Christmas Without the Chaos

December 25, 2010 | Comments Off on Christmas Without the Chaos

Just read this great post on surviving Christmas without the usual chaos the holiday brings. Next year I will make sure I follow these steps!!! Promise!

With the ever expanding commercialization of the Christmas holiday, the majority our organizing efforts during the month of December are focused on presents. How long is your list? The majority of us, each year, face the daunting task of not only shopping for a long list of family and friends, but also determining who should be on said list, how to wrap and store appropriately, how much to spend, potentially shipping gifts to different regions or countries and any number of tasks that threaten to overwhelm us.

Below are some tips and tricks intended to help keep you stress-free during Christmas by organizing your list and your spending.

1) Shopping list creation

Create your gift list as soon as possible. Write down names of every person for whom you intend to purchase a gift in a spreadsheet. As you generate names you will probably discover that the list is much longer than you anticipated. Don’t forget to brainstorm for those unexpected small gifts: a box of candy for the mail carrier, a plate of cookies for the administrative assistant and a gift card for the paperboy or girl. Create additional columns labeled ‘gift ideas,’ ‘budgeted amount,’ ‘actual amount,’ ‘items purchased,’ ‘purchase deadline,’ and, if appropriate, ‘shipping deadline.’

Large amounts of holiday stress come from failure to budget for gifts ahead of time. By creating columns on your spreadsheet, you’ll start to realize where your holiday dollars are being spent and be able to stop inadvertently buying too many presents for your special niece, nephew or grandchild. Do you give a calendar or special framed photo to several individuals in the family? Don’t neglect to include it on your list. Little things like frames or printing costs can add up quickly and you’ll want to account for them as you create your budget.

2) Shopping list completion

This is the fun part! Go shopping for all those great gift ideas that you generated on your spreadsheet. Take a look around the webpage of the stores you plan to visit before going into the store. This will give you a chance to see if free shipping is being offered or if there are special online sales that will give you a better deal than what you would find in the store. Most stores also publish their sale flyers in advance, so you can take note of any items you are planning to purchase that will be on sale in the next few days. By waiting to make your purchase, you may save one or two dollars and, as you probably already know, every dollar counts in December!

As you make purchases keep a small wallet or pouch handy for the receipts. When you receive the receipt from the clerk take the extra few seconds to write the name of the person on the back of the receipt, so you’ll be able to insert gift receipts in the appropriate packages later.

Finally, after each shopping experience, whether online or in-store, log your purchases on your shopping list spreadsheet.

3) Shopping storage and wrapping organization

Pick a space in your home that is off-limits to everyone else and make it your own ‘Wrapping Central;’ a home office or a corner in the basement are great options. Gather your essential supplies: tape, scissors, wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper, shirt boxes, bows, to/from tags, etc. As you wrap gifts, create labeled boxes or areas to ensure nothing is left behind. All presents for the in-laws’ party go in one stack, everything going to the office in another.

Check back with your spreadsheet to remember which presents are being shipped and which are being delivered in person. Wrapped gifts are much easier to package than bagged gifts, so plan accordingly. The US Postal Service also offers flat- rate boxes at all of their locations or delivered directly to you by your mail carrier. By having your shipping boxes on hand, you can pack as you wrap and then pay for postage online as soon as the package is ready to go–removing the extra trip to the post office or shipping store later in the month.

4) Distribution

It may look great on a Hollywood screen, but a car trunk filled with loose presents is anything but picturesque as you try to get them all unloaded at Grandma’s house. Take stock of how many gifts will be going to any given location and then choose a storage tub or laundry basket of appropriate size to contain all the packages together.

Once the presents have been placed beneath the tree, take the container back to the trunk to avoid cluttering the hosts’ house, retrieve it again at the end of the celebration to contain all the received gifts that need to make their way back to your house.

If shipping presents, consider shipping them directly from an online retailer. Many retailers offer gift-wrapping for a small fee. Though it may seem like $6 is a lot to pay for wrapping paper, it may end up being cheaper than the cost of shipping it to your home, wrapping it yourself and then shipping it to the recipient.

5) Etcetera and Miscellany

Undoubtedly there will be some new acquaintance that will purchase a gift for you unexpectedly. Be sure to account for these experiences by adding a couple extra ‘unnamed’ lines to your spreadsheet. They may not have names, but they should have a budget!

While you’re out shopping, don’t forget to pick up a couple of interchangeable gifts for those ‘unnamed’ lines on your spreadsheet. A set of coasters or a bottle of wine are usually great options when you don’t know for whom you are buying.

One other item to consider including on your spreadsheet would be any cards or letter you plan to send for the holidays. If printing pictures or purchasing cards, your budget could dramatically shift after you account for the costs of those items and the postage necessary to mail them.



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