The holiday season is a busy time for everyone, but especially for moms. With all of the shopping, baking, and wrapping to do, it’s easy to forget some key tasks that can help make the season run more smoothly.
Here is a list of tasks not to forget or leave until the last minute, and get practical tips to help you prepare for Christmas even if you are busy.
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While planning for the holidays, you might miss a few key tasks that can make your Christmas easier and more enjoyable. Here are some common important tasks you might forget amidst the chaos.
1.Create a master calendar
Combine all schedules, including store hours and personal events, into one master calendar to avoid conflicts.
2.Set a holiday budget
Check The holidays can get expensive really fast if you don’t set a budget and keep track of your spending.
3.Know the holiday schedules
Check the holiday hours for local stores and services. Most will have their hours posted by December 1st, if not earlier.
Not clearly communicating the schedule, expectations, or tasks to family members can lead to confusion, last-minute rushes, and even some frustration.
5.Planning for family dynamics
Not preparing for the mix of personalities at family gatherings can lead to stress. It’s important to consider seating arrangements and potential conflict triggers in advance. Here’s some good advice from a codependency recovery coach on how to navigate family dynamics during the holidays.
Have a plan for bad weather or unexpected changes in the holiday schedule. Have a plan B for things like gifts you want to buy that are not in stock, or you can’t mail out the Christmas cards in time, so do digital cards instead, etc. Think of ways you can prepare if things don’t go as planned.
7.Service providers’ tips
This is optional, but if you can, prepare holiday tips or gifts for service providers like mail carriers or garbage collectors.
Update and have a list of emergency contacts handy, especially if you have guests or are traveling.
Holiday Gifts & Gifting
How many times have you rushed into gift shopping? We’ve all done it at least once, and it’s unpleasant, to say the least. Maybe you run out of Christmas wrap or tape, or maybe you miss a shipping deadline. Here are some things to consider to avoid last-minute gifting stress.
9.Wrap gifts as you buy them
This will help you stay ahead of the game and avoid having a big pile of wrapping to do at the last minute. Having gift bags handy will do as well.
10.Postage and shipping deadlines
Don’t forget to check the last posting dates for cards and gifts to ensure they arrive on time. Check different carriers for shipping dates to avoid the rush. Shipping deadlines are already posted on USPS, check them out here.
Keep a couple of generic gifts on hand for unexpected guests or forgotten acquaintances, like a bottle of wine, specialty cooking oils, chocolates, etc.
Keep gift receipts organized for easy returns or exchanges. Store them in an envelope or use an app to scan and save them digitally.
Meal Planning and Holiday Menu
For most families, the Christmas menu is the most important experience of the holiday. I agree but I also know how stressful it can be to have everything prepared so there are no unwanted surprises. Here are a few.
13.Special dietary needs
Prepare for guests with allergies or special diets. Get in contact with your guests to confirm so there are no surprises.
14.Stock your pantry and freezer
Save yourself the last-minute run to the store by stocking your kitchen with all the ingredients you need for the Christmas holidays in advance. This extra time allows you to shop for the best deals and save money.
Ensure you have enough tableware and seating for holiday meals. This includes finishing touches like napkins, table card holders, and Christmas crackers.
16.Make sure you have the tools
Check your kitchen for tools or appliances that need repair or replacement. It will be quite inconvenient to be in the middle of cooking or baking, but you don’t have the tools to finish the job.
17.Ice and beverages
After arrangements and guest RSVP confirmations, stock up on extra ice and a variety of beverages for guests.
Events and Gatherings
If you’ve ever planned a holiday gathering, you know that there’s a lot of steps and checklists to follow to make sure everything is in order. Here are some small things you can miss in the holiday rush.
Check who’s coming for holiday gatherings to ensure enough seating and food
If you’re having guests, ensure their sleeping arrangements are set and have extra toiletries on hand.
Have thank-you cards ready for any gifts you or your family receive. Alternatively, you can write them in advance using a digital card service like Greenvelope, just hit send when you’re ready.
Create or download a holiday music playlist to set the festive mood during gatherings. If you’re not sure where to start, begin by thinking about the overall atmosphere you want to create. Do you want something upbeat and festive? Or something a little more low-key? Once you have a general idea, you can start putting together your playlist.
Inform neighbors of your party plans to manage noise and parking considerations.
Household and House Prep
Some of these tasks are ones that you can stay on top of all year round, however, you might have left one of these off of your Christmas planning checklist.
23.Restocking household basics
Ensure a sufficient supply of toiletries, paper towels, and toilet paper.
24.Batteries and extras
Stock up on batteries for toys and electronics, and have extra wrapping paper and tape.
Have extra phone and device chargers available, particularly in common areas, for you, your family, and your guests to use.
Make arrangements for the care of your pets, especially if you plan to travel.
Make sure the house is safe for pets during the holidays, including tinsel and other decorations that could be harmful if ingested.
Ensure there’s enough prescription medication for the holiday period when pharmacies may be closed.
Check smoke detectors, especially with the increased use of lights and candles.
Make room for new gifts by donating old toys and clothes.
31.Trash and recycling
Prepare for extra trash and recycling with additional bags due to gift wrapping and product packaging. It’s a good idea to check the schedule for garbage and recycle pickup as well.
32.First aid kit
Restock the first aid kit in case of minor accidents, which are more common during the busy holiday season.
33.Space for coats and shoes
Organize a designated area for guests’ coats and shoes, especially in colder climates.
Travel Plans and Arrangements
For many families, their Christmas holiday is spent away from home. If you’re traveling, here are some key tasks to consider before you leave.
Confirm travel arrangements and pack essentials if visiting family or friends.
35.Packing list of Must-Have items
There are some things that you absolutely cannot forget or be without on your trip. Secure hard-to-replace items so that you don’t forget them or lose them.
36.Get your banking and cards in order
Notify your bank and credit card companies of your travel plans. This will help to avoid any issues with your accounts while you’re away.
37.Pack carry-on essentials
This includes items like your passport, medications, travel insurance information, etc.
38.Plan your pet care needs
If you’re leaving town, you’ll need to make arrangements for someone to take care of your pets.
39.Make sure your home is secure
This means things like setting your alarms and letting your neighbor know you’ll be gone.
40.Hold your mail
Arrange for your postal service to hold your mail while you’re away. For a small fee, you can prevent your mail from piling up in your mailbox or getting stolen.
Spending quality time with family and enjoying the holiday break is, for most, the best holiday activity to do. But you have kids, so having a few activities planned out in advance will solve the “I’m bored!” problem. Here are some suggestions.
Plan activities to keep children busy during school breaks. If you haven’t decorated yet, let your kids make Christmas ornaments and hang them. The same can be done for Christmas cards. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t love a handmade Christmas card!
Plan downtime activities for yourself to unwind and enjoy the season.
43.Create a master list of holiday fun
Having a list of activities ready to do over the holidays can help make the season more enjoyable. Whether it’s grabbing hot chocolate, going skating, or watching Christmas lights in the neighborhood, a list of ideas readily available will save your mental energy.
44.Book Tickets in Advance
For holiday events like ice skating, theater shows, or community events, tickets can sell out quickly, so it’s important to book these in advance.
45.Documenting the Event
In the rush of the holidays, taking pictures, recording videos, or preserving your kids’ holiday crafts can be forgotten. It’s okay to not capture every single moment. Plan in advance which memories you want to preserve on camera. Use tripods and timers so you can be hands-off and let it do the work for you.
Tips for a Smooth Holiday Season
Procrastination is common during the holidays, but it’s best to begin your preparations well in advance. This includes everything from shopping to sending out invitations. Starting early allows you to take advantage of early bird sales, less crowded stores, and a wider selection of items.
Don’t do it all yourself! Assign tasks to family members according to their abilities. Even young children can help with simple tasks like stamping envelopes or placing decorations. Delegating not only lightens your load but also provides an opportunity to bond with your family. Don’t forget to use services as well. If you have the budget, outsourcing to a service can free up even more time for you.
Leverage technology to help you stay organized. Use apps for list-making, scheduling, and tracking your budget with spreadsheets. Shared digital lists and calendars can keep the whole family on the same page.
Mistakes to Avoid During the Holiday Rush
Saying “yes” to every invitation or feeling obligated to host every event can lead to burnout. Be realistic about what you can handle, and don’t be afraid to decline invitations or suggest alternate plans that work better for you. This includes buying gifts, too. It’s the season for giving, but if it puts a strain on your finances, it’s okay to decline.
Waiting until the eleventh hour to do your shopping can lead to impulse buys, overspending, and stress. Instead, shop with a list and stick to it to avoid these pitfalls. Plan ahead and use my Holiday Planner spreadsheet to keep you organized. Learn more here.
Moms often neglect their own needs in general; this is more likely to be the case during the holidays. Make sure to schedule time for yourself, even if it’s just a quiet cup of coffee in the morning or a relaxing bath at the end of the day.
How to Prioritize During a Busy Holiday Season
Identify Your Non-Negotiables
Decide what’s most important to you and your family this holiday. Is it the traditional family dinner, attending religious services, or ensuring everyone receives a thoughtful gift? Focus on these elements first.
Simplify Where Possible
Not every holiday event requires a five-course meal or elaborate decorations. Look for ways to simplify while still maintaining the spirit of the celebration. Perhaps a potluck dinner can replace a formal meal, or a movie night with family can substitute for an expensive outing.
It’s okay to set boundaries to maintain your sanity. This can mean designating quiet hours at home, limiting the number of events you host or attend, or setting a budget for gifts and sticking to it.
No Holiday Needs to be Perfect
Early preparation and checking off the boxes are great, but if you are stretching yourself thin, all that preparation won’t matter.
Prioritizing and simplifying should be top of mind, especially if you are a busy mom. Don’t forget to delegate and outsource the tasks on this list where you can.
If you are the kind of mom who puts off holiday tasks until the last minute, do yourself a favor and start as soon as possible. It will save you the time and energy that you need to get through the day and truly enjoy the holidays.
If you need help getting organized with holiday prep, check out my shop for the holiday printable planner and the planner spreadsheet.
It doesn’t matter if you choose a digital planner or a paper planner; it’s the action you take now that matters.