Organizing For The Holidays

The holidays are often seen as a time of great stress and almost intolerable busyness, but they do not have to be that way. Creating a plan that allows enjoying the season while expressing the spirit is quite possible and is itself a gift that you can give yourself and your loved ones.
So what are the elements of a plan that will allow getting through the holidays with ease and cheer? As with any project, it helps to think about where you want to wind up before you begin planning. Here are some questions that will help you map out a realistic, comfortable plan for enjoying the holidays and bringing joy to others:
- Who is on your list (and who doesn't need to be) and what tokens of affection are appropriate? 
- What is your budget for the celebration and everything connected to it?
- How much time do you have for implementing your ideas?
- What is the minimum that you should do based on your relationships and obligations?
- What help is available to carry out your plans?
- What tasks can be done ahead of time?
- What sequence must your tasks be done in to be most efficient?
- How much of your plan can be done by paid help?

This is a time when it is good to be less ambitious and add on later if opportunity occurs rather than to develop a more grandiose plan and either fail to execute it or wind up wishing that you had never had any such thoughts. It is good to be especially gentle with your budget in these times of economic turmoil, and not commit yourself to a level of debt you will be struggling to pay off throughout the coming year.
And like any other project, it helps to think in terms of planning all the different aspects of your celebration:
- gifts
- cards
- parties/dinners/outings
- decorations
- preparing your home (beyond decorations)

Looking at your plans as a whole will help you evaluate how much time, energy, and expense each element will be and how that fits with what you really have available.
The easiest way to calculate the match-up of your time, energy and finances is to lay out a spreadsheet with all the above elements in it. Beginning with where you want to end up in the time remaining, you can break up each area into do-able chunks that you can work on at a comfortable pace week by week until the holidays arrive. If the only way to arrive at your goal in the time remaining is to drive yourself at a pace that is not comfortable, some re-thinking is in order. What can you give up? scale back? do differently? get help with?
Creating this spreadsheet planning process will not only help for this year, but you can easily re-use it for coming years and it will become an increasingly valuable tool. One thing that it will do is to help identify the annual starting point for each element of preparation so that you are never rushing or unprepared.
Another thing this planning process will do is help you save money by supporting good choices and avoiding impulse and last-minute shopping. I think it is particularly important in this time of financial uncertainty to ensure that celebrations do not become the occasion of deepening debt and risk. None of us know where things are going, so this is a great time for simplicity, heartfelt wishes, and homemade gifts.

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