Organized Christmas

It’s almost December, which means it’s almost CHRISTMAS! Yay, my favorite holiday! Christmas can be a fun experience for everyone if you have a plan, otherwise, it can be a stressful time of the year that you dread – and you don’t want to dread Christmas. Come on now!

Create a Christmas calendar

The first thing you need to do is set up a Christmas calendar. Just find a free calendar template online (I like this one) and print it out.

On your calendar, you need to pencil in the following things:

– Christmas, Christmas Eve, Boxing Day (if you live in Canada). Duh!
– Any holiday events for your child(ren)’s school.
– Any holiday events for work (yours or your partner).

Now that those are out of the way, you need to make a plan for everything else. There are 4 weeks in December, so each week should have a task assigned to it. For example, here’s what our Christmas Calendar looks like:

Week One: Do all holiday decorating.
Week Two: Complete gift shopping, wrap all gifts.
Week Three: Do any holiday baking needed, package all baked goods that are to be given as gifts.
Week Four: Celebrate the holiday with loved ones.

Your calendar will probably look different. Maybe you want to decorate and finish your shopping in the same week and have another week where you are doing holiday volunteer work. Whatever your situation, write it down in your calendar.

By having a plan for each week, you are setting yourself up for an organized, enjoyable holiday.

Create a Christmas budget

Now that you have your Christmas Calendar all filled out, you need to create a Christmas budget. Your budget will cover the following things:

If you want to get into the Christmas spirit, pull out all of those decorations! Set up the tree, hang the lights and add little bits of holiday cheer all over your home with towels, figurines, and wreaths.

Christmas decorations don’t have to be expensive.. and you don’t have to buy them every year – but it is nice to have a bit of money in the budget in case your lights burn out (buy some LEDs!) or your cats break all of the ornaments on your tree (get some shatter-proof!). I always like to buy 1 or 2 new Christmas decorations every year, usually at the after-Christmas sales.

Whatever your needs, pick a realistic budget for your decorations. Write down what you plan to buy and how much it will cost and then that’s all you’ve got, partner! If you see a great deal on something that’s not on your list – sorry, you can’t have it! Only buy what you can afford and that is on your list!

Are you having dinner at your home on Christmas? Maybe you are going to a family member’s home but would like to bring a few dishes as well. Whatever the case may be, you need to make sure you have a budget for all of the food you will need to buy this Christmas. If you want to have a special breakfast & lunch on Christmas day, keep this in mind.

Perhaps you are having a Christmas Eve dinner as well (or instead). Write down all of the ingredients you are going to need, how much they will cost, and then add it all up. That is your budget for food. Do NOT spend more than this amount! Make a list and stick to it.

Okay, now here’s the biggie. You need to make a list of every single person you need to buy a gift (or two) for. Only add the number of people you can afford. After you make your list of gift recipients, write down what you can spend PER PERSON and then add it all up.

Maybe you will spend $75 on your mom, $25 on your brother, and $50 on each of your children. Add up the numbers and get your total. Then – don’t spend any more than that!

Those are the main things that need to be included in your Christmas budget. If you are planning on traveling, you will need to have another budget for that as well.

When you add up your totals for food, gifts, and decorations you will get your budget total. Let’s say this amount is $700. I’m really hoping that you have started to save your pennies already, but if not, you need to somehow come up with $175 per week in December. If this number is too high, consider cutting back on some of your items.

Not sure what to cut? Here are just a few ideas:
– Instead of hosting an elaborate Christmas dinner, have a potluck. Ask each guest to bring 1 dish and you supply the turkey.

– Only have 1 Christmas meal. Whether that be dinner on Christmas Day or dinner on Christmas Eve… go all out on just ONE meal.

– Don’t buy decorations. Make do with what you already have. I’d still keep a moderate $20-$50 in your decorations part of the budget though. Just in case!

– Only invite dinner guests that are a close family. No distant cousins, no friends of friends. Stick to the people who are most important to you.

– Scale back on your gift-giving. Consider giving homemade gifts this year. Or trim your gift recipients back to just your immediate family.

Christmas is my favorite holiday and I love to celebrate it, but it’s not worth going into debt over! Make sure you stick to your Christmas budget so you can enjoy this holiday season with your friends and family, without the stress.

Plan your holiday menu

If you are hosting any type of holiday meal this Christmas, you need to have a plan. Even if you are only making eggs & bacon for breakfast and some frozen meals for dinner – have a plan or you will be sorry! Why is it so important to plan your holiday menu? It’s important because you need to make sure you have all of the ingredients on hand. It’s also important because it makes the meal preparation step a lot less stressful. Since I know that many people will be making a special dinner for the holidays, here are some questions you should ask yourself before you jump right in.

What type of meal are you going to have? Will it be a sit-down dinner or a buffet? How many people will be there? Just your immediate family or every single person you know? You need to be aware of how many people will be there so that you know how much food to buy and how to set the table(s) up. You need to know the type of meal you are going to have so you can make sure you have enough dinnerware, seating cards, buffet servers, etc.

What do you want to serve? This is obviously the most important part of the planning process. Here is what many Christmas dinners consist of, to give you an idea of what to put on your menu:

– Turkey
– Gravy
– Baked Ham
– Candied Yams or Sweet Potatoes
– Stuffing
– Cranberry Sauce
– Eggnog
– Mashed Potatoes
– Apple, Pumpkin or Pecan Pie
– Rolls
– Mixed Vegetables

Once you have decided on your menu, you then need to figure out how much to make. If you will have 10 people over to eat, make sure you have enough food to feed 15 people. It’s always better to have leftovers than to leave your guests/family still hungry!

If you have any special recipes you want to make this year, pull them out now and check all of the ingredients. Write down what you need to buy. Then, you need to keep an eye on the store flyers and watch for sales on those items. Stores will have Christmas dinner items on sale ALL THE TIME now, so you just need to watch for when the particular items that YOU need to go on sale. Then, head on in, pick them up, and set them aside until it’s time to make your holiday dinner.

By planning your holiday menu now, instead of waiting until the day before Christmas, you will be less stressed out when it’s finally time to start cooking that fabulous meal!

Making Christmas traditions

Christmas has become all about gifts and that is truly unfortunate. I am not a religious person, and although Christmas has no religious meaning for me, I do appreciate the holiday for what it is – a time to GIVE and a time to be with your family.

We want to raise Elliott in a home where there is lots of love, which doesn’t have to mean lots of presents. There are many ways, other than presents, that you can show love to your child on Christmas (or any other day of the year!):

– play with them
– bake cookies with them
– tell them that you love them
– read them bed time stories
– take them on fun outings

I believe that having a holiday with a few gifts and lots of love is a much better way to spend your time.

Even though we don’t give Elliott many gifts on Christmas, we do want to have a few Christmas traditions. Something for him to look forward to every year. I would much rather him be excited about the traditions than the gifts he will be receiving!

Since we have only had one Christmas with Elliott, we haven’t really started our traditions yet. The only one that we have is taking a photo in front of the Christmas tree. Richard and I have talked about what traditions we would like to start and here are the things we plan to do (some we will do this year and some won’t begin until next Christmas):

Bake Christmas cookies. I love baking Christmas cookies and if it involves chocolate, I know Elliott will love it too! I would like to spend December baking all sorts of yummy Christmas treats and popping them in the freezer. Then, when the cookie craving comes – we just pull them out and have a yummy snack!

Watch Christmas movies. We are watching every Christmas movie that pops up on TV, but we would like to figure out our favorites and then watch the TV schedule and find out when they are playing so we can watch them. We plan to watch these movies while we sip hot chocolate and eat our homemade Christmas cookies.

Take a Christmas photo. I definitely want to continue our tradition of taking our photos in front of the Christmas tree. I think these photos will be so great to look back on when we’re older.

Make a gingerbread house. Making gingerbread houses was always fun for me as a child and I would really love it if Elliott got as into it as I did. I think building these houses is a lot of fun for kids. I mean, they’re not going to complain right – it’s CANDY and COOKIES! It just has to be fun.

Watch the Santa Claus parade. What child doesn’t love to see Santa? The wait in the cold is well worth it, just to see their faces when Santa finally comes down the street on his float.

Check out the lights. When I was younger, my mom used to take my siblings and me for a drive through a really rich neighborhood where the homes were COMPLETELY decked out in Christmas lights and decorations. It was so much fun. I definitely want to start doing this with Elliott next year.. in our pajamas.

Even though Elliott will only be 17 months old this Christmas, I want it to be an enjoyable holiday for him. He may not remember these things when he is older, but I will. I am also a bit insane with my camera so there will always be photos for him to look at to refresh his memory.

Do you have a Christmas calendar? What are your Christmas traditions? Do you have any tips for making your holiday menu planning any easier? I’d love to hear them!


  1. Theresa

    Question for you(totally unrelated to your post). You know how stores have tear pads of coupons, can you take one and use it at a different store?? I always feel like I would be dishonest if I were to do that. Do you do it? You are my barometer of coupon ethics. πŸ™‚


  2. Cassie Howard

    omg, yes! of course you can do that! absolutely!

    the only way this would not be allowed is if the coupon specifically said “can only be redeemed at ____ store”.

  3. Erica

    week 3 : tell Erica happy birthday lol

  4. Cassie Howard

    oh right, that too πŸ˜›

  5. Amanda

    So funny you would blog about this, I was thinking the other day that I needed to make a list and set dates beside things to make sure I stay on track and get everything I want to done πŸ™‚

  6. Matt

    Great post! I always plan for the gifts so that part doesn’t surprise me but I forget to plan for the food and decorations.

  7. Cassie Howard

    i used to always forget about food and decor as well, matt.

  8. Carla

    I have $$ transferred from our regular account to an ING account every week, so that by the time Xmas shopping time arrives, I’m fully funded!! It’s the biggest stress-free thing you could possibly do!! That being said I only need to buy one more small gift & I’m DONE!! πŸ™‚

  9. hdmommy

    We as a family decided not to exchange gifts this year!!! Ahhh, what a relief! The grandparents are going to give something small to our kids (because they are grandparents after all…), and of course Santa will come and we will have a nice Christmas morning with gifts for our kids and my husband and I will exchange gifts…but no more extended family gift exchange! I am done my shopping…YAY and it has been the least stressful Christmas ever…not to mention the least expensive! We will still get together with our extended families… and everyone will bring something to each meal!

  10. Cassie Howard

    great idea, carla! we do that as well. πŸ™‚

    hdmommy, that’s awesome that you have had the least Christmas ever this year! πŸ™‚

  11. Theresa

    Great post. Love all the ideas so far. Fortunately, we only exchange gifts with one side of the family. My husbands side rarely speak to each other let alone exchange gifts! We do send his niece something every year though. I always set a budget and then usually end up over it..ugh! A bonus though this year as us Ontarians get the 2nd HST rebate just before Christmas….$300….YAY!!! Still not getting my vote though Mr.McGuinty. πŸ™‚

  12. Sun

    Good advice. I’m having some friends over for the holidays… I need to figure out the turkey:people ratio… any help with that? πŸ™‚

    • Cassie Howard

      usually when you buy a turkey you can find the ratios right on the package it comes in. if not, just check the weight and enter it in to google to find the ratio. i cooked my first turkey this year and was terrified it wouldnt work, but it did. it said on the package it would make 12 servings and it made 11 or 12. πŸ™‚

  13. Julie

    Great post! We have been saving our Club Sobey’s points to be used at Christmas. I plan on spending my points on gift cards! πŸ™‚

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