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One bite at a time together: Plan in advance for the holidays (project 20)

I’m working through Tsh’s ebook One Bite at a Time and hopefully you are too! You can jump in at any time and follow my own journey! You can even go out of order…I sure am! Buy the ebook for only $5 HERE..

I know, I know.  Summer isn’t even officially over yet, and I’m that person that is already talking about the holidays.

I get as annoyed as anyone else when I see Thanksgiving decorations being put out on shelves before the fireworks have even stopped fizzling.  

But in this case, I’m hoping to encourage you to take a few steps to get thinking now, cross a few things off your list before life gets too hectic, and ultimately, enjoy the holiday season a little more.

7 tips for planning ahead for the holidays []
Photo by Jessica Erickson

1.  Decide who you are buying for (and how many gifts for each person).

If your list of gift giving seems exceptionally long, consider approaching some of the people on it about nixing the exchange this year.  You might be pleasantly surprised at the relief they will express at the idea!  

When I mentioned the possibility of not doing gifts with a couple of my friends last year, the enthusiasm (and quickness!) with which they agreed encouraged me.  You’re not the only one overwhelmed by the costs and work of holiday gift giving!

Also take a minute to decide on how many gifts you plan on buying for each person.  Most people on my list get one gift, but my children each get three gifts: one from mommy, one from daddy, and one from Santa.  It’s so fun to see the differences in what I buy my children, versus what their dad buys them.

2.  Set a gift budget now (before you get wrapped up in the ads!).

Culling down my gift giving list isn’t about being greedy or even about cost savings.  I love giving gifts , but sometimes it takes the joy right out of everything when the sheer volume gets to be too much.  

In some cases, opting out of gift exchanges didn’t seem right.  Instead, we decided to set a budget of $10.  In the end, these $10 gifts are actually my favorite ones to shop for!  It’s such a fun challenge to find a thoughtful gift within a tiny budget!

3.  Browse stores NOW.

The other day, I let my kids peruse the toy aisles at Target and casually asked them what they liked, what they would love to have the most, and took mental notes.  Now I have an idea of what they want and I don’t have to stress at the last minute.  

Many retailers, in an effort to make room on their shelves, clearance out the “old” toys, meaning you can get some great deals!  More importantly, you can avoid crowds, overly stimulating advertisements, and last minute rushes if you start now.

4.  Shop online (now).

I know that stores will be having major sales as we get closer to the holiday months, but the truth is, beyond major Black Friday deals on big ticket items, you’re probably not going to save all THAT much in the end .  

I’ve found that the pricing year round on Amazon is so reasonable, that even if a brick and mortar sale is lower, it’s worth it to have it show up on my doorstep.  No crowds.  No half empty shelves.  No cart wars. I’m a fan of saving money, but my sanity has a price too.  Free trials of Amazon Prime don’t hurt.

5.  Decide on Christmas cards now.

It used to be that the only time I heard from certain people was through Christmas cards.  With the advent of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and blogs, I can keep up with most people regularly.  

When I sat down last year to write that quintessential family letter, it felt repetitive.  Didn’t people already see the 87 summer vacation pictures in their Facebook streams?  

I’m still a sucker for tradition, so I think I’ll mail out cards every few years for good measure.  This is not that year.

If you’re planning on sending out cards, decide on the family photo or book a photo shoot with a photographer now.  Waiting until the last minute is rarely a good idea when there is so much else going on.

6.  Advent Calendar prep:


Every year I do a Jesse Advent “tree”, and every year I get comments saying “I keep meaning to do this!  But now it’s too late/I don’t have time…NEXT YEAR!”  Well, if you’ve been meaning to put together some kind of Advent tradition, NOW is the time.  THIS is the year.  (You can see what my family does HERE.)

7.  Decide what big meals and other cooking/baking you want to do now.

Talk to family about what parties, dinners, and assorted events you’re on the hook for.  Pinterest is amazing.  And overwhelming.  

Start curating an attainable board of recipes and shopping lists.  Putting together meal plans is so much more enjoyable when you can do it casually with months to spare.  

Besides, you know you’ll be on Pinterest anyway…you might as well be productive.

Are you ready to think about the holidays so soon?  What tasks do you think you’re willing to get started on? Are you working through One Bite at a Time?

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Jessica

    I too am working through One Bite at a Time – and not in order! So far I have downsized my book (and movie) collection, carved out intentional downtime, scheduled regular date nights, arranged weekly family meetings and I’m working on meal planning and budgeting.

    Planning in advance for Christmas is a great idea – I love your organization and forward thinking! Last year we were at college so had to drastically cut our gift budget, but like you, we actually enjoyed the thoughtful gift giving so much more, I wish we had cut back years ago! I also love the idea of the advent tradition, I have a few Christimas traditions I want to start now that we have a baby girl, so this has been a good reminder to start planning them now – thank you!

  2. Michelle

    My family makes fun of my “Christmas in July” attitude, but I find that it saves so much stress and hassle when the holidays roll around. Things that I try to take care of before the holidays roll around include purchasing supplies for craft projects (Do you know how hard it is to find Santa red acrylic paints or even red or green felt once the Christmas season begins?), shop discount stores or online for holiday CD’s I want to burn and add to our collection (mp3’s are quickly making this a thing of the past though), and purchase our holiday puzzle when there is still a complete selection of all designs. Some family members are easy to buy gifts ahead for, while others, not so much, but it is good to get done what you can. Anything holiday specific that you can get done ahead of time is going to make things that much smoother later.

  3. Jo@simplybeingmum

    We have our simple Christmas traditions here at Chez Wright. A homemade Christmas doesn’t happen overnight. There’s Christmas puds to be slow cooked and matured and chutney to be preserved! You are so right… planning is key. ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail…’ as many have said before me in various ways.

    Need to download One bite…off to do it now…need to work out if I can do it via my ipad…

  4. Larissa Smith

    I am a huge fan of waaaay advance planning, but figuring out gifts can still be cumbersome with the sheer number of people to think about.

    One change my extended family made last year was in how we exchanged gifts among cousins. I have two sisters and both are married but only two of us have kids. So kids giving kids presents meant high cost for one family, medium for one, and nothing for the other. We had been doing name drawing for the adults a couple of years already, so we set three sibling groups (within their families) and divided among all the families. My younger sister and her husband (no kids) bought one gift (limit $20) for the two sons of my older sister. I bought one gift for the two daughters of my older sister. My older sister bought one gift for my daughters. And we all drew adult names and swapped, limit $30. So every family spent no more than $70, two adult and one kid present.

    It was so nice and simple! Grandparents opted out. They wanted to buy for everyone. : )

  5. Kristen - Art History Mom

    This is wonderful. Lack of planning is one of my downfalls (my husband says he loves how I live in the moment though) and something I struggle with especially when it comes to motherhood. Every year I tell myself I’ll get all my Christmas shopping done before Advent so it can be peaceful and prayerful, and every year I fail. Maybe this is my year!!

  6. Betsy

    Jeannett, I think you’ve just given me the encouragement I need to go ahead and take care of gifts early. That’s always one of my major stressors at the last minute, and I end up spending more money. Gradual gift buying sounds easier on the pocketbook!

    I never thought of starting as early as SEPTEMBER to start on Christmas, but why not!?

  7. Claire @ Lemon Jelly Cake

    These are fantastic ideas. I’ve got a stack of Christmas presents growing in my closet. 🙂 One year I was literally still buying gifts on Christmas Eve . . . never, ever again! I like to plan ahead because it allows me to be much more creative and thoughtful about what I buy. I try to support as many local businesses as I can, although Amazon certainly has its place. 😉

  8. Emily

    Yes! So funny to see a push for thinking ahead for Christmas posted. I just bought an Elf on the Shelf on Amazon a few weeks ago just because I knew I would get a much better deal now than if I waited until November. Thank goodness too! The price went up the very next week! That little novelty is expensive!

    I even searched on Etsy for an alternative, but, I’m sorry, it’s really hard to find a shelf elf that is not creepy looking.

  9. LiisaR

    Yes! I am such a planner by nature, but it is also admittedly easier with no kids of our own yet! I am going to make some sets of blank cards with photographs I’ve taken, and maybe some lavender bath salts for everyone. Then, thanks to the high-end thrift store I volunteer at, I am slowly accumulating small, more personal gifts for my in-laws and immediate family. We will be traveling for Christmas, which is the first time in a long time that I will feel less pressure on the home front. Simple, simple, with a small budget this year! 🙂

  10. Carter

    I’m so glad someone else is planning ahead for the holidays–my husband thinks I’m insane. I’m due Oct 25, and I know it won’t be easy to plan or shop with a newborn and a toddler in tow, so I’m getting organized now. Immediate family is done, now I’m focusing on extended family (with a $10 per person limit). I’m hoping to have everything bought and wrapped before the baby gets here! Plus, I already mentioned to family members that we will not be hosting Thanksgiving or Christmas, but to sign us up for Easter dinner. I plan to keep this holiday season as simple as possible.

  11. Michelle

    Thank you! Just today my google calendar beeped & I saw “talk to girls about Christmas drawings”

    I put off emailing my sisters & sils because I felt a little “early. But no, I’m going to get that email ready!

  12. Dara

    I did the whole plan early thing one year and discovered I spent more money, having a budget and getting all the presents knocked out in one weekend works better for me.

  13. jackie

    This post is so timely for me! I love synchronicity like that – makes me feel like I’m going down the right path. 🙂
    I bought One Bite at a Time quite a while ago and loved skimming through it and adopted a few things right away. Just recently I’ve revisited it and found the daily to-do list with 3 most important things so incredibly helpful. Just last night I got all jazzed up about my plan to eliminate debt!! What a treasure Tsh has created.
    Now I’m excited to plan early for Christmas – I’m one of those last-minute people literally shopping the day before Christmas. Thanks for the inspiration!

  14. laura d.

    I am just seeing your Jesse Tree calendar. Is there any way you could post where you got each ornament? I have had a hard time finding them! Thanks 🙂

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