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Oh the holidays… a joyous time for one and all. Between decking those proverbial halls, running around grabbing last minute gifts, breaking the bank and stuffing our faces full of not-so-nutritious fare, there’s lots to love and also to be stressed out about heading into December.

Luckily there are several easy things we can all do to get a handle on the holidays this year. With just a little planning (and slightly less procrastination), here’s how we plan on mastering it all this year.

1. Set a budget

For real, we mean it this time. Just because we love giving gifts doesn’t mean we have to actually break the bank doing it, so we’re setting a budget and sticking to it. Make a list and check it twice to make sure that you not only include everyone, but that you also know how much money you want to spend on each person. If you’re the type of person who leaves lists at home, consider making one on your phone or better yet, download an app to help you. We recommend Santa’s Bag, which helps you stick to a budget and create wish lists, too.

2. Buy some “just in case” gifts

Ever been in a situation where someone so thoughtfully hands you a gift and you have absolutely nothing to offer them in return? If you want to avoid that awkwardness in the future, consider stocking up on a couple of universal gifts to dole out at the last minute. Things like wine and chocolate are always a good bet, or if you want to be slightly less generic opt for a board game or two.

3. Wrap as you go

You’ve had your wrapping paper for weeks but all your presents are just sitting in a closest. Suddenly it’s Dec. 23 and you need to wrap… everything. Hello, achy back. Solve this problem by wrapping as you go. Set up a designated area in your house with some wrapping paper, tape, ribbons and a pair of scissors at the ready, and then wrap your presents as you purchase them. Not only will this make the task seem so much easier and enjoyable, but you’ll also avoid people in your household accidentally seeing what you bought them.

4. Knock those Christmas cards off

Are you one of those people who send Christmas cards? Do it now. This weekend, if possible. The quicker you get to this the better, believe us, because it will be mid-December before you know it, and your schedule will be packed to the brim. And while you’re sending out your cards, be sure to update your mailing list. Hey, you might as well knock two things off your list at once, right?

5. Set up an online wish list

Tired of random tchotchkes under your tree? Stressed about what to get the people in your life? While there’s always something to be said for a thoughtful gift that you bought because it reminded you of a person, sometimes we all need a little help. That’s where shareable wish lists come in handy. We highly recommend Elfster, a website that allows you and everyone in your life to create online wish lists. If you purchase something on a friend’s list you can mark it as “purchased” without that person seeing it, meaning someone else won’t duplicate that gift. Bonus points for the fact that it will organize your Secret Santa exchange for you in a matter of minutes.

6. Plan to shop online

If the crowded malls completely freak you out this time of year, head online to pick out your gifts. Most stores these days will ensure that your gifts arrive well before Dec. 24, and plenty of them offer gift-wrapping options too. It’s great because you can shop any time of the day, and if you use a third-party service like Ebates, you can actually earn a little bit of cash back at the same time. Now who doesn’t love that?

7. Meal prep the heck out of December

We get it — you’re probably running around all month long. Parties, get-togethers and pesky errand after errand keep everyone on their toes. That’s why it’s a brilliant idea to meal prep now to make things a little easier on yourself later. Take a couple of hours before things become insane and whip up some freezable lasagnas, pasta dishes, a stir-fry or two or a meat loaf. You’ll have healthy options on hand and ready to go all month long for those nights when it’s just too impossible to even think about cooking.

8. Host or attend a cookie swap

Can’t even wrap your head around Christmas baking this year? Then don’t. Pick one really good recipe, make a ton of it, and then swap it at a cookie swap. You’ll get a larger variety of treats to put out when guests come over, and you’ll look like freaking Martha Stewart when in reality all you had to do was put a bunch of stuff on a plate.

9. Decorate with what you already have

Not looking to spend a bunch of money on new decorations but feel like your baubles could use an upgrade? Why not try up-cycling the stuff you already have? Throw some old ornaments in a glass bowl for an instant centrepiece, or repurpose that old ball of yarn into a beautiful handmade snow ball. Heck, you don’t even have to put in that much effort if you don’t want to. You could just as easily tie some pinecones from the local park onto a piece of string to make garland or glue some candy canes together for a funky wreath. Easy peasy, Christmas is breezy.

10. Stock up on booze

Know what always make the holidays better? A little festive juice at the end of a crazy day. Apparently a lot of people feel that way because the liquor and beer stores are always packed in December. So our advice is go early and stock up. Because the next time you feel like a hearty glass of red after dinner, it will taste that much better knowing you won’t have to battle a mad crowd to get it. As an added bonus, you’ll also have stuff on hand to bring to your next get together, too.

11. Just go away

Yeah, you heard us. If the holidays really just aren’t your jam and you hate doing them, then why do them at all? It’s your life — take advantage. Sure, it’s super expensive to travel in December and things book up really quickly, but there’s also something to be said for a relaxing week away skiing or under the sun while everyone else is making merry with traffic and pushy in-laws. We promise, just because you want to enjoy your actual holiday with a holiday doesn’t make you a grinch — no matter what anyone says.

 

Happy holidaying.