How to Prepare for Christmas

Updated on October 27, 2016

Retailers seem to be stocking Christmas decorations and present ideas earlier and earlier every year. But still, we tend to leave many things until the last minute or forget that one must-have thing.

However, everyone knows that one smug person who is sat relaxing on Christmas Eve, safe in the knowledge that they have had everything prepared for days or even weeks. This year, try to make that one person you by following these tips.

Cards

Christmas-card writing can take up a lot of time. Some of this time is taken up trying to remember the names of people's children or trying to get their addresses. You'll also waste time trying to work out who you're even going to send cards to.

  • Write a List. To make this task easier and get done a lot faster, you need to start a few weeks before Christmas (ideally in November) and write a list. Use this list to work out if you've forgotten the names of someone's family members, or if you don't have a note of their address to send the card to. This gives you time to ask around mutual friends or ask the person directly for their address.
  • Get Addresses. Make a note of everyone's address in one place. This may mean adding addresses to your phone or an address book. When you come round to writing the cards, at least you won't be scrambling around trying to find scraps of paper or going through text messages.
  • Buy Cards. Find some cards you like and make sure you buy enough to send one to everyone on your list. If you arrange a family photo for your cards, make sure your shoot is booked, and that you have made arrangements for somewhere you can get them printed. By getting them done early, you may be able to find some good deals or use voucher codes to save a bit of money.
  • Buy Stamps. Work out how many cards you will be sending in the post, and buy the corresponding number of stamps. There's nothing worse than trying to choose between people for your last stamp! Also, make sure you're aware of the last Christmas posting-dates. These are usually earlier than normal because of the amount of post that needs delivering around this time. Make sure you post them in plenty of time so that the recipients have time to enjoy them.

Presents

Trying to think of things to buy people can be extremely difficult, especially for those people who have everything. If you can stay on the look-out throughout the year and keep a note of these ideas, you are doing well. If not, you can still make it a little easier for yourself.

  • Get Children to Write a List. Children love writing big, long lists of presents they want for Christmas, and this can be a huge help! However, make sure their list doesn't continually change right up to Christmas Eve. Start by picking a few presents on the list that you are confident they will still love in a few weeks' time.
  • Allocate Appropriately. Allocate the smaller, more affordable items to friends and family for when they ask you what to buy your children. The kids will be happy, as they will get what they want, and the person gifting the present will be happy that the child is so pleased with their choice.
  • Agree Budgets with Family and Friends. If, like I've suggested above, you will be allocating presents to be given to your children by friends and family, you may want to confirm Christmas present budgets with them beforehand. This isn't just useful for gifts being given to children, but also other family members and friends. It helps us to budget more effectively and maybe even get a little creative with our gift choices!
  • Arrange a Secret Santa with Your Friends or Work Colleagues. Last minute Secret Santas can be disastrous, especially in the office. If you draw the name of someone you don't know, you won't even get much time to ask around and find out what they're like and what type of gift they'd appreciate. Even a Secret Santa with friends can be difficult unless you have a list of ideas you've built up throughout the year for everyone. You need time to have a look around. Try to bolster everyone along into getting this arranged as soon as possible so that you can all meet up before Christmas and swap presents.
  • Buy Wrapping Paper, Tags, Ribbon and Sticky Tape. Presents means wrapping! This means you'll need wrapping paper, ribbon, and tape for that purpose. To make sure you don't muddle up the presents you've wrapped, don't forget the gift tags to label your presents up.
  • Have a Hiding Place Ready. If your partner or children can't be trusted, have a hiding place ready for those presents you're going to buy. If there's nowhere in the house, consider the garage, shed, or even your car. You may even be able to arrange to keep presents at the houses of friends or family until just before Christmas.
  • Start Buying Small Stocking Fillers Early. How much bigger are those stockings inside than they look outside?! Every time I think I've sorted a stocking, I fill it up to find that I don't even have half the number of presents to fill it all the way up. An easy solution to this is to start buying stocking-fillers early. By early, I mean two or three months in advance. They don't need to be large or expensive presents, even stationery or toiletries make good stocking fillers. However, due to the number of presents you'll need for this, you may end up spending a fair amount of money. Spread the cost by starting early.
  • Use Black Friday as an Opportunity to Get Great Deals. If you already know what you're going to buy someone, check out Black Friday for a great price on that item. You may just get lucky and manage to save some money. Even if you don't have a list of gifts to buy yet, Black Friday may have an offer on an item that is perfect for that particular someone. Black Friday can give you some brilliant gift ideas.

The Tree

  • If artificial, is it still looking good or do you need a new one?
  • Where will you get a real one - what size can you fit in your car/room?
  • Do the fairy lights still work?
  • Find the decorations—need to replace any?
  • Do you need to decorate anywhere else?

Party Preparedness

The Christmas period can be a busy time for parties. Prepare for them so that they don't take you by surprise the morning before.

  • Wine: Buy wine as a gift for your hosts. It can be used during the party and can be gifted easily in a wine gift bag. Wine can also be used as a present for someone you've forgotten to buy a present for and failing that, if you still have a bottle or two left on Christmas day, add it to the celebration drinks!
  • Outfits: Make sure you have a couple of outfits that are washed and ready to wear for any parties. By checking these beforehand, you can ensure they still fit and you have matching shoes and accessories. It also saves time choosing what to wear just before you leave home.
  • Dates: Put the dates of any parties in your calendar. If you need to arrange babysitters, do this in advance.
  • Get Home: Arrange how you're going to get to and from the party. If you're drinking, you'll need to arrange a taxi or at least have the number of a taxi firm in your phone.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day is the main event so make sure you've got it all arranged.

  • Invite Others: Where are you spending the day? Speak to friends and family to see if they'd like to host the day or if they're spending it alone. Invite those with nowhere to go to spend the day with you. They'll appreciate the gesture, and Christmas is always better with more people!
  • Offer Help: Do you need to take anything with you if you're going to someone else's for the day? Offer to bring dessert or entertainment. Hosting Christmas Day is a lot of work, try to ease the burden on your hosts.
  • Check Attendance: If you're spending Christmas Day at home, make sure you know who's coming (and that other family members haven't invited extra guests, or they're no longer coming). You need to know how many people you're cooking for and whether anyone has any special dietary requirements; for example, you may have a vegetarian coming who won't be eating the turkey.
  • Shop: Make a shopping list for the food and drink, and more importantly: don't forget the crackers!
  • Consider Eating Out: If you can't be bothered with the hassle of hosting Christmas dinner, consider arranging Christmas dinner at a local restaurant or hotel. Many places offer this several months before. Be quick though, these get booked up pretty quickly!
  • Have Entertainment: Do you have games to play or a Christmassy film to watch? After opening the presents and eating Christmas dinner, it can get a bit boring and a bit of a let-down. Have activities on hand to keep things interesting. Maybe plan an after dinner walk if the weather allows.
  • Have Spare Batteries: Always have a variety of spare batteries available for presents that don't come with them. The disappointment of getting a present you really want and then discovering you can't use it straight away is most keenly felt by children, but can be a blow for adults too!

When do you start preparing for Christmas?

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