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Stress-Less Holiday

December is just around the corner and the holidays are rushing our way. How can we balance the kids, the kitchen duties, the gift buying and work without totally going nuts? The answer: Make as much as possible out of every single moment. These time-saving tips will help you make the month of December doable and fun.

Money manager.
Create a budget and stick to it. Money flies out of the window during the holiday season and not planning where yours will go is a recipe for stress. If you have trouble spending as planned, put the designated amount of cash for groceries and gifts into envelopes. When you use up the cash, your shopping should be complete. This method allows you to be aware of exactly how much money you are spending and helps you determine if it is realistic to increase your budget. Helpful hint: Take extra care not to misplace the cash or leave it in a place where it might be stolen.

List of lists. Lists help us streamline our chores, keep our budget on track and keep us from running errands to the same store over and over. Even if you don’t like lists, consider making an exception for this month.

This list of lists will help you save time this season:

1. Create a comprehensive gift list that includes every single person you shop for during the holidays. Update the list as shopping is complete to keep track of what still needs to be purchased and to avoid over-shopping and over-spending (or forgetting to buy for someone important).

2. Fun isn’t the only thing that increases over the holidays. Create a daily or weekly chore list (or pre-party list) if you are hosting. Divvy up as much as you can between family members. Older kids can dust and clean the bathrooms while younger children put their toys in containers and baskets.

3. Write down menus for each meal you are preparing and ingredients required for holiday baking. Then create a grocery list to make sure you don’t have to waste your precious time driving back to the grocery store to pick up butter and capers. Helpful hint: When you complete your grocery list, put it in the car on top of your cloth grocery bags to help you remember to use them at the store.

4. Creative cooking. One thing that doesn’t change over the holidays is the need to feed your family. When you prepare a meal that can be frozen, make a double recipe (think spaghetti sauce and chicken pot pie) and thaw it out on particularly busy days. An added bonus to having prepared food in your freezer? It is easier to resist the temptation to give in to fast food when you don’t have time to prepare a meal from scratch. Helpful hint: Cookie dough can be made ahead and frozen in rolls. Slice and cook anytime you need homemade baking on short notice.

5. Wrap it up. If you have enough space in your home, create a specific area for giftwrapping. Stock the giftwrapping zone with tape, scissors, gift paper and bags, bows, ribbons and gift tags. Wrap a gift anytime you have a moment. Not enough room to leave supplies lying around for the season? Designate one or two afternoons to do all of the giftwrapping. Easier yet, ditch the wrapping and use gift bags and tissue paper. Children can help by attaching bows, writing names on gift tags and manning the tape dispenser. Get the family involved and create a fun family ritual while completing a chore to mark off of your chore list. Helpful hint: Request gift boxes at stores when you purchase gifts.

6. Sitter schedule. Baby-sitters are in huge demand during the holiday season. Book your sitter as early as you can for important dates and shopping trips. If you are attending a Christmas party, book your sitter for an hour earlier than your scheduled departure so that you have ample time to dress in a relaxed atmosphere. Don’t have a sitter? Find a friend who is willing to swap baby-sitting duties with you so that you can each run errands alone (or with your spouse) or attend a party. You deserve to relax and have fun this season, too. Helpful hint: You might want to put your sitter on your gift list.

7. ‘You’ time. Take care of yourself so that you will be able to take care of everything else. Allow time for a bubble bath, a good book or a warm cup of tea (or all three at the same time). Do whatever it is you need to do to relax.

So get out there and have fun enjoying the holiday season.

Julie is a freelance writer who believes in making a list for everything.


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