What is a holiday timeline and why should you have one?
Ever notice how some people glide through the holidays? They remember everything. They stay on budget, and they look like they know what they’re doing at every turn.
Then there are the people who never seem to have it together. They show up late for everything. They’re overdone, cranky and completely disorganized.
I used to be one of those people. I thought lists and timelines were for organized people who were way too boring and uptight, but guess what? The people who benefit the most from lists and holiday timelines are usually the ones who resist them the most.
If you feel like you would never be able to use a holiday timeline because it would stress you out and feel confining, I dare you to try this one.
I also encourage you to sign up for the 7 ways to reduce holiday stress below which will tell you how to access to the the Happiest Holidays Facebook group where I will share encouragement with a live video nearly every weekday starting November 1.
Start your Holiday Timeline in October
One of the most powerful lessons I learned about holiday planning is that starting early isn’t the same as pushing the holiday.
Instead, it’s a way to strategize and work in little bits to reduce holiday stress before the holiday and a possible holiday slump later.
So what do you do in October?
Set your budget for the holidays. Did you know that Christmas accounts still exist? We use one and transfer money into the account every payday. On October 1st, the bank transfers funds from the Christmas account to our savings account. That way, we have a built in budget and know exactly how much we have to spend on holiday expenses.
Want to know what’s better than having your holiday expenses covered in October every year? Opening your bills in January and owing nothing. Do this and eliminate the financial stress of the holidays.
Who gets the good stuff?
Make your gift-giving list. My husband is the youngest of nine children, so it’s quite a challenge to give gifts.
Some years we give family gifts. Some years we give a family gift card and some years we bake goodies.
Honestly, one of the best gifts we gave was a small loaf of a delicious quick bread for the families to have for breakfast on Christmas morning. The mixes cost $1 each, and we baked a dozen of them.
Whoever wanted one could take one home, and those that did were thrilled to have Christmas breakfast covered.
When you know your budget, it makes the plan clearer from the beginning. Also if it doesn’t fit in your budget, don’t go into debt to look good. No good comes from making life difficult for your family to look good on one day of the year.
Lets talk Christmas cards
Decide if you are sending Christmas cards. I happen to love Christmas cards. I have a special place that I hang my Christmas cards, and they stay there year round. Every time I look at the cards, I say a prayer for the people who sent them to me.
If you want to send cards, your holiday timeline helps you decide when to write a family letter or take a family photo to include with the card.
It helps you know when to mail the cards, and if you have time to send them at all based on your holiday activities.
One note to keep in mind – If this doesn’t bring you joy. let it go. Sending cards isn’t for everyone.
If you do choose to send them, use your holiday timeline to help you decide when to purchase the cards, stamps, and prints of the pictures. By spreading out the cost is more budget friendly and less stressful.
Household items you can accomplish early
Begin washing guest linens and tidying up the guest room/area if you have overnight visitors scheduled to stay with you. Doing this ahead of time saves so much time, energy and stress.
You will feel so accomplished if you have a guest room that is ready days or weeks ahead of schedule, and if you’re worried about someone messing up the bed, put a large blanket or comforter over it to give it an extra layer of protection.
Do you want to clean your carpets? Late October or early November is a great time to get it done or at least get it scheduled.
Do you have special holiday towels, tablecloths or other linens that need washing before the holidays? Working ahead alleviates stress later and only adds a load or two to the week rather than several loads at one time when you’re already stressed. Give yourself this gift. It helps so much.
Shopping in October?!?!
Holiday shopping – I know Christmas shopping in October sound insane, but think about this. If you make stockings for the holidays, this is a good time to start purchasing items.
As my children get older, the stockings get more expensive because I include gift cards and other goodies that my adult children appreciate.
Yes, my adult children still get stockings. It makes me happy to give them, and it’s gives them a chance to relive a small part of their childhood.
As far as gift shopping, this is a great time to get beginning of the season bargains, and when you spread the expenses over a few months, it’s less painful.
For larger gifts, many stores offers complimentary gift wrapping, which saves time and money, and if you shop early, there’s no waiting.
If you use the free gift-wrapping service, though, make a list of all items you purchase as well as adding gift tags right away so you don’t have to rely on your memory later, not that this has ever happened to me.
A special note about baking
Typically, this is a great time to start gathering items for holiday baking. Stores often run sales on butter, flour and sugar in late October and early November.
Stocking up now assures that you have what you need, when you need it. If you need help with that, sign up below for 7 ways to reduce holiday stress and look for the offer for the Happiest Holidays Joy Journal. In addition to suggested recipes, the Joy Journal offers shopping lists to make your shopping easier.
The greatest secret to home wrapping success
If you don’t use the complimentary free gift-wrapping services or pay someone to wrap your gifts, set up a wrapping station.
If setting up a wrapping station is a new concept, you are going to love this gift to yourself. It makes gift wrapping so much easier.
I use a table in my basement, and it keeps me from having to haul everything out each time I purchase a gift.
Let’s be honest, if you’re anything like me, the idea of getting all the wrapping paraphernalia every time I go shopping is overwhelming.
It’s why we put things off until the last minute and end up wrapping everything Christmas Eve much later than any human being should be up.
How to set up your wrapping station
This isn’t difficult, and it saves so much time, effort and stress. Each year we purchase items dedicated to the wrapping station so we don’t have to search for the items we need.
It’s wonderful to have scissors and tape right where you need them. It keeps ribbon, wrapping paper, bags for difficult to wrap gifts, gift tags, and brown wrapping paper if you mail gifts all in the same place so it’s easy to find.
We purchased a bin specifically for wrapping supplies, but a shopping bag or large box would work too.
Bonus tip – we used a specific wrapping paper that was different from all our other paper for Santa. Because we purchased a rather large roll, we could use it year after year and our children instantly recognized “Santa paper”.
November timeline tips
In the US, Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday in November, so holiday planning includes Thanksgiving.
While there are differing views about Thanksgiving, for me, Thanksgiving is about celebrating friends and family.
The beginning of the month is a great time to start purchasing items for holiday baking if you haven’t already.
Thanksgiving weekend is a great time to start planning your Christmas baking and perhaps freezing cookie dough if you are pressed for time later or want to spread out the holiday baking tasks.
Are you cooking for Thanksgiving? Do you need recipes? Whether it’s turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, baked apples or a grain free pumpkin pie, you can find the recipe by clicking on the item or check out the Easy Thanksgiving Recipes list with all the recipes in one place.
Several recipes are easy to assemble or make ahead of time and save time and stress on Thanksgiving. You might even get to watch the Macy’s parade.
Post Thanksgiving weekend
Once Thanksgiving is over, you can dive fully into Christmas planning. Here’s where the holiday timeline can help you look like a true holiday hero.
Note – I am not a proponent of shopping on Thanksgiving. While I understand that several occupations work on Thanksgiving, do we really need any more stuff so badly that we need to shop on a national holiday? I don’t think so.
If you are a Black Friday shopper, have at it and have fun. I would rather spend the weekend putting up our artificial tree and decorating, and the holiday timeline help me do that.
We have a family tradition of setting up a puzzle on Wednesday before Thanksgiving and working on it over the weekend as a family, which I love.
I also spend time addressing cards while we watch holiday specials and American football. We celebrate St. Nick night on December 5th, if the tree goes up, so do the stockings. Because we have an extended weekend, all of those activities are much easier to accomplish.
If you’re still thinking about sending Christmas cards, this is a good weekend to order photo cards. Watch for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, but if you don’t order this last weekend in November, those cards and photos could cause some serious stress.
If you haven’t done it yet, write your family letter. Make sure you have postage stamps and purchase your printed cards if you’re not using photo cards.
Early December Holiday Timeline
Now it’s time to finalize your baking list for the holidays. If you haven’t purchased your baking supplies, do it now or pare down your list.
By the beginning of December you have approximately three weeks to get your holiday baking done.
If you have the Happiest Holidays Joy Journal, fill out the calendar page in the back with your family obligations so you can see how much time you have to bake and make gifts.
The Happiest Holidays book also has recipes for simple and delicious baking and gift ideas and get on it. quickly.
Check your St. Nick supplies. Need some stocking ideas? Watch for my upcoming article on What to Put in Your Young Adult’s Stocking and check out Board Games for College Students for some great gift ideas.
Mid December Holiday Timeline
Finish your online shopping so your gifts arrive on time, and you have time to wrap them. Some websites ship up until the last week before Christmas, but the earlier you order, the better.
Finish your menu plan if you haven’t already and purchase your non-perishable items. The Happiest Holidays Joy Journal is invaluable for this.
If this timeline is helpful, please print your own copy here, and remember to sign up for the Moving Toward Better community below. You will get a free copy of 7 ways to reduce holiday stress and the opportunity to purchase the Happiest Holidays bundle at a deeply discounted price.
The Happiest Holidays book and Joy Journal can help you have your happiest and most peaceful holiday season ever! As always, thanks for being you, have a great day, and this time…Happy Holidays everyone!