Spare yourself winter holiday stress by preparing now

There’s no doubt that the winter holidays have a certain charm – everyone wants to cozy up around the fire and open gifts with friends and family. However, when the season actually arrives, you may find yourself doing more hustling and bustling than snuggling in and relaxing. It’s almost inevitable that there will be a crush of duties to fulfill, parties to host and events to attend, all within a few short weeks.

While you can’t brush off all of your obligations, you can make it easier to get through everything with fewer hitches. A bit of planning ahead will help you avoid hectic rushing and last-minute stressing about everything from meals to sending out greetings.

Start putting a plan in place now – even if it seems a bit early – and your season will be far more enjoyable.

* Start shopping. There is likely a long list of people for whom you need to buy gifts, so spreading out the shopping task over a few months will soften the blow to your finances. Once you’ve drawn up your list, be vigilant about looking for the right gifts – and write down ideas as they come to you. Shop smart by pre-purchasing items that are unlikely to go on sale or be discounted.

* Set dates. If you’re hosting a gathering for Christmas or New Year’s Eve, setting the date well in advance will help to ensure that your event is on people’s calendars first. Not only will it be easier to get confirmations that people will attend, it will give you ample time to prepare. It’s one of the busiest times of the year, and if you need to arrange catering or other services, you’ll beat the rush to make reservations.

* Design your own holiday greetings. Sending out Christmas cards is a time-honored tradition – it’s a fun way to get in touch with friends and family whom you might not see often. Rather than buying something off the shelf, create your own custom Christmas cards using simple online programs. You can add pictures to stylish designs, add your own message and have them printed and sent to you, all with a few clicks. For something a bit out of the ordinary, fill custom photo calendars with pictures you’ve taken over the past year – from special events or travels – and send them out as gifts.

* Make a menu plan. The pressure to produce a sumptuous feast reaches a high point during the winter holidays, so being caught at the last minute with no plan is a bad idea. While most ingredients need to be purchased shortly before your gathering, selecting the dishes you’ll serve in advance will make it easier to stock your kitchen with supplies. You’ll also give yourself the luxury of trying out new recipes ahead of time so that you’re not caught off guard on the day of the event by something that requires hours of preparation when all you have is minutes.

* Arrange travel. If you won’t be staying at home for the holidays, booking your travel plans as early as possible can be a wise decision. Because tickets sell out quickly and prices often skyrocket as the crucial dates draw nearer, getting a plan arranged now can save money and headaches.

Planning for winter right now might seem premature, but you’ll thank yourself when the season moves smoothly along, thanks to the work you’ve done ahead of time.

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