helps! In all seriousness though, sometimes just “having a word” with myself does actually help!
Christmas is a time for family and I do love the excitement on the children’s faces once the tree’s up. We’ll let them help but it’ll be organised to minimise the stress of actually getting the decorations up.
- Plan when the tree will go up so you’ve got plenty of time if the lights are tangled or it takes longer than expected.
- Decide where the tree will go before you start.
- Figure out beforehand who will do what.
- Put some Christmas music on in the background to lighten the mood & add some festive spirit.
It’s becoming more popular in recent years not to send Christmas cards and instead to make a donation to a given charity. If you’ve decided to do it then stick to it. Don’t feel guilty when you receive a card and decide to send one anyway. Make sure people know what you’re doing.
A great way to avoid the cost of posting cards is to send ecards. You can find loads of these online and they’re free to send!
If you are sending Christmas cards, make sure you make a note of the last posting days for Christmas delivery. Ideally, you’ll want to send second class to avoid overpaying, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time. If the children are sending cards to their friends, get them to write them themselves. If they’re little, they can just write their name and the recipient’s name on the envelope. Do it in short stints and they’re less likely to get bored!
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