Monday, September 23, 2013

Make yourself useful and...prep yourself before you wreck yourself

I know that it's been quite a while since I've done a "Make Yourself Useful" feature. Frankly, in my current condition, it's been a while since I've done too much that could be considered even remotely useful. So I figured I'd make this one count, and also make you really hate me if you don't already. You ready? Good, cuz it's time to gird up your loins and prepare for Christmas! 

You know, Christmas is only like, 92 days away, right? RIGHT? That's like, 3 months, and if you like to do holidays in a big way, you need to get yourself in gear.
 (You really hate me now, don't you?)

What that means is that some serious planning is in order. With a new baby on the way sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving (in all probability), I'll lose about a month and a half of planning, shopping, wrapping, and prepping in general. That means that I need to be on the ball, or at least somewhere near the ball. Here are some ways that you can get ready too:
  1. Start planning who to buy gifts for, and what to buy for whom. Make a list of everyone you bought for last year and amend it as needed. Any new additions to the family, like babies, boyfriends/girlfriends, new spouses, anything like that? Anyone eliminated (ouch)? Try to be sure that everyone is accounted for before you start assigning girfts, otherwise you're liable to forget about them altogether.
  2. Start saving money for presents and activities. What's that you say? You've been saving all along? Well that's good for you, honey, but we humans spend our money on things like groceries and Netflix and pumpkin scented candles and can't be bogged down by things like setting aside a few bucks a week. Here's how this works in my house: each of us has a piggy bank that we contribute to and then dump twice yearly, once before our summer vacation, and once before Christmas shopping. Then we supplement with what we can use out of our budget (generally one chunk of cash comes out of the bank for Black Friday and another for the other day I Christmas shop...yes I only shop 2 days, more on that later). There are a number of other ways to do this. If your bank offers the option, sign up for a Christmas Club or separate savings account just for the holidays. It likely won't do you much good this year, but next year when this time rolls around, you'll be good and ready with a nice chunk of change. Also you could try the envelope budgeting system for the next few weeks, putting $20 (or $5 or $50 or whatever you can) in an envelope each week and saving it for when you've finished planning and started shopping. Do whatever works, but don't rely on credit cards to get you through the holiday season. You'll only be sorry come January.  
  3. Decide if you want to make anything. The Modern Mrs. Darcy had a great post last year on what to buy vs. what to make. There's a flowchart, and I'm a sucker for charts. Basically it boils down to: make it if it's easy enough and you have the skills to do it, or if it will make it more special. If you don't have the skills or time and/or you won't enjoy the process, go the consumer route. One side of my family makes things for all of the other adults (there are like, a bagillion of us) for the sake of cost-effectiveness. I like this strategy, because everyone gets the same thing, and you don't have to go elaborate or spend a ton. I've made truffles, flavored butters, family cookbooks, dulce de leche, and all kinds of other food-related goodies over the years (everyone loves consumables). Take into consideration that somethings can be made way ahead of time, while others (like baked goods) need to be completed last-minute. PLAN FOR THIS! You don't want to run out of time on Christmas Eve.
  4. Make a plan for when you want to buy things. Electronics are generally better buys on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and some stores will start leaking their ads for these "holidays" in the beginning of October. And as I mentioned above in #3, I only shop on two days, taking in a full day during the big Black Friday sales, and another full day at a huge mall some distance from my house. This includes all wrapping paper, supplies, gifts, etc. If I really need something I can't get on either of those days, I order online. So in general once my list is made, I can plan out all of the stops on one of my two days. The rest of the season is family time.  
  5. Shop. Do some research and shopping online if you can. Right now is a good time for stocking stuffers since a lot of back-to-school necessities are clearanced out and you can get them for pennies on the dollar. But don't limit yourself to one type of item. My favorite stocking stuffers? Travel-sized toiletries (then I never need to buy them for a trip), small candles and food items, and lottery tickets. My husband never expects anything in his stocking but chocolate. You'll know what works best for your family. Stockings can be done for under $10 if you plan well! One more shopping-related tip: Wrap and label presents as you buy them, so there's no mad dash to do this all a few days before Christmas. Keep the presents in piles or large bags by family, and then organize by when you'll see them. This makes it super-easy to grab a bag of wrapped presents if you know you'll be seeing someone at a party, and you won't have to worry about it last minute
  6. Plan your yuletide activities too. If you go carolling or sledding, when? Make sure it's on everyone's calendar now. The holidays get pretty crazy, and you'll need to know what days are available in advance. Within the next few days, I'll be opening my cookie exchange facebook group to search for a day that works for all of our crazy schedules, just so that with all of the commotion, our yearly tradition doesn't get lost in the shuffle. (*An aside: organizing group activities on facebook is so much easier than playing phone tag, and almost everyone has facebook. Give it a try this year. It has simplified my party planning like woah. Still send out invitations and whatnot, but use this to get a feel for invite lists and dates and whatnot.) Remember not to over-schedule; you want to have time to relax as a family and just enjoy the season too. 
When you've had enough, sit back, drink some hot cocoa and reflect on how awesome you are and how you've helped your family have the best Christmas ever.

If you get a chance, head over to Pinterest and check out my board, Jingle Belling, for easy DIY gifts, decoration ideas, holiday food inspiration, and lists to help you organize. Don't say I never gave you anything!

No comments:

Post a Comment