How to plan for Christmas

Yes, it really is nearly is almost time for mince pies, twinkling lights and the excitement of small children waiting on Father Christmas. The easiest way to ensure that Christmas is enjoyable for all the family, including the person doing most of the ‘work’, is to get ahead and plan.

Follow our guide on how to plan for Christmas and you’ll be supping the mulled wine to carols on Christmas Eve, rather than pulling your hair out along with pulling crackers.

Get Christmas planning now

Now is the time to get out the notebook and jot down your plans and to-do list. This way you can break it in to manageable chunks and even have fun along the way. Decide where you’re spending the day, who is coming, and work out a plan for Christmas accordingly. Give every item on your list a deadline and spread the load and responsibilities between the family.

This time of year is the time to book Christmas annual leave if needed, make travel arrangements, and work out where everyone will sleep.

Now’s also the time to set expectations. Don’t dodge the awkward in-law question, or fail to ask university-aged children their plans for fear it doesn’t include you. Now is the time to iron out when you’re seeing loved ones and where, so that you all know where you stand.

The other early-bird task you need to do is booking to see the man in red. Whilst you’ll probably find the odd shopping mall slot in December itself, if you want to take the kids to a more unusual or popular venue, you’ll need to organise that soon.

Spread the cooking

One of the biggest stress factors of Christmas is cooking for the festive feast. All too often, the host ends up in the kitchen trying to keep all the components of the Christmas dinner warm, whilst the rest of the family is enjoying their smoked salmon starter.

This year, work out a menu and see what can be made in advance or delegated. Dishes such as stuffing and red cabbage freeze wonderfully, allowing you to share the load. Guests can be responsible for bringing items such as mince pies or brandy butter.

Think about your shopping

Frequently, people overspend at Christmas because they panic buy in a rush without much thought. The result is generic gifts which end up in the charity shop, and an empty bank account come January.

Make this Christmas the year that you write a list and set a budget. Then take time to think carefully what gifts you can get within that price range. Enjoy some evenings of online shopping without the time pressure, or visit your favourite shops away from the madding crowds of December. If, through working out the budget, you discover there’s not much spare cash, get creative and think of gifts which are homemade or which don’t break the bank. You’ve got time. You can also hold out for Black Friday for some deals, but target what you know you want to buy.

At this point, you should also go through your address list and make sure it’s up to date.

Use lists

Far from taking the fun out of things, using lists can make the festive season run smoothly and reduce the stress. Keep a list on the fridge of dates for school fairs, things needed for the preschool nativity, or items to order from the butcher. Use lists to keep track of what’s still to do. The satisfaction of crossing things off is enough to make you feel the Christmas spirit.

Do things little and often

Whilst it’s tempting to shove everything at the back of a cupboard and hope for the best, it’s a good strategy to do things as you go, such as wrapping. Little and often is a simple approach which makes burdensome tasks seem much more manageable. This theory can be applied to all sorts of Christmas planning from writing Christmas cards to cleaning the house for guests.

Take time

If you plan for Christmas, and get on top of all things Christmas, you can take your time to actually enjoy the building festive fever. Knowing that shopping is in hand means you can take the little ones to a lights switch-on and watch the magic in their eyes without a background knot in your stomach. This Christmas, with a little planning, make it a Christmas where you feel the magic again.