I’ve published a few posts surrounding Christmas now and you’re probably thinking, “The girl is nuts. It’s only September!”
I can totally understand. Not too long ago, I was the same. I’d wait for December and then start panic buying everything I can get my hands on. Or the last week will arrive and I’d realise that I’d missed the window for sending my Christmas gifts – which is very important since my friends and family are all scattered all over (the world, not the country).
My budget would also end up being shot to the back of beyond and it would take me months to recover – only to realise that Christmas is already round the corner and I’ll have to do the process all over again.
I began to question this clearly ineffective process, “When should you prepare for Christmas?”. There must be a better way, surely?
And there is because I found that some people start planning in September (I should’ve known because, in the Philippines, this is when the first Christmas decorations make their appearance.) and even some who start a Christmas fund in January!
I might start trying the Christmas fund in January next year but this year, I’m quite content with planning and organising my Christmas in September. Hence, the daily Christmas posts I’m publishing.
September is all about sitting down, thinking and making lists. You’ll also want to start browsing gift guides so you have an idea of what you want to go for.
Make your initial Christmas list
Who exactly do you want to give presents to this year?
This is very important because it will inform the budget you need to create.
Start looking at gift guides. I love the ones that are unique and clever because I really don’t like giving boring gifts – clothes, socks etc.
I feel that whilst they’re practical, they don’t really show any thoughtfulness on my part. Unless there’s something the other person really wants but can’t get…and then they get it from me.
Totally awesome feeling! I highly recommend that. 🙂
Side Note: Don’t forget to add your name in your Christmas list. You don’t need to spend a fortune (though you can if you’re in the position to) but it’s imperative that you also give yourself something in the way of a gift.
Make a budget.
Another important but easy to overlook step in Christmas planning is budgeting for expenses.
The Money Saving Expert actually advises that you put budgeting on number 1 instead of making your Christmas list because some people list everything they want to do, regardless of affordability and then end up in debt.
It’s a valid point.
That’s why if you don’t want to land in debt (also boring but a lot more difficult to get out of), then a budget is essential.
What I do, however, is a sort of mish-mash of budgeting and vision board-ing.
I create my Christmas list and work out how much it’s going to cost and then look at my monthly budget. If there’s even a hint that I can’t afford what I want, I get started with asking questions:
1. Do I really want (or need) this thing/experience?
2. Is there a way for me to be able to afford it right now?
3. If not, what would it take for me to be able to afford this?
If my answer is yes to the first and no to the second, the third question becomes extremely important.
I’m big on going for what you want and not settling for second best so if money is the only issue, I need to know so that I can raise the amount I need (another important reason why I recommend planning way early).
Make a list of the Christmas gifts you’re buying
If you’ve gone through the list above, you’d already have an idea of what gifts to get for people and where to get them.
I personally love Amazon!
So, that’s my go-to shopping place (probably started when I moved to a remote island with no other shops aside from the grocery store).
But I also tend to scour the charity shops and even Facebook Marketplace to see if there are any good stuff there (HINT: there are!).
Make a list of the Christmas gifts you’d like to receive
This is especially true when you have children.
Family and friends will ask about gifts they could give and if they’re early planners, they might get frustrated if the only answer you can give is, “Oh, I still have to make a list.” every time they ask.
If you’re the parent and you want them to get clothes for your kids, you need to tell them what size to get.
I always end up getting clothes a few sizes too small and then feel awful for having to give them away to charity without my child using them.
Make a stocking and card list
I know some people love giving cards and hanging up Christmas stockings so this is the time to start creating this list and making sure your budget allows for them.
Personally, I don’t like giving Christmas cards (everybody just throws them away in a month, if that) or even stocking stuffers. I prefer giving one special item, rather than a collection of small things other people can get from Tesco.
Make a holiday plan
If you’re like us, you probably live away from other family members but tend to get together on Christmas.
September is the time to make proper plans.
Where exactly are you spending Christmas? Are you going out or hosting everyone at yours?
Do you need to buy plane tickets or train tickets? Do you need to book a hotel?
If you do, you’ll want to start looking for cheap options around this time and then make a booking.
The prices tend to go up closer to the holiday period. Or, they get booked up.
Not something you want to find out on Christmas when you don’t have much of a choice left.
Once October hits, the pressure is on, as they say.
This is when you start shopping and making more concrete plans regarding events to attend, people to see, gifts to mail.
If you’re into homemade gifts, this is the time you should start making your presents.
Unless of course, you’re giving food that won’t last 3 months, then you’d probably wait until the end of November or the first few weeks of December.
For more homemade gift ideas, I recommend this book.
Start looking for sales
The end of October and the whole of November are when sales usually happen so sign up for price alerts.
You’ll want to buy stuff in your list on the cheap, of course. Just make sure that you don’t wait for so long that they go out of stock.
If you’re getting big stuff that needs to be assembled (like furniture or big toys), I recommend buying them now and then assembling them to see if you have the correct parts and if there’s nothing broken.
Nothing can ruin Christmas for a young child quite like a toy that’s broken before she’s had the chance to play with it. And nothing ruins a parent’s Christmas faster than realising that it’s Christmas Eve and that the Ride-On Thomas Train you know your son will love is missing the track.
This is also the perfect time to get non-perishables, such as wrapping paper and even decorations (if you’re upgrading or starting your own).
Finalise travel plans
By the end of October, you should have everything booked up if you’re travelling.
If you’re not travelling but are hosting, then you should already know who’s coming to stay with you and whether you have everything you need to accommodate them. Have you got enough towels? Bedsheets? Duvet? Heck, beds?
Start buying them around this time so you can wash them and get them ready before the big event.
Start planning for December activities and events
Get your calendar ready and start planning for all those events that only happen in December – Santa’s grotto (if you do Santa), pageants, concerts, parties etc.
Choose the best ones and decline the rest.
Yes, Christmas only happens once a year but don’t burn yourself out trying to go to all of the events.
You need some downtime too.
By the time November comes, your shopping should be winding down, your travel plans in place and you should be more focused on getting your home ready for Christmas.
Finalise your shopping
November is usually when Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are scheduled so take advantage of those to get a lot of big items on the cheap.
I recommend buying online instead of going to a physical store, especially if you have children and you don’t have anyone to look after them.
The battleground that stores become when these sales are scheduled can be particularly horrific and you also want to be able to focus on the presents you need to get.
By the end of the month, the Christmas gifts you’ve got should be bought, wrapped and labelled.
Mail your Christmas presents
Since you already have the Christmas gifts ready, now is also a fantastic time to mail them, especially if you’re sending presents internationally.
It would be better for the intended recipient to get the presents days in advance rather than weeks after Christmas, which would be a bit anticlimactic.
Order and mail your Christmas cards
If you’re doing them, make sure you finalise these in November to avoid the Christmas rush.
Start decorating your home for Christmas
Unless you’re in the Philippines (where Christmas trees can go up in September) or using a live tree (which need to stay fresh until after Christmas), the end of November would be a good time for you to start getting your home ready for Christmas.
Finalise any Christmas baking
Not everyone does this. In fact, I haven’t, though I’m going to try some recipes myself.
If you are doing some Christmas baking, November is the time to do them.
Most Christmas bread and puddings are like wine (or have wine), anyway, so they tast better with age.
Ahhhh, rest and relaxation. Once everything is in order, the only things left for you to do is to enjoy the magic of Christmas.
Go to your Christmas events
Remember those things you added onto your calendar?
Yeah, now’s the time you get to enjoy them sans the stress that comes when you’re also scrambling to buy, wrap and mail presents and make travel plans.
Get your live decorations
The first week of December is when you should buy a live tree.
There will still be a good selection available but it’s close enough to Christmas that you won’t have to worry about the tree losing all its needles.
For the same reasons, you’ll want to buy any fresh greeneries at about the same time.
If you’re hosting Christmas dinner, then now is the time to finalise that Christmas menu – especially if you have to cater to people with food allergies or dietary requirements.
Check and see what you’d enjoy making and what people would eat.
Order your holiday’s centrepiece
If you need to get turkey or ham or whatever would be your holiday centrepiece would be, the first or second week of December would be the ideal time to get them. Plenty of choices left but still fresh.
Clean your house
Whether you’re having visitors or not, a clean house is the perfect backdrop to those Christmas decorations.
Rope in everybody in the house, play some upbeat Christmas music and have fun.
Get ready for travel
If you need to go somewhere, then make sure you’re ready to go by making sure you’ve packed all the essentials.
As it’s Christmas, packing your Christmas presents would be considered an essential so whatever you do, don’t forget them.
Christmas is all about love and magic so celebrate, celebrate, celebrate.
You’ve done your best. Everything is going well and it’s now time to rest, relax and enjoy the holidays.
Celebrating Christmas by yourself? Check out our post on What To Do When You’re Home Alone On Christmas for some fab ideas.
There are many ways to get ready for Christmas and people do it differently everywhere.
If you want to start planning for Christmas early, then this complete Christmas Countdown Checklist will help you get started and make sure that you have everything you need so that when Christmas comes, you can just relax and enjoy the magic.
What about you? When do you get ready for Christmas? Do you have any tips or hacks that make your Christmas planning go a lot smoother? Let me know in the comment section below!