How to get it all done at Christmas: The complete countdown

The trick to a holly jolly Christmas is enlisting help and spending as much time as possible with your immediate family. The busyness of the season threatens to isolate us with to do list chores, but we can check off our lists while also creating memories with those we treasure most.


How to get it all done at Christmas: A complete countdown

Look through your Master to do list

Don’t have one? No problem, this will be the year you start one. Start with this list and add to it as you enjoy the holiday season. Each year the list becomes more personalized and tailored to your specific Christmas traditions. Next year won’t be so daunting when you have a plan to help keep you on track.

Set a budget

Deciding what you can comfortably spend before you get caught up in the excitement of gift giving and holiday specials will keep you from overspending resulting in buyer’s remorse, possibly avoiding unnecessary debt.

Make updates to your gift list

Add your brother’s baby and remove your sister’s ex-boyfriend. Make notes for gift ideas for each person on your list.

Keep the calendar updated

Whether you keep an electronic (google, apple, outlook) calendar or a paper calendar have one that is the master for all activities (personal, schools, work). As invites and notices arrive record them immediately. Share with your family so everyone has an idea of what to expect this upcoming holiday season.

Schedule hair/spa appointments

This time of year it is difficult to get an appointment when it is most convenient for you unless you schedule far in advance. Book December appointments now. Be sure to schedule for yourself as well as the rest of your family. Looking your best will help ensure you feel your best at all the holiday parties.

It’s also a good idea to schedule a message or float (or both!) somewhere in December or post-holiday craze in January.

Black Friday Pre-game

Start thinking about any items that you could purchase black Friday deeply discounted. Browse last year’s Amazon history, look through your order confirmation emails from last November and December for any items that you may want to purchase again this year. Make note of the store and the deal. Unless you are going after one of the year’s hot ticket items, you can likely purchase online for the same price as in store to avoid cold, chaos and long lines post.

With many families choosing to stream their television entertainment, commercials have nearly disappeared. Pass toy catalogs to your children, take them to the store to browse, and/or let them create a wish list online (amazon). Some children may want everything they see or have a difficult time deciding with so many possibilities. Keep your ears open listening for the same toy mentioned several times.

Inventory wrapping supplies (paper, tape, name tags, bows, ribbon, tissue paper, bags, etc.) adding any needed items to the black Friday list as Christmas items are typically 50% off.

Christmas Cards

If you send photos or order your cards online now is the time to take the family photo and place your order to allow plenty of time for their arrival.

Christmas cards and packages are filling the mailbox. Save the envelopes and address labels to update your addresses book later. I keep 2 trays on my desk. The top tray is everything I need to take care of (file, update, investigate). The bottom tray holds keepsakes that need to be stored (anything the kids make, report cards, cards received from family and friends). When I pay bills every other week I go through the trays and handle all that has accumulated there.

Be sure you have plenty of stamps and shipping supplies (boxes, packing tape, bubble wrap).

Bake and Freeze

December gets busy fast, especially with my son’s birthday thrown into the month. This year I am running low on time to bake. Next year I am going to begin baking in November what I can freeze (breads, cookies that are not iced). Be sure to wrap these well. These also serve as a gift for anyone who stops by unexpected.

After Thanksgiving

Black Friday

Kick off the shopping season with Black Friday deals! Here are all my top tips and tricks for getting the most bang for your buck on Black Friday. This is also a good time to pick up deeply discounted “just-in-case” gifts (candle, picture frame, etc.) so you’re not empty handed when someone shows up with an unexpected gift.


Tree, lights, garland, stockings, it’s time to deck the halls. Need new lights or other décor? Pick it up during the Black Friday sales 50% off. Buying your Christmas decorations now instead of the day after Christmas (when they are also 50% off or more) also gives you the biggest selection.

Wrap as you purchase

Wrapping as you bring things home helps break up the monotony of wrapping. It also adds an extra layer of protection for prying eyes. If your memory is as challenged as mine you won’t remember everything you have purchased, so keep a list.

Address and Mail Christmas cards

Enlist help! Have the kids or your significant other write inside the card, affix the stamp, or seal the envelopes while you address the envelopes. Create a production line and enjoy some bonus time with your family. Some people prefer to break this job up into thirds, completing 1/3 every week, but I prefer to tackle the entire job all at once-hence the production line.

Three weeks before

Live decorations

If you prefer a live tree and/or garland three weeks before Christmas is the perfect time to bring it home. You will enjoy a fresh tree through Christmas day.

Finalize the holiday menu

We attend multiple parties on Christmas day bringing different dishes to each. Be sure you know what your hosts would like you to bring and gather all non-perishable ingredients now. The most popular items can become scarce closer to the holiday. You don’t want to waste any time searching grocery store after grocery store for the last can of pumpkin for your pie.

If you are hosting, a complete holiday party guide can be found here. Be sure to get the star of your holiday feast now (turkey, ham) or you will be choosing from very few options as the holiday draws closer.

Two weeks before

Mail out of town gifts

One week before

Finish grocery shopping

Clean out the refrigerator to make room for holiday dishes.

Head to the grocery store to shop for all needed fresh ingredients. Try to avoid the busiest times by shopping before 10 am or after 8 pm.

Complete any last-minute gift shopping

Depending on how Christmas falls, typically the 20th is the absolute last day you can order anything online with an expected delivery by the 24th.

One day before

Be sure the camera, recorder, phone is charged.

Assemble any gift that came in pieces.

Wrap any last-minute gifts.

Prepare any dishes or ingredients you can. Plan for warming and finishing dishes tomorrow.



Today you reap the rewards of months of your hard work and planning. On this day, give yourself a free pass and enjoy the moments as they come. Life is not perfect, so don’t expect that from yourself. Instead delight in the beauty of imperfection and spontaneity. Keep the day’s agenda loose and allow yourself to find peace.

Day after Christmas

Everything Christmas related will be 50% off. Stock up on name tags, tissue paper (white can be used for any occasion), gift bags, wrapping paper, decorations, Christmas cards, money holders. You can also pick up Christmas themed gifts for next year in less expected departments (candles, kitchenware, oven mitts, clothing, pre-boxed gifts, gift baskets, etc.)

Update your Master to do list

Did anything unexpected sneak up on you? Add it to the master list and think of a way to incorporate the task more easily it into your holiday next year. More than likely each year will have its own little surprise and that is fine. Note it for the following year.


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