Early last week I was in a car with two of my friends travelling five hours (each way) to Greensboro, NC. In order to fill all ten hours of our time our topics of discussion ranged from work, to kids, to juicy gossip…and then some. [Ask me later about the 25 lb. ice pack]
As one might guess, with us being this close to the holidays, the conversation turned to how much we have done or not done to get ready. When I mentioned that everything was purchased and would be wrapped by the end of the week I received several moans of disgust and was called a couple of choice names.
Even though what I do to get ready is not rocket science or fancy, the fact is that neither of these actions had occurred to my car mates. So, I figure if it hadn’t occurred to them, then maybe others can benefit from these easy holiday hacks as well.
Hack #1 – Shop for Gifts Throughout the Year
I am a planner and I am a big fan of online shopping. I subscribe to several online catalogues that are favorites of my family and friends. Whenever I receive a promotional email that mentions a significant discount and free shipping on items that may be of interest, I take a look and see if I can pick up anything appropriate for Christmas gifts.
Here’s the key to not spending a significant amount of time looking through promos – only open the ones with significant savings (25% or greater) and only open the ones for items of interest. For example, I’m not going to open one that mentions savings on soccer equipment when my daughter plays volleyball.
Shopping throughout the year allows you to purchase items at great prices and keeps you from being overwhelmed with a huge list and huge hit to your bank account come Christmas time.
Here’s another tip: Keep track of what you purchase. If you are purchasing items in March for Christmas, then you are going to have to hide those items somewhere. If you are like me, you will forget within a week what you purchased and where you put it. So, keep track of everything by creating a spreadsheet. [No eye rolling from any of my friends – especially those of you who know that I have spreadsheets for everything] But seriously, it makes life so much easier. I have a workbook which I’ve labeled the tabs by year. Each year I have a section for each person where I list what was purchased, how much was spent, and where I hid it. Not only do I not misplace things this way, I can also keep tabs on how much of my budget I’ve spent because I don’t forget anything that has been purchased.
Hack #2 – Shop for Groceries Early
And I don’t mean purchase the Brussel sprouts for your famous roasted sprouts side dish a month in advance. But I do mean that there are a lot of nonperishable items that are used for your Christmas and New Year’s festivities that can be purchased way in advance. The cool thing is that these items can also be spread out across multiple shopping trips – which helps tremendously from a budgeting standpoint.
When I used to wait to do a large grocery trip a few days before we entertained, I always ended up spending two hours trying to grab everything, which sometimes turned into three hours because 10,000 other people had the exact same idea. I ended up stressed, grumpy, and spending a huge amount of money all at one time. Now, by thinking about it in advance, I can pick up a few extra things each time I go to the grocery a month prior to the holidays which results in a quick trip a few days before to pick up fresh items like produce and other perishables.
So, while I said these were two hacks that I use to reduce stress, I guess they also help me save time and money as well. Things we all wish we had a little more of at the holidays.
These were just two simple things you can do to make the holidays easier and more enjoyable. I would love to know the hacks you use to make things easier. Please leave your tricks in the comments below.