Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hobbit-ish Holiday Preparation

Hey Humble Readers...

First up, I want to remind you to scroll down to yesterday's post.  Check out my interview with author JR Vikse about his new book The Keeper Chronicles: Playing With Fire.  Make sure to enter the giveaway to win a free copy!

On Sunday, Carla (of Sunday Night Chit Chat fame) asked if we had started thinking about or planning for Christmas already.  If we had started shopping for gifts already. 

My response was a resounding yes. 

I know you may think I'm nuts, but I have many reasons for starting my Christmas preparations long before Thanksgiving and Halloween. 

You must understand, I love Christmas. Love, love, LOOOOOOOVVVVE it.  Not in a "I want my tree up for three months" or "I start playing Christmas music in July" kind of way.  I love the tradition, the family, and the faith elements of the season.  The first Sunday in Advent marks the beginning of the church year, and like Lent leading up to the celebration of Easter, Christmas just isn't Christmas without the period of reflective contemplation that leads up to it.  And I don't want that time distracted by worrying about if I've remembered to get this person a gift or if I forgot to bake cookies for the youth group's cookie walk. 

For many years, I worked in retail, and the advent journey and holiday spirit can easily get destroyed in that environment.  You see a lot of people at their absolute worst... bosses, co-workers, customers.  People get cranky, stressed, and frustrated with the crowds, the cost, and the demands of the season.  The way that I try to alleviate all that for myself, and as much as I can for my family, is by doing extensive prep work.  I want to be able to focus on the spirit of Advent and Christmas, without the distraction of having to get this and that and the other done, wrapped, or baked. 

Honestly, I start thinking about Christmas in January or February.  If there are any crafts or special projects that I want to do for décor or as gifts, I like to start putting together a game plan early.  That way I can watch for good prices on supplies, and make good use of my time so I'm not rushing at the end. 

The planning begins in earnest just after Labour Day.  I have a document on my computer that I use to map the holidays. (This is where I show my anal-retentiveness a bit... I actually have one for each holiday and special day throughout the year.  Christmas is just the most developed.)  I have all my info in one place...

Menu - What are we eating?  Trying a new recipe?  Do I need to do a trial run? 
Guests - Who's coming?  Will I need extra seating?  Any extra dishes or cutlery needed?
Greeting Cards - Who am I sending to?  Ideas for picture?  Where will I order them from?
Gifts - family, friends, my Beloved's co-workers, neighbours
Stocking Stuffers - immediate family only
Special Events - outside events (Santa pictures, Advent events at church, parties, etc)

New this year to my planning sheet is Elf on the Shelf.  Last year was our first with Hermy, and we had a lot of fun just hiding him around the hobbit-hole.  This year, I want to do some more creative things with our Elf, so I've mapped out the 25 days that he'll be with us.  That way, if I need some specific supplies, I know in advance and can plan accordingly.  I knew that I wanted to incorporate some service to others in amongst the fun and frivolity that comes with the Elf, so I've planned one service project a week.  Ginny is old enough to understand that it's important to help others, so the food bank, our congregation's Angel tree, neighbour gifts, and necessities for the homeless are all a part of my plans for Hermy. 

Shopping for gifts, of course, is a big part of my preparation for the holidays.  I'm sure you're all aware we live on a pretty tight budget most of the time, so I want to make the most of the funds we have.  To keep things under control, in a season when it's far too easy to go overboard, I use the five-gift rule for our immediate family.  Everyone gets something to wear, something to read, something they need, something they want, and something from Santa.  The things the wee-lings "need" is generally something educational, and the things they "want" is a toy.  Santa gifts are also toys. 

I know that there's a risk in buying gifts early.  The wee-lings' interests might change.  There might be something that comes up last minute that my Beloved wants more than what I've already purchased.  Clothes may not fit (and exchanges after 60 days can get a little tricky).  Heck, I may even forget where I've hidden something... it's been known to happen.  But I've found that the benefits outweigh the risks.  By spreading out my shopping, I prevent a big hit on our budget, and no gifts go onto credit. 

My goal is always to be done with my shopping and planning by the end of November.  That way, I can focus my mind and spirit on the Advent journey, and on allowing the magic of the season to seep into my soul.

One thing that we've just really gotten into is year-round saving for Christmas.  Our Santa's Choice grocery order will arrive end of November or beginning of December.  We pay a bit each week, and it gets us a boatload of staples (pantry and freezer items, including our Christmas turkey).  This is our second year doing Santa's Choice. 

We have also started using this savings plan. 
Here's a link to a printable.  Most people do this from January-December.  We decided to do it September-August, so that we have a budget for the holidays.  We've only just started it, so we'll see how it goes. 

This whole rambling post has been about what works for me, so that I'm not only able to survive the holidays, but truly enjoy them.  How do you plan for the holidays?  Do you start early?  Are you a last minute person?


  1. WOW you are very organized, I envy that! I try to get started thinking about things around this time of year, but the heavy list making and buying are usually put off until at least November!

  2. I agree that you are very organized! I do a bit of both. I wish I planned ahead more, but I often overdo it when I get started too early. I also don't always know who will be coming to various holidays until much closer. For example, my husband is Italian and therefore has never celebrated Thanksgiving except with me. A lot of his colleagues and our friends are also Italian, and don't usually celebrate Thanksgiving on their own. And although we usually invite most or all of them to our Thanksgiving dinner, they usually have other American friends and acquaintances who may also invite them in any given year. So I often have to wait to invite them (so I can give their other friends a chance as well), and then wait for them to decide where to go. And this year I'm looking at around 9 people who may or may not come - two families, and two individuals! That makes it hard to plan ahead!

    As far as gifts, my mom usually wants to get the kids a big exciting gift, so I therefore don't do that. But I usually do try to help her pick out the gift, so that she doesn't fill my house with ugly noisy junky toys and also so I know for sure it will be something the kids will like and play with. This year I want her to get them a wooden dollhouse, but I'm putting off having her buy it until I either find a great deal or it's much closer to Christmas (so I'm sure they'll still want it). If I told her to go ahead and buy it now, by the time Christmas comes around she will have bought furniture, people, and tons of other stuff to go with it - she's the type to put it all on the credit card, and the earlier she starts, the more she buys.

    As for myself, I just start making lists of gifts. I don't actually shop until at least November. I have also lost stuff! Or I forget about it, which I can't believe, but I do. Now that the kids are slightly older, I want to start planning activities throughout the Christmas season, like maybe caroling, games, movies, and other fun activities. It's hard because my husband is really not into Christmas, so I have to do it all myself, and I do get a bit run-down, especially when he's the complete opposite of supportive. I LOVE fall and Christmas, though, so I keep myself in high spirits throughout the season!

  3. Good for you! I used to be MUCH better about having things bought and planned before September, but now I'm usually good by the end of November. I do most of my shopping with Amazon, so it's not too big a deal. No one lets me cook any of the big meals {my MIL and Mom claim them}. But I do love Christmas!

    Here via ICLW

  4. I think you need to come
    Organize all my Christmas stuff for me?! You should see all the babies I have to buy for! Maybe you will motivate me lol!

  5. just thinking about the holidays coming up is scary

  6. Wow I am so impressed by your organization! Onestepatatime.co.za


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