Organize your Christmas preparations

Today, you have exactly four weeks until Christmas Eve. That should be plenty of time to make the season bright, if you plan ahead and do a little bit each week.

Today, November 26 >
Make a plan:
Take out a calendar, a notebook and a pen to plan out the whole holiday season.

Gifts: Figure out your budget and list everyone in your life. Determine who gets a card and who merits a gift, then brainstorm a few ideas.

Decorating: Decide when you want to put up the tree and schedule a time the whole family can help.

Events: Gather all your invitations and decide which events you’ll attend. Put them on your calendar and send regrets for the others. It’s OK to say no to a few; it’s a busy month.

November 27 to December 3 >
Buy the biggest gifts first, such as for your spouse, kids and close family. That way, you won’t blow your budget buying small gifts for others. If you don’t know what they want, ask them for ideas. Try to buy the most significant or most expensive gifts this week, or at least have a good idea of what you will buy.

Cleaning: Spend extra time this week getting your house clean and organized for the season. Dust all of the surfaces you will decorate, vacuum and deep-clean your bathrooms for guests.

Oh, Christmas Tree: Pull your decorations out of storage a few days before you plan to decorate. The next day, check and replace your lights, if needed. On the big day, ride out with the whole family to pick the perfect Christmas tree and play Christmas carols while you decorate. Save “Oh, Tannenbaum” for the end, so you can sit with some hot cocoa and serenade your pretty pine.

December 4 to 10 >
Now that you have your decorations up, buy wrapping paper and ribbons that will complement them. Buy more than you think you will need, better to have some left over than fight the crowds for more. Start shopping for smaller gifts, such as for friends, teachers and co-workers.

Cards: If you haven’t bought cards yet, stock up and buy postage early this week. Then write about 10 cards each night. If you have more than 70 people on your list, consider writing a holiday newsletter and sending it to everyone. But don’t forget to spell-check.

Clothes: Send your favorite holiday wear to the cleaner to make sure it’s ready when parties roll around. If your wardrobe needs some extra cheer, buy a sparkly sweater, some new shoes or a festive new tie.

December 11 to 17 >
This isn’t exactly the last minute, but go ahead and act like it is, so next week will be more fun. If you still can’t decide on some gifts visit a few locally owned boutiques in town, such as those in downtown. You’ll find some unique gifts that aren’t sold in the big-box stores.

Start a detailed grocery list for a big trip next week. Put it up on your refrigerator and add to it as you think of things.

Kids: Give the kids a small budget and take them shopping for gifts for you and other family members. Even better, give them a few art supplies and have them make gifts, themselves. Buy holiday-themed books for them to begin reading or for you to read to them.

Wrapping it up: Make sure you have tape and scissors and set aside an afternoon to do all your wrapping at once. Put the gifts under the tree so your family can ooh and ahh before the big day.

December 18 to 24 >
Clean out your fridge and finish your grocery list, then go shopping early in the morning or late at night, to avoid the crowds. Don’t forget to buy extra storage containers, you will need them when you bake and cook a few things ahead and put them in the freezer.

Stocking stuffers: If you’re already done with your gifts, make one last trip to get a few stocking stuffers, and savor the feeling of being more organized than everyone else.

Festivities: Pick up your party dress and get ready to kick up your heels with friends and family. Find at least one holiday-themed event to go to, such as a party, a musical or even a silly movie.

Christmas Day, December 25 > 
Wake up early and watch the kids open their presents. Make sure to take some time to play with your own presents and maybe take a nap, you’ve earned it! before you do the final cooking for the holiday meal.