If you're already starting to feel stressed at everything there is to do in the next six weeks, please just take a deep breath, make a cup of tea and have your first mince pie of the season. Follow our guide, no more, no less, and you'll get there fine - I promise! Part one of our 7 week countdown is here, and today we bring you the tasks for the coming week. Think calm, happy thoughts, follow our lead, and your Christmas prep will be magical not manic. And if you're still not convinced, look out for our guide to reducing the stress of Christmas next Tuesday.
Make Your Gift List
Write down everyone you need to buy gifts for and start browsing in magazines and catalogues, in shops and online with them in mind. Take the gift portion of your budget and assign a value to each person on your list, not according to what they might spend on you, but according to your budget. Then start looking around. Our gift guides are a great place to kickstart your Christmas shopping ideas!
Check your gift cupboard to see if anyone is already covered. Did you squirrel something perfect away earlier in the year? Have a look round for any unwanted gifts you can 'recycle' too. if that board game you were given last year was never even opened, do you need it or would someone else love it?
Decide if you will make homemade gifts for anyone and if so what and whom. Find the recipes/instructions you need (Pinterest!) and pencil into your diary when they need to be done. Will you get the children involved or does it need to be done before they break up from school?
Remember to include in your list gifts to granny or whoever from the kids/husband/dog too!
If you have budget available, head out (or online) to buy presents for a couple of people on your list. Tackle it a bit at a time while the shops are quiet, the shelves are full and delivery times are quick. Apparently, Tuesday is the quietest day to hit the shops. Don't obsess about waiting for bargains, there are lots of offers out there already, so shop around. It's also worth trying the trick of putting things in your online shopping basket (sign in to your account first) and then waiting. Often the retailer will send you a special offer to entice you to buy.
When shopping online, use price comparison sites, cashback sites and special offer codes to get the best possible price. And remember to always stick to the budget you made!
If you want to give personalised gifts, order them now as there is plenty of time for them to arrive and you can really shop around online to find the best items available.
Start Planning Your Food
On a quiet morning or afternoon, gather your recipe books, tablet and notepad and start jotting down ideas for your meals, and any parties, over the holidays. Think about what you will make yourself and what you might need to order in. Place your supermarket food orders (turkey etc) and schedule collection as late as you can leave it.
Start talking to guests or hosts about who's doing what and clarify with everyone what they will be bringing. Assign categories such as cheese or nibbles or wine to your guests, or ask your host what you should cover. make sure you note in your diary what you need to collect or buy when.
Keep stocking up on dry and long-life goods, wine and soft drinks every time you go to the supermarket. A couple of items every time will quickly start to decimate your lengthy Christmas list. But remember to hide it all away!
Start running down your freezer contents so you can defrost and clean it before stocking it up with Christmas goodies and freeze-ahead meals. Take a cupboard inventory to see what you might already have and what you will definitely need to buy. Start making your food shopping lists.
Create a Deep Cleaning Schedule
If you want to give your home a good 'spring' clean before the decorations go up, start now.
Make a room list, and then list everything you will need ot do in each room. Break it down over the next two weeks or so so you are tackling only one job a day, on top of your usual cleaning schedule.
Make Some More Christmas Dates
Keep checking the local listings in the papers and join your local facebook groups to find out what cheap and/or free events are on. Check your local churches' websites for carol services and other fun Christmas events, they may have Christmas-themed Messy Church sessions coming up, and Christingle or Nativity services are always lovely. Keep your diary up to date with everything going on and aim for at least one session of Christmas magic a day from late November onward. You'll all be in the Christmas spirit then!
If you haven't already done so, book panto tickets, trips to see Father Christmas, train and hotel tickets if you're going away, and make sure your pooch has a lovely kennel to go to if needs be. Make appointments for beauty treatments and hair cuts now too. Book any babysitters if you will need them.
Remember that the most important thing to go in your diary, and the thing that your family will remember, is the time you spent together. It doesn't matter what your budget is, schedule in Christmassy family time throughout the month and you'll feel all the better for it - and don;t let anything affect it, that time is set in stone.
Ask each family member, whatever their age, what they want to do to make this festive season special. Think of a few words that sum up your family's perfect Christmas time, and make those your focus. And remember to leave hanging out time too, time for a walk in the woods, or to play, or to watch Christmas movies, peace and happiness are the goal, whatever that means to you and yours. Keep your Christmas words in mind every day from 24th November on. Paste them up on the wall or the kitchen cupboard, somewhere you will all see them and remember what the season means to your family, every day.
For the practical stuff, check our guide to the Christmas dates you need to know and put those in your diary too. Check on there when any overseas gifts or cards need to be posted.
If you are planning any Christmas or New Year parties, send your invitations now.
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