Day 1: Get Organized

Christmas. The season of giving. The season of love, charity, and peace. But frantic, last-minute preparation can make for a less-than-divine experience. Here’s how you can have less stress and more serenity during the most wonderful time of the year.

Create a Christmas Binder

Create a Christmas binder, preferably one that will fit into your purse (or briefcase--thanks, writerbob) so you can carry it with you at all times, to store all your gift ideas, coupons, travel itineraries, lists of presents you have bought, presents you still need to buy, and presents that have been ordered. (If you have curious children at home, you may also want to consider keeping a list of where you have hidden gifts throughout the house, and how many of which type of batteries you will need for those gifts.) Include an envelope in your binder where you can store your receipts.

This is also the place to keep recipes for the food you want to make and the instructions for holiday craft projects so you always know exactly what you need. Include a calendar where you can keep track of parties, concerts, service projects, and other festivities. (Be sure to block out time for things like shopping and party preparation, as well as some time for a little rest and relaxation. And keep in mind that the more notice you give, the more likely people will be able to attend your party.)
Set Goals

What are your goals this holiday season? A few cozy gatherings to connect with friends and family? Meaningful service opportunities? With so many great holiday ideas floating around, it’s easy to get distracted, so decide what you want most, and stay focused. Ask your family what they remember about last Christmas—what traditions they most want to keep, what you did in past years they most enjoyed, and what you should not try again! Were there any holiday disasters last year? Make note of them and take steps to avoid them.

Set Deadlines

Deadlines are an important part of accomplishing any goal, and holiday tasks are no exception. Simply determine which tasks need to be accomplished the soonest, and set your deadlines accordingly. For example, will you need a babysitter in the near future? Book her well ahead of time so another neighbor doesn’t snap her up for the same night. And plan to mail packages as quickly as possible. That way, gifts to far-away friends and family will arrive on time, and they won’t be cluttering up your house. 


The stress and guilt of overspending can dampen holiday spirits in a hurry. Decide how much you can spend this season, and allot sufficient amounts to the appropriate categories, such as:

  • Gifts and gift wrap
  • Travel (gas, hotel, airplane tickets, and meals)
  • Decorations and tree
  • Family activities 

  • Parties 

  • Christmas meals
  • Holiday baking
  • Postage for Christmas cards
  • Shipping costs for gifts

After making your best estimates, add another 20 percent to what you’ve planned for. If you’re over budget, decide what is most important to you and start cutting everywhere else. To help stick to the budget, use cash for everything. For tips on staying out of debt during the holidays, click here.

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