A MOM’S GUIDE TO A CALMER & HAPPIER HOLIDAY SEASON – GETTING ORGANIZED WITH A FREE HOLIDAY PLANNER

Are you longing to enjoy the most wonderful seasons of the year again? Ya, me too. Desperately! It seems that every year when the holidays come around, I promise myself that I WILL enjoy them again, just like when I was young.

Lately, in the past ten years or so, the holidays just mean more work, a crazier schedule, and a few panic sessions in an aisle in Target thrown in for good measure.

This year, instead of just crossing my fingers for a relaxed holiday, I’m going to plan for it. Yup, I will preplan the holidays now so that I’ve got everything covered when the holidays do come around! Wanna know my secret weapon? It’s my Holiday Planner Template Pack!

master the holidays with a free holiday planner template pack

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HOW WE MOMS CURRENTLY SPEND THE HOLIDAYS

I want you to take a moment and think about last year’s holiday season. Did you cringe? I did. According to a survey released by the American Psychological Association, “Nearly half of all women in the United States experience heightened stress during the holidays at great risk to the health of their minds and bodies.”

Furthermore, they found that “This increases the likelihood that they will turn to unhealthy behaviors like using food to deal with stress (41 percent) or drinking alcohol (28 percent).” While these stats probably don’t come as a surprise to us moms, we know that we have to change if we want to not only survive the holidays but thrive!

So what were you stress eating from? What are the things that you promised yourself you wouldn’t do again?

Present panic

“What am I going to get my husband this year?!?”

I always say this every year, without fail. I panic and get something that I think he might kind of like, but it’s way above my budget. BUT I don’t have any other ideas, so I have to buy this random thing because Christmas is this week! ACK!!!!!

Cooking meltdown

Yes, as the Mama, we (probably) do most of the meal planning and cooking. And making a tasty Christmas dinner is exhausting work. Don’t forget all the cookie baking and the planning and shopping for all that food! Ugh, I’m tired just thinking about it.

Family feud – not the gameshow

This is what really brings me down; the holidays are about cherishing our family, being thankful for our blessings, and helping to spread joy to those that need it. Yet, family squabbles continually creep up during heightened times. When we’re already exhausted from shopping, presents, and resentment from not “enjoying” the holidays, we take small things and make them glaciers. We pick fights and get set off at the slightest snag. No thanks!

Exhaustion everywhere

Exhaustion seems to fall into all of these categories, yet I think it deserves its own section. This can be so easily solved, yet as Moms, we have the hardest time slowing down and taking our own time out. Let me tell you, and I get it; I totally and 100% get it. But this has got to change for you!

Protecting your schedule is the #1 thing we can do to ensure that we have the space and time to enjoy our holiday season. Remember, when you say “yes” to others’ requests, you are saying “no” to your priorities. Yes, that’s a rather harsh way to look at things, but it’s still true.

4 STEPS TO THE EASIEST HOLIDAY SEASON EVER!

Honestly, I’m tired of this, sick and tired of scrambling at the last minute, barely scraping by, ensuring that others enjoy themselves, but I’m just a hot holiday mess! To not experience the above-mentioned harbinger of holiday meltdown, we need a plan. We need Holiday Planners!

I want to clarify that it’s more than just a holiday planner; it’s a way to set yourself up for success in every way to help you and your family have a calmer and smoother holiday.  One filled with true holiday spirit and happiness, just like we used to when things were less complicated (aka when we were ten years old).

What are the four steps, you ask? It’s simple; you plan it out by…

  1. Think – what kind of holiday do you want? Busy? Lots of family, activities, or quiet?
  2. Plan – the who, what, when, where, and how.
  3. Procure – gather your supplies (hint: start early November).
  4. Do – execute your plan.

You do this for each of the main areas of the holiday…

  • Food – main meals, treats, etc.
  • Decorations – what do you have, what do you need to replace?
  • Family fun – activities, crafts, events, etc. (need some inspiration? Check out these fun family traditions that won’t bust the bank).
  • Gifts – for who and the what.
  • Giving – either your time or funds to those that need it most.

If you do this, then it’s smooth sailing for you! Yeah, really, that’s it. The key to this part is planning early and not overcomplicating things (we moms like to do that, huh!).

I’ve got the planning part all written down, just for you. It started as a budget for myself for the holiday season, and it grew; it was so helpful to me I want to share it with you, and now it’s a full-blown printable Christmas planner!

WHAT IS A HOLIDAY PLANNER?

It’s kind of like a Christmas to-do list + activity manager + a money check-in, but more! It’s a plan to help you layout how you want to spend the happiest time of the year! And since I’m a money nerd, there’s a holiday budget component as well.

By planning things out now, while we have oodles and oodles of time, the stress and resulting panic are taken away. We can look over our holiday plans and let ourselves ruminate on ideas without the pressure. Then in a week or two, we can fill it in with a general outline of what we’d like to happen.

Now I’m not talking that you put on your 4 Star General uniform and plan it out to a T (but you can if you want to, and that makes you happy). But I want you to think about the main components of the holiday and get a rough outline down. Depending on how close to the holidays we are when you read this, you may want to pour yourself a glass of fortifying wine and get down to business.

Christmas planner quote

Why a holiday budget section?

Yup, one of the main things that I hear from Moms is how they spent way too much money last year on Christmas. Come January; they’re a little panicked on how to pay for it all. You don’t need that kind of financial stress! So stop it before it happens!

As you know, money plays a HUGE part in how we feel about our day, our outlook, our future, and everything basically. So if we can nail that one piece, we can take away so much of the worry and guilt that comes in January when our bills come due. So think of it as a regular Christmas Planner with the safeguard of a budget for all of it.

Let me clarify, there’s the full holiday planner, and then there’s the free mini budget template pack. Even if you don’t want to buy the 35-page printable workbook, I want you to have the Christmas mini budget for free.  Getting a handle on your budget is the #1 thing that can help you enjoy the season more, and that is my number one goal!

A happier you makes a happier family, which makes a happier neighborhood, a happier… city… state… county… WORLD! Doesn’t that sound good?

Is holiday debt that big of a thing? Yup! According to a consumer survey by the Motley Fool, “The average consumer who bought Christmas gifts spent $928.76. Not surprisingly, 29.6% of those who didn’t set a budget spent more than they expected to”. Yikes, that’s unnecessary because they could have done it differently if they had only planned their holiday spending.

If you’re looking for a more focused guide specific to budgeting, then be sure to check out this Christmas Budget Planning! It’s a full-blown how-to walk-through of building a holiday budget.

What’s in the holiday planner template workbook?

Here’s what’s in the Christmas Planner (or a holiday planner). I say “Christmas Planner” because that’s what my family celebrates, yet I absolutely want you to keep & hold your heritage and family traditions close to you! So please do make this planner your own and use it for your traditions!

Figure out your budget

I have an entire post on precisely what you need to think about with your Christmas budget, so I won’t rehash it all here. Yet, you need to pick the dollar amount that you want to spend and then find that money in your budget or earn it. You can make extra holiday money by…

  • Having a garage sale.
  • Sell some items on eBay (I sold some of my collections that were gathering dust for like 20 years; it felt so good to clean stuff out and get a decent amount of money from it!).
  • Do some babysitting for friends in your mom circle.
  • Do a money saving challenge (my favorite way to save money!).

If you want more ideas, then check out my post on 9 Creative Ways to Make Money.

I start saving for the Q4 holidays on January 1st; yeah, I’m a bit of a Christmas planner ?. So every week, I set aside $20 of my budget as part of a money-saving challenge. Some weeks I can’t spare it, but I end up saving it about 75% of the weeks out of the year, which is enough for my Christmas budget and the other holidays.

Then I take the cash and buy a prepaid credit card from Target and use that for all my purchases. The highest I have seen is a $500 prepaid option, and that’s good enough for me. Do read the back and look at when they charge fees. Almost all charge a small fee to load it up, and then some charge a usage fee, don’t get that card. Find one with no usage fees.

When you get home, snap a pic of the barcode and keep the receipt just in case you lose it. Some cards have an option to register it online to get a pin to use to help keep your money secure.

If you are determined that you won’t be caught with an empty wallet next year (because this broke feeling just stinks!), then check out a way to painlessly save money for Christmas (hint: it starts in the summer)!

Do you need some help staying motivated with saving money for Christmas (or at any time of the year)? I’ve fallen off the money saving wagon many times. But throughout the years, I have found a few tricks and strategies that have really helped keep me motivated to stay on the path!

Decorations

There are lots of checklists in the planner – things to buy, things to find (it’s somewhere in the attic), and things to replace.

You probably have some old favorites boxed up in your garage; maybe they need to be replaced? Or go natural and go outside and look for small sprigs of greenery to use. Your local gardening store may have larger quantities of holly, juniper, and fir that you can use. If they are fresh-cut, they smell AHHH-MAZING in your house!

I try not to go too crazy with decorating, as I want my tree to be the focal point. Besides, I’m not a knick-knack person. I like minimal; it’s just my way. However you want to celebrate is cool too, just make sure that you love it!

If your town has a local “Buy Nothing” FB group, ask in there about unwanted holiday decorations! It’s a great way to help others clean out their homes and get things that you need for free!

Presents

In the planner are two gift list options, one a traditional list, and the other format is the Rule of 4 gift list.

This is a tough one for people, as we are “consumers.” We like “things,” sure, I like presents, but I want to teach my daughter that love isn’t shown by getting gifts. Love is demonstrated by hugs, spending time together, and small everyday things. This is just my personal parenting style. Whatever yours is, then that’s cool too.

I have a $ budget per person for presents and then $25 for stocking stuffers. That’s what I do, and I’m sticking to it. Besides, Dollar Store stickers are great for stocking stuffers for a five-year-old.

More than anything, I just don’t want you to feel like you have to break the bank on holiday gifts to show people that you love and appreciate them. Small gestures can mean a lot to people, more than a spendy gadget; I would like to think. Whatever your budget, be sure to stick to it. Use cash or a prepaid credit card so you literally cannot overspend.

Holiday meals & treats

In the planner is a holiday menu planner, a grocery list for the big meal, and a holiday baking planner and shopping list! If you want to go the extra mile, then meal plan in some freezer meals that you can make ahead for those days you’ve spent in a baking frenzy.

Cookie baking should be an Olympic sport for us moms! This stuff is hard and exhausting! BUT, it’s a lot of fun, especially when your little one likes to help! Be thinking about who you want to give cookies to, how many, and how many treats you want to keep for your family’s enjoyment!

For meals, we like a nice Christmas morning breakfast. I usually get it together the night before (like strata or casserole-style french toast bake), and then in the am, it’s super easy to bake and serve.

We make light snacks during the day, and we set up a cheese, cracker, fruit, and meats table in the living room to make it easy on us all. Then we make a traditional holiday dinner: large ham or turkey, lots of side dishes and pies for dessert.

Yet, my favorite dinner of the season is Christmas Eve dinner. We always get take-out, be it Chinese food, Mexican, or pizza. It’s very casual, sitting on the couch eating it and watching It’s a Wonderful Life!

Free Christmas Mini Budget Planner

Family traditions

There’s a monthly calendar option and a weekly planning countdown option! Plan in all your fun, errands, shopping days, and rest days!

But planning the family traditions is, by far, my favorite planning task by far! This is what “makes” the holiday for me. Things like…

  • Going to the tree farm and picking one out (hint: go to one that has farm animals and petting opportunities, or a fire pit with hot cocoa, etc.
  • Weekly holiday movie night – White Christmas, Elf, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty, Four Christmases, etc.
  • Holiday treat baking – we bake cookies for work peers, neighbors, and our daycare providers and physical therapists. Pick some recipes now, so you’re not scrambling; go to the dollar store for cheap cookie tins or boxes.
  • Go to the mall at least once to soak in the music, decorations, and excitement.
  • A fancy date night dinner with your honey.
  • A trip to the library for holiday books (put a hold on holiday picture books early as they are very popular and hard to get on time).

Google “your town + holiday events” there are sure to be a ton of events or ask in your neighborhood’s FB group! Or check out my list of the Mom’s Guide to the best family Christmas bucket list!

Charitable giving

We are firm believers that it’s better to give than to receive, so I wanted to include a giving section as this time of the year is so hard for so many people.

Remember that when giving money, it is much more impactful to give 1-2 more substantial donations than lots of little $10 ones as processing fees take up a chunk of it and other overhead costs with accepting donations.

Do your homework on your nonprofit options, as some aren’t the best at making sure that most of the funds go directly to their cause. Overhead & admin eats up a chunk of your donation. I like Charity Navigator for this, as it rates the nonprofit on how well the organization is run. They also tell you how much of your dollar actually goes to the mission & programs of the organization.

I’ve conveniently pulled up a link to my family’s favorite nonprofit. Charity Navigator gives it 4 stars (the highest rating possible, with a score of 96.2 out of 100) as they are so well run, and 92.4% of each dollar donated goes directly to its programs and services. What is the organization? It’s Give Kids the World.

“Give Kids The World Village is an 84-acre, nonprofit “storybook” resort in Central Florida. Here, children with critical illnesses and their families are treated to weeklong, cost-free vacations.”

It’s similar to the Make A Wish Foundation, but they have much lower overhead and costs on non-service/program-related expenses. So they can help more kids live out their dream fantasy of meeting Pooh Bear!

If you’re not in a position to donate money, that’s fine too. You can always do random acts of kindness for strangers or bake dog treats for your local animal shelter. Cat shelters accept homemade cat toys too! Just call and ask them if they have a toy guideline.

Other forms in the printable holiday planner guide

There are so many tools that you can use to help make the holiday season run smoother. So I tried to include as many as I could think of. There’s a…

  • Cash envelopes – 6 designs so you can go all cash this season and never overspend
  • Holiday savings trackers – 2 color in designs to keep your savings progress up front and visual
  • Christmas savings plan – 3 options for starting at Christmas in July (July 25th, this gives you almost 6 months to save), and one year long savings envelope. (All savings goals end right before Black Friday weekend so you have plenty of time to shop before the big day).
  • Christmas card list – gather all the names and addresses so once you sit down to do it’s easy peasy!
  • Month of December calendar template and a week by week countdown with to-do checklist.

Remember, there’s the full printable workbook for sale, and then there’s the free printable Christmas Planner (the mini-budget guide). You decide what level of planning you want to do! See right below for both options…

holiday planner mockup
Full Workbook

Or grab your free budget planner pages…

free holiday budget mini planner workbook
free holiday budget mini planner

HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

With all the planning going on, you may be thinking about the work and effort it will take now to do it. Let me tell you; it’s worth it. When it gets down to crunch time, your cortisol skyrockets, and your outlook darkens. 

You literally cannot enjoy everything that you love about the holidays! That stinks! So do this planning now, and trust me, you will be so thankful for this when you see others making a mad dash in Target, with toy desperation in their eye.

One of the things that I struggled with is that I was “supposed” to be enjoying things, but I wasn’t. I buried those feelings and tried harder. According to Harvard Health, that’s not “being strong.” Instead, I should…

  • Tune into the emotions you are experiencing. Emotions may be positive, negative, or a combination of the two. Call “time outs” for yourself and check in on your feelings.
  • Try to understand why you might be experiencing negative emotions. For some people, negative emotions might be related to unrealistic expectations or goals of themselves around the holidays or from feeling overwhelmed. Readjust goals, so they are specific and attainable.”

I also want you to take a few moments and plan for yourself too! Ways that will allow you to relax and soak in the peace, cheer, and goodwill of the season. There’s a brainstorm sheet in the planner for you to list all the things that you’d like to do for YOU!

  • Blocking out one day in mid-December to get some quality alone time. Think day spa, a good book in a local coffee shop, hike in some snow, or lay in bed all day with holiday movies. (cookie dough, anyone? Hey, it’s the holidays! Go crazy!) Whatever recharges you, I want you to block out time for it. And don’t break that date! Stick to it, think like L’Oreal… “because I’m worth it!”
  • Giving up traditions that you hate – like writing Christmas cards or holiday work parties. Just stop. STOP. You hate it; why torture yourself?
  • Don’t overbook your calendar! Nothing kills a holiday more than rushing. Slow down, breathe, and chill for a while. I will plan every Sunday from 3 pm through the evening to be my “officially relax by the fireplace & tree time. Yup, I just put it into my Trello calendar!
  • Taking January 1st off and taking time (again in a quiet space) to reflect on your year and think about the new year and what you want to do, feel, and accomplish. I love Laura Casey’s Powersheets for this. A fantastic planner that you will absolutely LOVE!

AT THE END OF THE DAY

I know that this year will be the year that I bring it all back to foundations & traditions for the holidays. What I mean by that is remembering what is important and recognizing what are just superficial details that don’t really matter. I have two goals for the season…

  1. That I can take time and enjoy it all
  2. That my family knows and feels valued & loved.

I know that holiday planning (by using a Christmas planner template pack) will ensure that I spend the holiday the way that’s best for my family and me.

Why do I know this? Because I took charge, plain & simple. I am in control, and I set goals; I have action steps to lead me to these goals. I wish that peace of mind for you, and more than anything, I wish you a relaxing holiday season!

Articles Relating to holiday planning printables:

Free Christmas Mini Budget Planner

Save yourself the anxiety, and make this holiday the one you’ve always dreamed about! Grab your holiday planner template pack today!