I know...we just barely got through the last holidays, why in the world would we begin to plan for the ones that are coming?! I have a few good reasons (and what to plan for) that you might want to think about starting now. It's weird, isn't it? We feel like they "sneak" up on us every year, but, they are always at the same time, so they shouldn't be able to do that. This year, we WILL BE prepared!
Save, Save, SAVE! - I already wrote a blog about saving for the things you want, and the holidays need to be at the top of that list from the beginning of the year. Start saving money for them now. Money you want to spend, money you want to give, projects and trips you want to do over the holidays. Plug it away!
Keep a Running List - I know people who start shopping ahead of time for gifts. This doesn't work for me. First, I don't have all my holiday money saved yet (and I don't want to overspend more than I have to) secondly, I may forget what all I get someone and last (but not least) storing piles of stuff isn't practical in my home (I have a large family). However, a great idea that I AM going to start is a running list in my phone of gift ideas. Someone may mention something they would like to have in February, but, ask them about it in September and they may or may not want it then (grand kids are good at this!). But, keeping a running (and evolving) list can help me be better prepared to give the perfect gift. I have already done this with food menus over the years for the holidays, I figure for gifts it may work well too. *Remember: it's an evolving not rigid list. Sometimes there will be spur of the moment changes. That is just life.
Plan & Shop for Decor Items - If you are one who would like to update your holiday decor for the next year, now is the time to decide what you think you will want to do, then, shop throughout the year for some of the items. For instance, a second hand store may have some glass ware or other table service items that might be well suited for your holiday decorating. You can look for plaid things to decorate with or old cookie or candy tins. Maybe you want to go with a certain color scheme and can collect things in that color to put out over the holidays (red and green, blue and white, whimsical bright colors). Going through clearance items throughout the year can sometimes be well worth the effort in some gems you might find. Also, maybe keep a stash of cash for after holiday shopping for discounts on lights, Christmas trees and other holiday items--it may be too late to find too much now, but, you can be ready for it this year!
Try It Ahead of Time - Throughout the year, I run across recipes I may want to try for the holidays. I usually tuck it away and think "I will try that". I have done that and when the new recipe flops, it can really be a bummer--especially when you leave off a favorite for the new recipe. From now on, I am going to test new holiday recipes over the year! That way, if they are really good, I can add them to the holiday menu and if they aren't, well, I can discard them. Do this with other things as well. If you have never decorated a cookie in your life, maybe you should try it before you decide you are going to build a gingerbread village this December!
Get It On the Calendar - As early as you can, start to look at the days you want to have your next celebrations throughout the year and even for the end of the year festivities. Some family members may have to save up time to be able to take off for special events, others need to be planned around because of their schedules. When you can, having things on a calendar for all to know about can help avoid some conflicting schedules.
I hope these ideas help you to feel like you have a better handle on things when the craziness of the holiday season rolls around next time...Then you can enjoy the season and your loved ones even more!--Jen Lush