A Mom’s Guide to a Happier & Calmer Holiday Season with the Ultimate Holiday Planner (it’s free)!
Longing to enjoy the most wonderful seasons of the year again? Ya, me too. Desperately. It seems that every year the holidays come around, and I promise myself that I WILL enjoy them again, just like when I was young.
Lately, the past of 10 years or so the holidays just mean more work, crazier schedule, and a few panic sessions thrown in for good measure. This year, instead of just praying for this, I’m actually going to plan for it. Yup, I am going to preplan the holidays now so that when the holidays do come around, I’ve got everything covered! Wanna know my secret weapon? It’s my Holiday Planner!
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may make a commission at no cost to you. Please read my full disclosure for more info
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. What are the things that you promised yourself you wouldn’t do again?
“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 it because Christmas is this week! ACK!!!!!
Yes, as the Mama, we (probably) do most of the meal planning and cooking. And making a tasty Thanksgiving & Christmas dinner is exhausting work. 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, for being thankful for our blessings, and helping to spread joy to those that need it. Yet, family squabbles continually creep up. When we’re already exhausted from shopping, presents, and resentment from not “being able to enjoy” the holidays we take small things and make them glaciers. No thanks.
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; I get it, I totally and 100% get it. But this has got to change for you!
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 hot mess we need a plan. We Need a Holiday Planner.
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, filled with true holiday spirit and happiness, just like we used to, when things were less complicated.
What are the 4 steps you ask? It’s simple…
food + decoration + family fun + ______ (one category specific to each holiday) = smooth sailing for you! Yeah, really, that’s it. The key to the smooth sailing part is to plan early, and not to overcomplicate things (we moms like to do that huh!).
I’ve got the planning part all written down, just for you. It started out as a budget for myself for this holiday season and it grew, it was so helpful to me I want to share it with you!
What is the Holiday Planner?
It’s kind of like a Christmas to-do list + a money check in, but more! It’s a plan to help you frame out all four of the big upcoming holidays; Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s (or other winter celebrations that you hold close to your heart).
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 spending plan 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 see 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 each 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.
But it’s a Holiday “Spending Plan”?
Yup, one of the main things that I hear from Moms is how they spent way too much money last year on Halloween costumes, snacks, and Christmas presents. 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 then we can take away so much of the angst and guilt that comes in January when our bills come due. So think of it like a regular Christmas Planner, but for each of the big holidays (+ cash envelopes)!
How hard did American’s hit the shopping? 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!
Hmmm… so yes, there’s a section devoted to each holiday’s budget, and then you figure out how you’re going to save & earn money for your spending.
If you’re looking for a more focused guide on the holidays & budgeting then be sure to check out this Christmas Budget Planning Workbook! It’s a full-blown guide with cash envelopes, savings trackers, and budget forms! Guaranteed to give you a debt-free Christmas.
How do I get started with the Holiday Planner?
Go ahead and click below to get your spending plan and then let’s get going with planning your family’s BEST HOLIDAY SEASON EVER!
Let’s Get started with our Holiday Planner!
Find your money
If you have a budget for each of the holidays, then you need a way to fund that budget. Ideally, you’d have started already saving for the holidays or have some flexibility with your regular monthly budget.
Or you can get some cash quick 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
If you want more ideas, then check out…
RELATED: 9 Creative Ways to Make Money
I start saving for 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 $500 prepaid option, and that’s good enough for me. Do read the back and look at when they charge fee’s, 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)!
If you want to do a money saving challenge next year, then check out…
RELATED: 17 Money Saving Challenges to Supercharge Your Bank Account.
There are a few challenges that might work for you there, get the FREE printables, and you can get started too!
- $20 a week
- $500 in a month
- A no-spend month challenge if you want to get some fire under your buns to save some fat stacks of money!
Do you need some help staying motivated with saving money? 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 to keep me motivated so that I stay on the path!
RELATED: 4 Guaranteed Ways to Help You Stay Motivated While You are Saving Money!
Be thinking about…
I have a few pages for some different things to think about as you plan your holiday. These are some small details that often get overlooked and creep up on you.
Each holiday also has a Family Traditions section (the best part of the holidays!), get your husband and kids in on this. Ask them what are three things they would like to do this year, then try your hardest to make at least one or even two of those things happen for each of them.
The holiday planner: Halloween
You may need to buy a few things here. Check your storage boxes and do an inventory of what you have; you may not need to purchase anything. If you do need to buy something, I strongly suggest the Dollar Store. These decorations don’t need to be up for that long, so you can save money by buying less expensive options. Think of pumpkins and fall items (as these can then transition into Thanksgiving).
Start looking online now, so you know what reasonable prices are, then check out the big box retailers online to see what they have. I always order it a bit early to make sure the size actually fits, so I can reorder it if it’s too small or too big. Or save even more money by DIY’ing the costume! Pinterest was made for stuff like this!
The trick is to buy the candy early enough to take advantage of the good deals and coupons (there are always coupons in the newspaper for Halloween candy). But not by it too early where you eat it all 🙂
I like chocolate, and I don’t like candy. So I buy mostly candy (with coupons at Target who has great deals), and then I buy one small bag of chocolate candy. Hopefully, the trick or treaters take the chocolate first, so I don’t have to!
One of the great things about the holidays are the events, traditions, and everything that makes it a holiday!
For Halloween, we have a few fall events that we really like…
- Going to the pumpkin patch! Not just an old pumpkin patch but a full-on farm! Think of hayrides, pumpkins, apple cider doughnuts, farm animal petting zoo. We even went to one that had pig and duck races, no joke. It was so fun!
- Family movie night – think of all the holiday cartoon specials and scary movies. Here’s a good list to check out if you need ideas.
- Pumpkin carving night – bake some cookies or try your hand at pumpkin bread, and throw some newspaper on the floor and get to scooping! If you have young ones, you might want to save the seeds and roast them. Get a Halloween playlist on Pandora and have a fun and gooey time.
- perfect for little ones who want to “do it myself!”
- 48 pieces to decorate your pumpkins!
- pumpkin faces + black cat, monsters, clowns, etc
- 4 tools
- 10 reusable stencils
- very sturdy handles
- easy for kids and adults to use
- 10 designs included
- can be reusable
- perfect for the kiddo who can’t think of a design (aka me, as a kid and an adult)
The holiday planner: Thanksgiving
Maybe some of your Halloween decorations can shift into Thanksgiving mode? Add in a few pilgrims and your set! Lucky small pumpkins and gourds are very inexpensive and last a long time! Check out Pinterest and see if you can DIY some (there are probably 42,592 pins on there about Thanksgiving decorations).
This event can be a huge money & energy suck, so planning for it now will make it so much easier. Trust me; you need to plan it early.
On the freebie, there’s a list of usual dishes that are popular for the meal. Check it out and plan your dish type (i.e., potatoes, green veg, etc.) and in the next month or two you can plan out recipes as you have time to search for them.
For the past three years, I have totally cheated at this, and I don’t feel one bit guilty about it. I’ve gone to a very nice grocery store and ordered their Holiday Meal package. It was $129 for everything, which served 4, all prepared. It was maybe 2 hours just to heat stuff up, set the table, and all. In my mind, it was money very well spent as I am not a great cooker when under pressure. (ha! a joke)
If you love cooking then great! Dig out your family recipes and get a list going, so when the time comes all you have to do is go to the store. Make it a double win and put it in Google Docs so next year you have the dishes and grocery list all set to go! Just click print!
Family events & traditions
Traveling can be a big $ ticket purchase for holidays, either plane tickets or gas for your car. Plan now definitely if your buying plane tickets!
For family traditions, we don’t do a lot leading up to the day. But the day of we always watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and then the dog show after that. Then we relax, cook if needed, and then eat a bit early. Then we have to watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and Garfield’s Thanksgiving too (I know, that’s a weird one!)
One idea that a friend of mine does, which is so amazing, is that they spend their Thanksgiving morning delivering meals to homebound seniors with Meals on Wheels. Then go home to a very easy dinner at home, they love Chinese Take out for the holiday meal! Honestly, this is amazing, and her two young boys look forward to it every year! I have done quite a few Meals on Wheels delivery routes, and afterward, I am always moved by people’s goodwill, spirit, and am thankful for the blessings in my family’s life. Check out Meals on Wheels in your neighborhood for volunteer opportunities!
The Christmas planner & winter holidays planner
Here’s where it starts to look like a Christmas Planner (or a winter 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!
I also threw in some suggestions on how to take care of ourselves too! Self-care is huge for moms, and this is the time of the year that we need it most!
You probably have some tried & true ones in your garage, maybe look for a few small things to help spread cheer. Or go outside and look for small sprigs of greenery to take. 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 really 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!
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 own 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 four-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.
Dinner is the same protocol as Thanksgiving dinner for us, but we also 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 make.
This is by far, my favorite holiday for its traditions! 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, also 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
- trip to the library for holiday books
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!
We always try and give to others when we can, so I wanted to include it in the Holiday Spending Plan. If you can give either cash or an item (pst… I have a super fun idea that I’ll share with you later, be sure you sign up for emails to get it!)
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.
Definitely do your homework on your nonprofit options, as some aren’t the best with making sure that most of the funds go directly to their cause. Overhead & admin eats up a chunk of your donation. I really 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 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 also accept homemade cat toys too! Just call and ask them if they have a toy guideline.
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 totally 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 you too! Ways that will really allow you to relax and soak in the peace, cheer, and goodwill of the season. Maybe try…
- Blocking out one day in mid-December to get some quality alone time. Think day spa, or a good book in a local coffee shop, a hike in some snow, or laying 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 am going to plan every Sunday from 3 pm on to be official relax by the fireplace & tree time. Yup, I just put it into my Trello calendar!
- Taking January 1st off, (it’s a Wednesday) 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 really remembering what is important, and recognizing what are just superficial details, that don’t really matter. I have two goals for the season…
- That I can take time and enjoy it all
- That my family knows and feels valued & loved.
I know that planning ahead for things, by using your Christmas planner, it will ensure that I spend the amount that I want to spend, and not lash out my credit card in desperate attempts to fill the holes. 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!
Your Guide to a Stress-Free Holiday Season!
– This covers all the 3 big holidays + a winter-themed holiday
– A budget planner for each holidays
– A handy list of categories to think about for each holiday
– Cash envelopes to help you save money and stay organized
Articles Relating to Christmas Planner:
- What Every Budget Savvy Mom Actually Wants for Christmas
- The Best Christmas Family Traditions to Start This Year!
- 9 Creative Ways to Make Money
- 17 Money Saving Challenges to Supercharge Your Bank Account
- Your Ultimate Guide to a Stress Free & Debt Free Christmas Budget
- Why Summer is the Smartest Time to Start Saving Money for Christmas