24 Ways To Approach the Holidays With Less Stress

A recent study shows that 88% of Americans feel more pressure during the holidays than at any other time of year. The holidays are right around the corner, and for many, that may bring on feelings of stress and overwhelm.

We all want to approach the holiday season with the right mindset, appreciating holiday movies on repeat, hot chocolate, and gatherings with friends and family. Still, sometimes it's just even more items for your long to-do list.

That’s why we gathered 24 planning tips for December to help reduce the stress of this busy time of year.

1. Remember What’s Most Important

It may feel overwhelming to think of everything we need to do for the holidays, but with the right mindset, we can get through the holidays happier and enjoy the moments of laughter and warmth this holiday season.

“Write out a list of what’s important to you this holiday season—things like family, community gatherings, activities with your kids. Then write out a list of priorities of things that need to get done from your “everyday” life.  Focus on these two lists as you go through the holidays,” says Victoria from Motherhood Life Balance.  “It will help you stay organized and not over plan or take on too much.”

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2. Turn To-dos Into Family Activities

Spend some time getting crafty with your kids and make some of your gift tags, decorate gift bags, or even color plain wrapping paper.  Family members will enjoy getting gifts decorated by the little ones in their life.

“Using free printable Christmas Gift Tags means one less trip to the store and less money wasted this holiday season,”  says Adaeze.

“Start planning out your kids’ crafts, and you can have super cute gift wrap or Christmas cards made ahead of time instead of scrambling at the last minute,” says Anna Marikar from In the Play Room.

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3. DIY Anywhere You Can

Besides wrapping paper, tags, you can also make some of your holiday gifts. You can save money by making some homemade gifts for family and friends. Grandparents always enjoy homemade gifts from their grandchildren and can use them for holiday decorations for years to come.

“Making your gifts not only shows thought but saves you money. Everything can be personalized but also batch-made, like edible gifts,” says Rebecca Pytell from Strength and Sunshine.

4. Give Similar Gifts for Friends and Extended Family

Organizing yourself and planning gifts ahead of time can help you reduce the number of trips you take to the stores and save you money.

“Decide one for gifts for friends and extended family. Whether it's gift cards or a book, everyone gets the same thing. Gifting this way has saved me so much time and stress,”  said Sadie May from Sadiesmiley.com.

5. Prepare Part of the Holiday Meal Ahead of Time.

Cooking a meal for the family is a lot of work, and you don’t want to spend the entire day in the kitchen and miss out on family time.

“Making as much of the holiday meal ahead of time can help you save some time the day of the big event.  Make some things like dessert and sides like make-ahead mashed potatoes the day or two before. They’ll still taste great and be ready for when you need them,” says Lisa from Fluxingwell.com

6. Map Out Your Events Ahead of Time

The holidays bring so many opportunities to attend special events. From markets, friends and family, your calendar can be overloaded.

“Planning is the key to stress-free holidays. Don’t wait until the last minute; try to finish planning for gifts, meals, family gatherings, and social events by the first week of December. Doing this gives you ample time to start shopping and be ready for the holiday season in time,” says Anika Jain from Whatanikasays.com. “Planning saves you from the last-minute chaos and allows you to enjoy your time with family.”

7. Don't Forget About Stocking Stuffers

When you're out shopping, don't forget about stocking stuffers. It's one less trip to the store, and you have stocking stuffers crossed off your to-do list. Big box stores like Costco have multi-packs or large candy bags that can be split across a group of stockings.

“Be prepared and have a budget in mind and stick to it. Buy Christmas stocking fillers during the big sales, so you're not running out to high-priced convenience stores at the last minute. This will help you stick to your holiday budget,” says Melissa Williams from The Diary of a Jewellery Lover.

8. Secret Santa for the Adults

Secret Santa is a great way to plan and keep spending low. It’s also fun to have the excitement of seeing who everyone's Secret Santa is and bring lots of laughter to gatherings.

Jo Jackson from Tea and Cakes for the Soul says, “My tip is to have a Secret Santa for the adults to minimize spending and time shopping for things people don’t need. Set a limit and stick to it. Make Christmas about the children.”

9. Use Baking Hacks

Christmas and baking go hand in hand. Receiving a box of baked goods is a great way to spread the love this holiday season, but there's no need to bake from scratch.

Anna Marikar says, “Look out for super simple and easy ways to create festive treats, which can even be adapted from a box mix like these Christmas tree brownies.”

10. Keep the Kids Occupied

If you’ve got little ones to keep entertained, using some Christmas printables and Holiday crafts is a great way to keep them happy while you're at family events, waiting for Santa, or need to get things done around the house.

“One of the keys to minimizing stress during the holidays is to keep your kids occupied with fun activities.  Try free printable Christmas activities like these 3D Christmas ornaments or gingerbread houses,” says Amy Williams from The Savy Sparrow.

11. Use a Checklist

The days leading up to a holiday can be stressful. So many try to remember everything they need, and if you’re hosting, you have a neverending list of chores you want to be done and items you need to buy before the big day.

Jessica Mode from Home Body Eats says, “Use a timeline checklist to keep you on track for Christmas or Hannukah dinner to make sure you're ready for guests and have everything you need.”

12. Start a Christmas Savings Plan

Saving a little extra cash ahead of time is a great idea and an excellent way to feel less overwhelmed about money. A holiday savings plan is a good thing to remember this season and for seasons to come. Even if you put aside every $5 from now until the end of the month, it will help a larger than normal credit card bill.

Rebecca Lake from Boss Single Mama “Start your holiday savings account early. The sooner you start saving, the less money stress you'll have during the holidays. And if you're stressing over gifts, remember that more gifts are not always better.”

13. Talk to Your Family Ahead of Time

Communication is key. Conversations about gifts, events, and more before the holidays are a great way to have reasonable expectations for yourself and your family members.

“If you are buying for extended family, take some time to talk with them before Christmas to ensure everyone is on the same page in regards to how much will be spent on each other. There is nothing worse than assuming you understand the required mutual investment to only find out on Christmas Day you’ve blown the budget and put someone in an awkward position,” says Janine Mergler from Christmas In Australia.  “A quick ring around to ensure you’ve understood the plan saves red faces on the day.”

14. Color Coordinate Your Gifts

Organize your gifts by color or a tag, so you’re ready to grab the gifts you need as you leave for an event. Plus, all your gifts match!

“Color code all your gifts by recipient type or destination for stress-free gift giving. For example, have all your co-worker’s gifts wrapped in red tones, friend gifts wrapped in gold, and family gifts wrapped in green,” says Annie Brown from Everyday Gifter. “ If you have multiple family gatherings on Christmas, you can wrap each family in a particular color. This makes it easier to keep track of all your presents and prevents you from forgetting someone's gift because it is mixed in with gifts that need to go to another place.”

15. Buy Some Pre Packaged Baking Kits

If you want to have quality baking time with your family, but are so short on time, order a  baking kit like the ones from Baketifity. They are ready to go with instructions and everything you need to make your baked goods. You can choose from cookies, cake pop, cakes, and could buy them as gifts and send them to busy families around the country.

16. Negotiate ‘Gift Truces’

Gift Truces are a great way to open up a conversation about gift-giving. This allows you to have a conversation with your friends about the idea of not buying gifts but maybe doing things together instead of for the holidays or year to come.

Whether it's a conversation with your spouse, parents, or siblings, talking about putting the money towards a dream vacation instead of holiday gifts might be just what they are dreaming of too.

17. Batch Produce Common DIY Gifts

Batch produce DIY gifts for your loved ones all in one day. For example, you can make DIY candles and slightly customize them (change color, glitter, beads, ribbon you use) in one weekend afternoon. That way, you'll have a little gift for every single special person in your life without spending hours shopping or every single December weekend making gifts.

18. Use Gift Bags for Wrapping

Make your life as easy as you can during the holiday rush. Gift bags can be found at most dollar stores to save you some money and time.

Crystal Shriver-Garman from Simply Full of Delight says, “Take the stress out of gift wrapping by using gift bags! Gift bags not only provide a super-fast way to wrap gifts, but they are also environmentally friendly as they can be used again and again.”

19. Don’t Feel Bad Saying No

Sometimes it’s hard to say no, but we have to keep our mental health and priorities in mind during a busy season.

“My tip is not to feel bad saying no. The holiday season is full of things to schedule. A few years ago, I started prioritizing the most important things instead of saying yes to everything. This limited my stress and left more free time to enjoy the holidays together as a family,” says Natalie Stern from One Simple Party

20. Buy Gifts in Advance

Buy as many gifts as you can weeks before events. Not only will this give you time for canceled orders or shipping delays, but you can correct any mistakes or fix any gift imbalances without stress.

“Buying gifts in advance always felt taboo, almost anti-Christmas to me. But this year, with shortages and shipping delays expected to make holiday shopping a nightmare, we decided to buy all of our kids’ gifts early. Now I’m wondering why we ever waited so long to do this! With gifts out of the way, we can spend December focused on fun holiday activities with our kids, knowing the gifts are taken care of,” says June.

“Buying your kids’ gifts early (and agreeing on them with your spouse) can drastically reduce your holiday stress and allow you to enjoy the season entirely. See what gifts a minimalist family bought for five kids at The Simple Balance.”

21. Travel for the Holidays Instead

How about Christmas away this year? Dust off your passport and head off to a new holiday experience or warmer weather.

“Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. But, unfortunately, it is as well the most stressful one as well for lots of us. We as a family always choose to travel abroad or just to a hotel nearby. Like that, I always avoid the hassle of cleaning up the house, preparing a big meal for the extended family, or visiting an aunt, which you don't like.

And what are the advantages of spending the holiday season abroad,” says Ania James from Traveling Twins.  “We learn about different Christmas traditions and try other foods and sip mulled wine. Like that, instead of stressing out, we learn about Christmas traditions around the world.”

22. Keep It Simple. You Don’t Need To Do It All

There are often so many things you want to get done, but maybe you can trim some things off that to-do list this year. Then, you might find that they weren't missed, and you'll give it up permanently.

“Skip the Christmas letter and Christmas cards. No one reads that stuff now that we have social media to keep up with friends and family all during the year. As for entertaining, there’s no shame in ordering in. Friends are visiting to see you and spend time with you. They don’t care about how much you slaved in the kitchen. Don’t shy away from gift cards. Have a few on hand that you can include in a greeting card in a pinch when you’ve forgotten a gift for someone,” says Jennifer Weedon Palazzo from Mom Cave TV

23. Consider Experiences as Gifts

Gift an experience and maybe avoid the shopping lines and hunt for the latest hot gifting item this year. Or perhaps a season pass to a nearby amusement park or science center that your family can enjoy for the whole year.

“Consider experiences as gifts more than things! A family trip to Walt Disney World, a wonderful ski vacation, or tickets to local attractions can make a wonderful holiday gift and save you the stress of shopping and wrapping. Plus, you are spending quality time together as a family,” says Keri from Bon Voyage With Kids.

“Subscription boxes also make wonderful gifts as well, especially ones themed around travel. These gifts will come monthly or bimonthly and extend the holiday gift-giving throughout the year. It is thoughtful, and they will think of you each month when they receive this special gift.”

24. Include Everyone in the Holiday Prep

Divide that to-do list where you can. Get everyone involved in the planning and execution this year. There's no need to be a superhero.

“Include everyone in the holiday prep! I think that rather than trying to take everything on yourself, ensure that every member of the family plays a valid part in preparing for the holiday season. Not only will this alleviate some of the pressure on you, but it will also be great for bonding and instilling good traditions within the family unit,” says Vikki Evans from Best Lodges with Hot Tubs

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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Featured Image Credit: Freepik.


Victoria Cornell is the founder of Motherhood Life Balance. She helps busy moms find peace in the midst of the chaos, transform their mindset, get organized, and find the fuel to live their best life. You can find her at https://motherhoodlifebalance.com/