I know a lot of people still feel like it’s too early to start talking about the big ‘C’, but I genuinely think it’s never too early to make a start on preparations. Especially if you have a family and or are hosting on the big day itself. This year I’m hosting my extended family for the first time ever: expectations are high, food demands are endless and gifting will, no doubt, be in abundance. And that’s not a problem for me as I personally love this time of year but even I can get a little overwhelmed with all the things that need to be done, bought or prepared so here’s my guide of how to organise yourself at Christmas.
My top tip has to be: write lists! Lists of everything you can think of, put it all down onto paper or a note in your phone so you’re not trying to remember everything and hold it all in your head. I generally use my notes app on my phone and then I also have the Google Sheets app, which allows me to create spreadsheets, which is especially useful for present lists. So with that in mind, I’ve tried to break down this post into the various lists I’ve created so I can explain a little more about the organisation of each one.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without some presents. How many you buy or how much you spend is really personal, but this method works really well for sticking to a budget, no matter how big/small.
Notes App: I always have a list on the go to jot down ideas quickly whenever I think of them. Sometimes it’s ideas of things I’d like to receive (because people always ask what you’d like), and mostly it’s ideas of things I’ve seen or thought of that I think the children will like. I keep referring back to this regularly as it’s easy to access and amend.
Google Sheets Spreadsheet: I have two spreadsheets on here. One is for the children (I have 3!) and the other is for the wider family and friends and I set them out slightly differently.
Where we buy the children multiple gifts I have a column for each child and then I write down every present once I’ve purchased it and the amount I spent on it. Then I allow the spreadsheet to work it’s magic and total up the amount spent, which enables me to a) stay within my budget and b) ensure I’ve spent the same amount of each child. I start buying from September onwards and the children have already done their Christmas lists so I have a good idea of what they want. I won’t spend all the budget until the last couple of weeks to allow for any last minute requests/changes of mind.
My second spreadsheet for wider family and friends has three columns: ‘Person’, ‘Idea’ and ‘Purchased’. Way in advance I’ve written down everyone I will need to buy for so that no one gets left out or forgotten. Whenever an idea pops into my head I write down the gift ides in the next column and then I put a tick in the third column once I’ve purchased the gift. This just saves the last minute rush of thinking up ideas for people, which I hate!
I’m a keen bargain hunter when it comes to my present buying so I’ll do a separate post on my top tips for that.
Our Christmas dinner is largely the same every year (tradition and all that!), so it’s simple enough to draw up a list of all the food I’m going to want on the table. This just allows me to make sure I don’t miss anything off and also means I can clearly see which items I could prep in advance. For instance, I will make the gravy and the yorkshire puddings ahead of time and freeze them.
I’ve also already booked my online food delivery slot. Each supermarket releases them at different times but I use Ocado and priority slots were released about a month ago. This means I don’t have to battle my way around the supermarkets close to Christmas and I can add to the shop anytime I like up until 21st December. Guaranteed I’ll still forget something but it does mean I won’t have to do a full Christmas shop in person.
Any non-perishable items I buy as and when I see them on offer from about October time. Crisps, Pringles, drinks, chocolates can all be bought in advance, spreading the cost and allowing for bargain hunting.
Elf on the Shelf
I know this won’t apply to everyone, but if you do ‘Elf on the Shelf’ then be sure to write a list ahead of time. I didn’t do this the first year and I was always scrabbling round for ideas at 10pm. Last year I made a list in advance of 24 ideas so that each day I just had to pick one from the list and there was very little thought involved. It also meant I could space out the more extravagant ideas in amongst days where the elves simply moved, so that it kept it exciting.
I often feel like writing cards is a bit of a chore because I end up leaving it ’til the last minute and then I’m under pressure to get them posted before it’s too late. I now only send cards to family members and a select group of friends, those that live far away and I don’t see in person to wish happy Christmas to. Most people have social media these days a lot of people are trying to cut back on their waste etc so I’m noticing more and more that people aren’t bothering with cards. I’ve entered everyone’s address that I send Christmas cards to into my contacts on my phone with a note on their contact details saying ‘Christmas Card’, so when I come to write them I just search in my contacts for Christmas and my list pops up and all the addresses are there. This year I’ve been super organised and I sat down one nap time and wrote them all out so they’re already ready to post when December hits.
Get Ahead and Beat the Rush
There are countless other things that need our attention at Christmas and everyone will have slightly different things but as soon as you know dates for things (school nativities, parties, etc) put them on the calendar and get prepared. If you know a costume will be needed, can you buy it now? Christmas jumper day will hit and schools will be asking for donations in exchange for your children wearing them. Do last year’s fit or do you need to buy a new one? Do you need to buy any new decorations this year? Sometimes the shops begin to sell out by the beginning of December so get out there early. Do you want to buy disposable baking trays so there’s less washing up to do on the big day? Have you got enough wrapping paper/sellotape? You get the idea, the more you can think in advance, the less stressed you’ll be during December itself.
I hope this proves helpful to some of you who I know are trying to be more organised this year. If you’re looking to bag a bargain on the present buying front then hang tight, I’ve got another post coming soon. Likewise, if there’s enough demand, I’ll write up my Elf on the Shelf ideas for 2018.
Mrs B x