Countdown to Christmas: A Timeline for Holiday Prep That Won’t Leave You Breathless

Christmas Countdown

‘Tis the season to be…stressed out? Let’s hope not, but unfortunately that’s the story for many people whenever the holiday season begins to draw near. While there are several things to love about Christmas, it can be easy to allow the stress and busyness of the season to steal your holiday cheer. After all, there are presents to be bought and wrapped, cards to be sent, decorations to be hung, food to be prepared, and chestnuts to be roasted, and when you add these extra activities to an already jam-packed schedule, it has the potential to turn even the most loyal Christmas fan into a Grinch.

So how can you pull off all of these hectic holiday activities without losing your Christmas spirit? The answer lies in two words: organization and preparation. Below is a battle-tested Christmas preparation timeline that won’t leave you breathless this holiday season.

Four to Six Weeks Before Christmas

  • Create a master gift list. While it doesn’t have to be super-detailed at this point, you should at least have the names of every person you plan to buy a gift for on this list. Jot down some ideas based on what you know about their likes and dislikes, and then as you’re out and about over the next few weeks, pick up these gifts as you see them. This beats waiting until Christmas Eve when the gift buying frenzy is at its peak.
  • Determine your gift budget. The real trick is figuring out how to get your bank balance to accommodate all of your gift ideas. With a little shopping finesse and some creative bargain-hunting, this can be done. Keep tabs on sites such as Retail Me Not, FatWallet, and other similar sites for printable coupons or promo codes that you can bring to your local mall for deals and discounts.
  • Officially begin your Christmas shopping excursions. Four weeks before Christmas is basically Black Friday territory, and you should definitely use this retail shopping extravaganza to your benefit, for both online and in-store gift hunting. Avoid procrastination at all costs; the earlier you start, the better, especially if you’re mailing some of your gifts. Not only will an earlier start be less stressful, but it enables you to space out your gift purchases over a more reasonable amount of time (and pay periods). To really be on top of your game, wrap the gifts as soon as you buy them.
  • Begin addressing your Christmas cards. The longer your recipient list is, the more time you’ll need for this task.

Three Weeks Before Christmas

  • Buy your Christmas tree, and get busy decorating! If you’re going to buy a live tree, this time frame will ensure that its needles will stay fresh and wither-free through Christmas. This is also a great time to knock out the other decorations around the house (e.g., lights, garlands, stockings, live nativity scenes, etc.).
  • Establish your holiday menu. Finalize all details regarding what you’ll be preparing and how many people you’ll be expecting to feed. Create a master grocery list, and if you’re cooking a ham or turkey for the big day, go ahead and order it to avoid any potential shortages as Christmas Day draws closer. In addition, you can bake and freeze all kinds of Christmas goodies in advance such as casseroles, muffins, coffee cakes, appetizers, breads, etc. This will spread out your cooking duties over a bigger time frame, which will preserve your sanity when Christmas actually arrives.
  • Mail all Christmas cards. Starting three weeks early will ensure that your recipients will get their cards right on time…or close enough.

Two Weeks Before

  • Mail those presents for your out-of-town loved ones! A deadline of December 10th is optimal for a timely delivery.
  • Take an inventory of your dishes, glasses, serving platters, etc., and purchase anything that may be lacking, so that you won’t be caught off guard on the day of the big feast.

One Week Before

  • Now comes the fun part: Cleaning the house. You can do this yourself, or if the budget allows, consider hiring a cleaning service to alleviate stress and keep you better rested for the festivities.
  • Purchase batteries for the children’s toys. Many smiles have turned into frowns due to an unresponsive battery-operated gift.

One to Two Days Before

  • Now it’s time to buy all of your fresh ingredients, and get busy cooking!
  • Do any last-minute gift wrapping or toy assembling.
  • Congratulations, you made it! Now relax and enjoy spending time with your family and friends!