Christmas Vacation

The Ultimate Holiday Planning Guide

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It may only be mid-October but it’s never too early to plan for the holidays. Stores are already stocking their holiday supplies, and planning ahead can save you money and time.

Guide to Holiday Planning:

Calendar:
A calendar is essential to keep track of when you travel, days when school isn’t in session, and whose party is where and when. Our family calendar includes days dedicated to shopping for holiday supplies, a weekend for decorating the house for the holidays, and a few family traditions like visiting Santa, and driving around to see holiday lights.

Budget:
You can’t plan for the holidays without a budget! It’s best to set aside budget in several categories:

  • travel
  • decor
  • food and drink: whether you’re hosting a party or not you’ll likely spend more on holiday meals
  • gifts: including wrapping paper, bows, etc.
  • holiday cards or stamps
  • miscellaneous

Most families spend an average of $500 {source} on the holidays including gifts, food, and miscellaneous stuff. You can look through last year’s bank statements to find out how much you typically spend.

Plan of Action:
Create monthly, weekly, and daily chores that can prep your home for the holidays is a great way to break down what can be an overwhelmingly busy time of year. For instance the month of October can be dedicated to decluttering, while November can focus on shopping for decor and things you may need for the season such as extra bedsheets, gifts, etc.

Weekly chores should be more focused such as doing a deep clean of your guest room, stocking you bathroom with extra toiletries, or cleaning up your entryway.

Daily chores can be quick items, with more intense days marked on your calendar. These can include 15 minute quick cleanups, decluttering one room for 15 minutes, or polishing silverware.

Menu Plan
Menu planning is an essential part of entertaining and feeding your family at the holidays. Use your typical menu plan, but you’ll have to increase serving size if you have lots of folks to entertain. Consider potlucks, and dishes you can make ahead to stretch your budget and your time. In our family even if no one else is joining us for a holiday meal I like to give everyone a dish to make (with help for the younger kids), and a job to do like setting the table.

Gift Ideas/Lists

  • Copy Santa’s Letter: If you celebrate Christmas make sure before you send that letter off to Santa make sure you photocopy it!
  • Create Gift Lists for Friends/Family: You can create online gift lists at places like Amazon for family that is spread out. Many relatives request this now, so it’s worth an hour or two of your time to craft a wish list.
  • Price Check: If you know how much something costs you’ll be able to know a deal when you see it. Keep an eye out for coupons, deals, and discounts on things you already plan to buy.
  • Make a List of Gift Ideas: Make a list, and check it twice. ;) This is especially helpful if you are making any gifts so you can plan ahead.
  • Keep Extras on Hand: Just in case a friendly neighbor or the need for a hostess gift arises you’ll be covered. Ideal options include chocolates, candles, wine (if you know they drink), and gift cards.

Use Tech to Track:
Use your smartphone or email to keep track of spending, items you have your eye on (photos help), and more. If you’re REALLY into organization consider a spreadsheet to track who is responsible for what, where you got an item, how much you paid, and who or what an item will be used for.

If you and your spouse (or kids) split duties make a GoogleDoc so everyone can see what they need to do. No more excuses that hey ‘forgot’!

Downtime
Most importantly make sure to plan some downtime to enjoy catching up with friends who are home for the holidays or take some time off to enjoy your family. For instance many families make sure to have time between visiting relatives to spend at home so their kids can play with new toys, sleep in, and have a few lazy days off to recover from the hustle and bustle.

Check out the resources below for more ideas on holiday planning.

How do you plan for the holidays?

About Kelly


Kelly Whalen is the founder of The Centsible Life, a blog where motherhood and money meet. Her goal is to help readers live well on less. Kelly is a mom to 4, and loves that she can stay at home with her kids, and still pursue her passions for writing, personal finance, and social media. You can often find her on twitter and Facebook talking money and motherhood.

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