Enjoy the Season: 8 Brilliant Strategies to Beat the Holiday Rush

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We all know that person—let’s call him Last-Minute Larry—who leaves every holiday task to Christmas Eve. Poor Larry. He shows up to Christmas dinner with gifts wrapped in plastic bags (the horror!) and an empty wallet after having gotten all but robbed at the shopping mall. Not only has Larry spent more money than the rest of us, he’s also put himself through more stress. If you can’t stand the idea of long lines, pseudo-deals and holiday traffic, then you’ve got to do everything you can to avoid falling into Larrydom. Here are some tips for how you can beat the holiday rush and come out on top this year.

The Early Bird Gets the…Deal?

Preparation: It’s one of the very best things you can do to make the holidays smooth, simple and free of pushing and shoving at the department store. Here are a few things you can do early to take the burden off in the midst of the holiday rush:

  • Coordinating Children’s Holiday Outfits—You’re going to want your little ones to look utterly adorable and festive for the holidays, but we all know special occasion outfits can cost a pretty penny, especially during the holidays. One of the best ways to save some dough and spare yourself some stress it to pick out your child’s holiday outfits early using an online consignment boutique. Finding that cheerful Christmas appliqué top or sweet-as-can-be smocked dress is easier throughout the year when shopping second-hand.
  • Going Christmas Shopping—With all the door-busters, secret sales and holiday blowouts, it might be surprising to know that the holidays aren’t always the best time to shop. According to the experts, you’ll actually find some of the best deals right after Christmas. Reference Consumer Reports to know the best time of year to buy certain things and plan accordingly, even if it’s half a year in advance. Know that some stores might gauge prices in the day or two leading up to Christmas, preying on those Last-Minute Larrys.
  • Stocking Up on Décor and More—Buying Christmas decorations and wrapping paper in January: It’s been a holiday-lover’s secret for decades and you should definitely jump on the bandwagon. Another great thing you can do to save yourself stress and dough in the décor department is to skip out on traditional Christmas decorations and opt instead for more general winter accents. That way, you can display them for longer and put them out earlier.  
  • Doing Some Menu and House Prep—You can’t bake the Christmas ham or do your pre-holiday deep-clean in November, but you can set yourself up for these things early so you think about them less. If you’re hosting, take some of the burden off by scheduling a professional house cleaning a day or two before the holiday. Book any and all professional services—cleaning, carpet cleaning, power-washing, fresh centerpieces, manicures, haircuts and more—well in advance, as this is the busy season for the pros. Plan your menu early and know that if you’d like to buy a turkey or ham from a local farm or butcher, orders will come in early and quantities are probably limited, so place yours at least a month early.
  • Leveraging Your Tech—As part of your preparation plan, you need to channel your inner Santa—make your lists and check them twice. To do this, organize everything using your phone. Mark all of your appointments and professional services in your calendar along with self-defined deadlines. For example: pick a deadline for when to have your DIY flower arrangements done and write it in your cal. Be sure to use a to-do list app (Google Tasks will do) and have categories to keep track of gifts, menus, decorations and other jobs.

Creativity Is the Key to a Stress-Free Holiday

We all know that holiday prep can save us from having major holiday meltdowns and prevent us from shelling out our life’s savings on gifts. But preparation only takes us so far. Creativity is the second part of the equation that helps you beat the holiday rush with no compromises. Here are some ways you can create your way to a memorable, stress-free holiday.

  • Do-it-Yourself Gifts—Bust out your Pinterest app and consult the expert (we’re talking about Martha Stewart, obviously), because you can save yourself the high blood pressure when you make gifts yourself. The great thing about DIY holiday gifts is that you can start on them in October as long as your gifts don’t include live plants or perishables. Make the DIY approach a part of your entire holiday strategy—make your own Christmas decorations, ornaments, gifts and food to save money and retail stress.
  • Bake and Freeze Desserts—Grandmothers everywhere have been quietly baking and freezing traditional holiday desserts for probably centuries, and we all know that they still come out amazing. What’s the secret? The savviest bakers know that not all desserts freeze well, while some freeze perfectly. Pick freezer-friendly sweets, like snowballs, cheesecake and even sugar cookies, if you’re looking for easy make-ahead options that don’t sacrifice taste or charm. Forget beating traffic to get to the bakery or scrubbing up flour-caked counters in the hours before your guests arrive!
  • Make Your Own Fresh Centerpieces—It’s not Christmas without some berries, pinecones and poinsettias. But the florist is slammed and understaffed, which equals lowered quality and paying a premium. What do you do? You make your own, of course! Your florist will be happy to supply you with the fresh stems of your choosing or, depending on where you live, you might be able to find some at farmers markets or the grocery store. Make your own fresh Christmas centerpieces and arrangements using hardy greens and flowers so you can put them together at least a week beforehand.

Taking Some Time for Yourself

The holidays are indeed a time of stress and spending, but as long as you flex your creative muscles and practice your preparation prowess, you’ll be well on your way to a holiday free of snafus. Make sure that you add a little relaxation and self-care to your holiday strategy to take the edge off.

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