Getting Ready for Christmas: The Essential Christmas Planning Checklist

The old song is right. Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year – for some folks, anyway. Personally, I love Christmas. I just hate all the stress that comes along with it. The best way to deal with Christmas stress is to start planning early. Don’t leave it to the last minute. I have developed a great checklist that has helped me cut back on the Christmas blues over the years. Use this checklist as a guideline. Not everything is going to apply to everyone so adjust this checklist so it fits your need and most of all – don’t lose the meaning of Christmas in your preparations.


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Create a Christmas Card List

You don’t need to buy Christmas gifts for everyone. Figure out who you need to send cards to and make a list. Take a little time to do this. You don’t want to forget anyone important. If you already have a Christmas card list, check it over, cross off any names that need to be crossed off and double check addresses. Decide if you want to write a Christmas letter to go with your Christmas cards or if you want to include a family photo. If so, start working on the Christmas letter and make arrangements for the photo to be taken. The letter and the photo should be ready by late November.

Budget for Gifts

Before you begin shopping for Christmas gifts, you need to know how much money you have to spend. Don’t put yourself in the poor house by spending money you don’t have. Don’t budget per gift right away. Figure out what you have in total by adding money you’ve saved and money you’re sure you’ll get and subtracting any bills or miscellaneous expenses. Once you know what you have to spend, you can start budgeting what you have to spend on each person’s gift.

When creating your budget, it’s always a good idea to budget a little under what you actually have. This gives you the opportunity to spend a little more if you want to and also allows you a little extra money for yourself or for unexpected expenses. For example, say you do the math and have $1,600 to spend on gifts. Budget for $1,300 if you can. This gives you a little extra money to play with. It’s not as hard to do as it sounds and it will relieve a great deal of stress.

source: World Of Female

Create Your Gift List

Many people start Christmas shopping early and some people are even completely done their shopping by mid-November. If you’re one of those people, good for you. If you’re not, you’re going to need to get organized. Come up with a list of people you need to buy gifts for. I’ve included a sample of my gift list so you can see how it looks. I would recommend using a spreadsheet as it makes keeping track of things extremely easy. I use a pretty simple format:

  • Column One: Name of recipient
  • Column Two: Idea for gift
  • Column Three: Size (if you’re guessing, stick with small, medium, large and extra large sizes as often as possible)
  • Column Four: Details (CD or DVD, color etc)
  • Column Five: Budget

In addition, I would recommend highlighting anyone you need to mail gifts to. Get those gifts first as you want to make sure your gift arrives at its destination in time for Christmas.

Decide on Christmas Plans and Work Out Schedules

Will you be having Christmas at your house or will you be traveling? This is an important question and you should know the answer at least by mid-November if not sooner. If you’re going to be traveling, you’ll need to begin making arrangements by the end of November so deciding as early as possible and working out schedules with everyone involved is the best way to avoid stress.


source: Aaron Landry/flickr

Start Getting Christmas Cards Ready to Be Sent

Address envelopes and get stamps for any cards you need to mail. If there are people on your Christmas card list that live a fair distance away, you should send their cards now. This is why it’s important to have pictures and letters ready by the end of December. You want to allow everything time to reach them. If you also have a gift to send, make sure you send it with the card so it will reach its destination in time.

Begin Decorating

If you go all out with Christmas decorations, you can avoid a little bit of Christmas stress by putting up your decorations in stages. Focus on outside decorations first and then move inside. Save the tree for early December.

Finalize your Christmas Shopping

Sure it sounds early but if you really want to avoid the stress, you really want to have your Christmas shopping wrapped up by Christmas. Make sure you stick to that budget though. If you find a gift that’s absolutely perfect for someone but it’s a little above your price range, you can splurge on it, but don’t leave yourself short for your bills or other Christmas related items. This is why we always budget a little low. It allows us a little wiggle room for those just too perfect to pass up gifts.

By the end of December You Should:

  • Have Christmas cards and gifts to faraway recipients in the mail
  • Have your Christmas shopping finished and ready to start being wrapped
  • Have your outside decorations up
  • Have basic Christmas plans in place
  • Have any flights or accommodations booked if you need to travel

Early December

source: Alpha/flickr

Send Christmas Cards

The first week of December is the ideal time to start sending out cards to recipients living closer to home. This allows the card more than enough time to get to its destination but also ensures it doesn’t arrive too early.

Find a Christmas Tree

You can wait until later to find a Christmas tree if you like, but you should have your tree if you plan to get one by no later than mid-December.

Finish Decorating

You’ve put your decorations up outside, you have your tree, it’s time to start turning the inside of your home into a Christmas Wonderland. Be careful when decorating your tree and hanging lights inside. You want to be sure you don’t overload any power outlets and only use lights specifically intended for indoor use. Using outside lights inside could lead to a fire. Safety first.

If you have pets, it’s also a good idea to make sure all of your decorations are ‘pet proofed’. Cats love Christmas trees. Make sure your furry friends know the tree is not a toy. It’s also important to make sure any decorations you use are pet friendly. Icicles are a great touch on any tree but they’re also dangerous for pets. Make sure you don’t use them if you have animals in your home.

Start Wrapping Presents

Have your Christmas present tags ready and organize your gifts by recipient. For example, I wrap my husband’s presents first and make sure every gift is clearly marked with a gift tag. Once all of his gifts are wrapped, I put them in a bag (or series of bags) and tag the bags before I move on to gifts for my mother. If I pick up any extra gifts before Christmas arrives (which I almost always do), I wrap and tag the presents as soon as I get home with them and put them in the marked bags. By doing so, I avoid confusion and make sure the gifts get where they’re supposed to go.

Make an Event Calendar

Christmas can be a busy time for parties. Mark all parties you plan to attend on a calendar so you don’t miss anything. Check this calendar all through December, crossing off events as you attend them.


source: Andrew Fecheyr/flickr

Finalize Your Plans for Christmas

Where will you be spending Christmas? Begin getting ready for company, especially over night visitors. If you’re traveling, confirm reservations and start getting everything ready. I’d recommend making a travel checklist so you make sure you don’t forget anything important.

Start Delivering Presents

If you need to take presents to family members or friends, now is the time to do it.

Start Planning Your Meal

Before you start thinking about what you want to cook, check with those who will be attending your dinner to find out if they have any special dietary requirements. You don’t want to serve something one of your guests is allergic to. If you’re hosting dinner for a large number of people, you can also choose to ask guests to bring something special and turn your Christmas dinner into a sort of pot luck party. It’s an interesting twist on tradition and ensures there’s something for everyone. Just make sure you organize it well so you don’t wind up with everyone bringing the same thing.

There are bound to be little things you forget along the way but coming up with a plan and sticking with it is the best way to be prepared for the stress of the holiday season. What are your plans for Christmas? Do you look forward to the holidays? Sound off in the comments section below!