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Family blog about homeschooling, autism, saving money, mom blog, travel, vacation, budgeting.

Making a List, Checking It Twice

This year I am making a list.  And I'm going to check it twice.  Maybe the song isn't talking about making a list of things to buy but a list of things to do.  At least that's what my list is about.

Anyone else ever feel like this about Christmas?  :)

Can a woman get an amen?

Last year I tried to be more organized. I shopped all year 'round and really felt like I had a leg up...until it got a little too close to Christmas and I realized that I had let my ego of being ahead get the best of me and I found myself way behind way too late to fix it.  Basically I shot myself in the foot by convincing myself that a year worth of shopping meant that I was done.

But I was far from it.

So I took the feelings that I had from last year and used them to kind of troubleshoot my faults to be prepared for this year.  Here are things that always catch me up and the solutions I've come up with so I don't have these things hanging over my head:

Christmas cards

I always put these off, have lots of cute cards, and then am struggling at the last minute to get them out in the mail amidst all of the other tasks going on.

SOLUTION:

I'm already addressing them to get in the mail the day before Thanksgiving. I can wipe my hands of them and sit back and relax.

My 2015 Alternate Solution: I already have a day on the calendar when I know I will have a solid two and a half hour time slot that this kiddos will be gone.  I am using this date as my deadline to have my Christmas cards ordered and here, my address labels and stamps in order, and the hot cocoa ingredients in the house.  I have big plans of sitting down with christmas music on, a mug of hot chocolate next to me, and I can gleefully write them out and be done with them.  Hallelujah!

Decorating

Every year I have the best intentions.  I am going to make amazing displays around the house, people will ooh and aah and it will look and feel amazing.  But it never happens.  I always have Nick bring down our decorations and then 5 bins end up sitting in a corner, just waiting to be unloaded up until the very last minute.  This year I'm not doing it.  Not gonna do it, I tell ya.

SOLUTION:

While we are sticklers (read that as my husband is) about not decorating until after Thanksgiving, I was able to have him bring all of the bins out of the attic.  I am going through them the days before Thanksgiving: weeding out what the kids are too old for (training dishes, board books), and paring down the bins we need to decorate with by getting out things I know we will not be using and putting those things together.  I tend to get really nostalgic once that tree's up so sitting in my craft room doing this really helps me to think

don't need, need, don't need, don't need.  

Trust me folks, this works :)

My 2015 Alternate Solution: I have made bins as I go through things that say clearly on the outside "Christmas Memories" and Nick knows those are things that do not need to come down, just things I want to keep.  That has helped a lot. And this year I am finally going to start decorating (just a smidge) the week of Thanksgiving with the hopes that it will lend us more time to simply enjoy our home and the decorations following the tree being decorated. 

Christmas Shopping

I've always been okay about shopping Christmas early, but early was November,

maybe

October.  I always ended up thinking I had bought more than I really had and ended up going on massive shopping sprees at the end.

SOLUTION:

I have taken a clue from my favorite person, my Aunt Jan, and have shopped all year.  I've made a detailed list of what I've gotten for whom, including how much I've spent along the way to make sure I don't overspend.

My 2015 Alternate Solution: I still don't have all of my shopping done.  A couple of weeks ago Nick and I dragged out all of the gifts that I have already bought and made a list of who they are for.  He then gave me a budget (or helped me rather, he's not a dictator, thankfully) of how much to spend on each person we have left to buy for.  This is proving to be quite helpful as when I am out shopping and see something, if it is within the budgeted allowance I can just scoop it up.  

Christmas Budget

I always tried to save money but with the massive shopping trips I took I was ruining my budget at the finish line.

SOLUTION:

To be honest I don't have an overall Christmas budget.  I try to buy items as cheaply as possible  (with coupons, clearance, sales, etc) and it always seems to work out.  An example is for one child I bought 13 items and spent $42.00.  The retail value of those items was about $184.00 so I saved a lot of money!   $42.00 is within the range of what I am willing to spend so I am okay with that.  I keep an eye on my spending throughout the year so I am aware of what I've spent.  What I do budget for is the month of December: Christmas tree, dinners, cookie making, stamps, gas going to extra places: it all adds up...we set an amount to stick to with all of those categories.

My 2015 Alternate Solution: This is still true, I don't shop year round with the thought, "I only want to spend $15 on John..." but I do shop and try to get things as cheaply as possible.  Then when we pull everything out and make a list of what we have and what we still need to finish up we make a budgeted list for each person and add all of those totals together to make sure it is reasonable.  Obviously if our total equals $600 and we only have $450 then each person is going to need tweaked a bit.  Also we make the budget based on what I have spent on each person.  If I've already gotten that person some more expensive things but don't have enough then we make a smaller amount available to get them just a few basic things. 

Gift Wrapping

Am I the only person who hates the whole "staying up late wrapping gifts until the break of dawn on Christmas Eve" thing? Of course not!  This year I've decided no way, no how am I doing that again.  My problem being that the place I wrap presents is also known as our homeschool classroom which makes it a little tricky to get things wrapped, and then not touched by inquiring little hands :)

SOLUTION:

Gifts are going to be wrapped ahead of time and then taken to any houses they are going to that are not mine.  We exchange gifts at my grandma's and so any gifts that go there are going there immediately.  That way there's less to keep track of here.  Once those are out of the way I will start wrapping the gifts that stay here but aren't for our kids.  Those we have room for in our classroom while still doing school.  After we start our Christmas vacation the kiddos won't be in the classroom and I'll be able to wrap the kids gifts without them spying them :)  Whatever works for you, the point is make a number and wrap that number of gifts per day...5 is my number.  5 gifts a day gang :)

My 2015 Alternate Solution: I love feeling joy in wrapping gifts:  having time to spend a little longer making a bow or being able to attach a small gift or candy to the outside of the package.  But with having to wrap ALL the gifts at once all of those ideas quickly get tossed out the window.  So I'm reinterating the idea of wrapping a few gifts a day.  If you started December 1st, wrapped four gifts a day and went through Christmas Eve, you would have enough time to wrap 96 gifts and I'm guessing not many people even have that many to wrap. 

Taking/Making Food

I love cooking but when I am asked at the last minute to bring a dish or appetizer, I freak.  When I freak I spend way too much on stuff I know no idea how to make and get so nervous.

SOLUTION:

I've thought of what people usually ask me to bring and what I am comfortable taking to places.  I usually make appetizers or desserts. So in November I found a sale and stocked up on crackers and cream cheese for making cheese balls and dips.  I also stocked up on cocoa powder and add-ins for brownies and cakes like peanut butter, nuts, toffee pieces.  With these things on hand I'll be able to whip up something relatively quickly without the fuss of running out to buy ingredients.

My 2015 Alternate Solution: I have narrowed this down even further to one appetizer I am known for making (my chipped beef dip) and a dessert I love making (pie).  I make sure I have the ingredients for those two things on hand. At.all.times. And then if I need to/want to make something else I still have other ingredients but I pretty much always know what I'm going to bring.

So I hope this helps you all with those delightful Christmas tasks that can become insurmountable Christmas chores.  I came up with this list for myself when I noticed that Christmas was starting to feel more daunting than darling.  And I don't want that.  This year, with these items checked twice and under control, mistletoe will be the only thing hanging over my head!

What are your tips for a smooth sailing Christmas?  Post them in the comments for us all to enjoy!