A survey by the American Psychological Association found that thirty-eight percent of respondents reported their stress level increased during the holiday season. The top stressors they listed were lack of time and money, the pressures of gift-giving and family gatherings. So how best to start saving for Christmas? Key is getting an early and organised start.
The idea of preparing for Christmas as soon as September may elicit a groan for some, but early preparation has its perks. This week by week planning guide breaks down all the holiday madness into manageable weekly tasks. The end result? You spend less, reduce stress, and have breathing room to actually enjoy the holiday season more.
Week by Week Guide
September 22nd: Start putting money aside regularly and check the balance on any Christmas savings accounts you might have. If you don’t have one, consider starting one for next year and deposit a set amount out of each paycheck. Even small amounts like $5 per week will take the sting out of purchases as the holiday’s approach.
This is also a good time to consider ways to earn extra money you can put towards the bills. Hold a yard sale before the weather gets cold or list items for sale on Facebook Marketplace. You may also want to do some sideline freelancing or moonlighting on weekends during this time if money is extra tight. This is the time to start thinking of ways to avoid putting holidays on credit.
September 29th: Consider travel plans. Do you need to travel or do you have family traveling to your area? This is a good time to start making reservations. The longer you wait, the higher the rates for airfare, rental cars, and lodging. Perhaps consider an Airbnb or check bargain travel websites.
October 6th: Gather all recipes for foods you’ll be preparing for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Make a list of grocery items and divide them by perishable and non-perishable. Check for coupons and local deals on non-perishable items and start picking them up with every shopping trip.
October 13th: Purchase non-perishable food items for both Thanksgiving and Christmas either all at once if you are able, or break it up into weekly purchases. If you bake a lot for the holidays, you can also purchase items to prepare pie filling and dough so you can freeze it.
Warehouse clubs like SAMS or Costco are great for this. Purchase large quantities of butter, eggs, flour, and sugar in bulk for less. If you don’t have a membership, consider going as a guest or having a friend or family member pick up items for you.
October 20th: This week, focus on preparing and freezing foods in advance. Ideas include cookie dough, pie filling, and bread doughs. Cookies can be cut or scooped in advance and frozen in an airtight container for several months. When you bake, no need to thaw. Bake the frozen cookies for 2 to 3 minutes longer than your recipe calls for.
Both apple and pumpkin pie filling freeze well. Thaw gently before use.
October 27th: Plan any holiday parties and activities now. Make a guest list and send out your invitations early. This helps you and your guests plan far enough in advance. You’ll also want to start marking your calendar for upcoming events like recitals and office parties.
November 3rd: Are you hosting in your home over the holidays? This is a good time to ensure your guest room is in good shape. Make sure you have enough linens, blankets, towels, and pillows for any overnight guests.
November 10th: This week it’s time to get your house in order for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Deep clean, rent a carpet shampooer, even consider doing some touch-up paint. A good deep clean now should last for the season. Pull out the chore list and tackle those annual or bi-annual tasks like baseboards, pulling out furniture, and other heavy cleaning tasks. If it’s within your budget, you may want to consider hiring someone to help you.
Most of us consider a home-cleaning service a luxury, but it can be affordable if you only do it a couple of times per year, particularly if you struggle with moving furniture or using machinery. Check Angie’s List and Home Advisor for good references and price comparisons.
November 17th: Make extra regular meals to freeze for the busy times ahead. As the holiday’s approach faster now, evenings are often full and the pressures of time crunches can make it easy to blow the budget on meals out and convenience foods. Freeze a few family favorites and use the crockpot to warm them or simple reheat when you get home.
November 24th: Take advantage of Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday instead of fighting battles for “Black Friday” deals that are often more about gimmicks than good prices. Your local mom and pop shops appreciate the support and will often have sales or other promotions on “Small Business Saturday”
If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of crowds and fighting for limited amounts of merchandise, consider shopping online. There are many free tools that will help you comparison shop. If you use Rakuten, you can earn cashback on purchases from hundreds of national retailers.
December 1st: Double-check your September list to ensure you’ve purchased all your gifts and wrap up any handmade projects you might be working on. You may find that you missed someone or that there are new gifts like “Secret Santas” that you weren’t aware of when you made your initial list.
December 8th: Time to start getting those gifts wrapped. Yes, it’s a few weeks early, but doing this now ensures you can enjoy more free time directly before the holiday. Don’t like the idea of wrapping a lot of gifts? Consider some options that are more budget and environmentally friendly like craft paper bags or even canvas bags.
When you receive gift bags, keep them and reuse them for subsequent years. Bags printed on glossy paper are not recyclable so it’s best to get the most life out of them you can while not purchasing more. Craft paper bags can be purchased in bulk online. They’re inexpensive and easy to customize.
December 15th: Time to take care of the holiday cards. Sending traditional cards can be expensive. Consider a non-traditional route and use postcards (cheaper postage) or send electronic cards. In our family, the older generations appreciate getting cards in the mail, but many of our younger family members prefer sending online greetings.
Both have benefits. It’s nice to open a real card and most appreciate the time taken to write it and mail it. On the other hand, if saving for Christmas is the priority, it is definitely more budget-friendly to send a digital card and it’s an environmentally sound choice.
If you’re uncertain, split the list. Send actual cards to close family and friends and those who live further away that you won’t see. The rest can receive an electronic greeting. Whatever you choose, take a few minutes to make a custom message.
December 22nd: Go through your lists from previous months and ensure everything is ready. Today is the day to take care of any incidentals you may have missed, and then take some time for yourself to rest. Hopefully, this list has made your tasks flow more smoothly and now you can relax and enjoy!