With the holidays comes great amounts of stress. But it doesn’t have to be that way, in fact, it shouldn’t be that way. Don’t let stress rob you of truly enjoying the holidays this year. Learn how to prepare for the holidays now, so that you can enjoy them when they get here.

Do you remember back when you were a child and the holiday season was nothing but excitement and joy? Now it feels like all it is is stress and the weight of a thousand duties to perform. 

What if I told you that it was possible to go back to feeling the way you felt as a child about the holidays? What if there was a way that you could bring the joy back into the season? Would you do it? 

Since you’re here, my guess is that you would.

So let’s waste no more time and get right to it: the best way to bring joy back into the holiday season is to ditch the stress.

But we all know it’s not that easy.

Simply by wishing the stress away won’t magically get rid of it. But, there is a way you can get rid of holiday stress: by preparing early. Learning how to prepare for the holidays now will eliminate the stress you feel later on, because everything that needs to get done will get done in a timely fashion, rather than being put off up until the very last second.

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This Sounds Great… But How Do You Do It?

It may sound wonderful, but again, it’s not as easy as simply wishing it to be. Responsibilities are still on your shoulders, duties still need to be performed, plans still need to be fulfilled. 

It is possible, though. And the best way to do it (in fact, the only way to do it) is to take it one task at a time. 

Soon enough, by starting early and completing one or two tasks a day or week (depending on when you start preparing for Christmas), most everything on your list will be complete except for the things that can only be done right at the last minute (like pulling cookies out of the oven and cooking the turkey).

And believe it or not: you’ll actually get to enjoy the holidays. You may even be able to kick your feet up!

Here are 15 things to do now, over the next while, to prepare for the holidays early so you can be less stressed and more joyful.

How to Prepare for the Holidays Early

(15 things to do, one day at a time)

1. Plan ahead

If you’re here, you’re already doing this (look at that, you were already preparing for the holidays early without even realizing it!). Planning ahead is simply getting your head in the Christmas-game. Get into the mindset of starting to prepare for the holiday season (even if it may feel way too early and your neighbors would most certainly judge you for even thinking about Christmas this early). 

Do whatever needs to be done to get yourself into this mindset: 

  • Put out a piece of Christmas decor; not the whole box, just one item that will remind you to get things on your “how to prepare for the holidays now” list done. (This isn’t for the faint of heart. Starting to put out Christmas decorations this early is a pretty bold move.)
  • Play some Christmas music. It may feel wrong, but when you get those jingles chiming through the speakers, you’ll be rearing to get to your Christmas to-do list.
  • Clean your house. Cleaning the house is the best place to start with just about anything. A clean house sparks motivation and helps you feel accomplished.

2. Create a Christmas Budget

I have intentionally placed “create a Christmas budget” before creating a gift list, because you want your gift shopping to be based on your Christmas budget, not the other way around.

According to USA Today, the average American person will spend over $1,000 on Christmas: gifts, travel, and goodies. 

Yikes.

If you’re in a mood for pinching pennies (or perhaps a mood to just not spend an outrageous amount on gifts) this year, now’s the time to create a holiday budget.

Decide how much you will spend on the holidays, and divvy that amount up between different categories such as gifts, meals, travel, etc. Then, stick to your Christmas budget.

3. Create a Gift List

Figure out who you’re buying gifts for. This allows you to start shopping early and to know exactly what it is you’re shopping for. 

Figuring out who you’re buying gifts for this year also helps you stick to that Christmas budget you just created, because now that you know how many gifts you’re buying and you know how much you can spend altogether, you can figure out a rough number of how much (and no more) you can spend on each person/gift.

It never hurts to throw one or two “just in case” generic gifts in there (hostess gifts, secret santa gifts, etc.).

4. Start Shopping

Christmas gift budget? Check. List of who you’re buying gifts for? Check. Now, start shopping. It doesn’t matter if it’s April or November, get shopping now. 

In fact, the earlier you can start your gift shopping, the better. The earlier you start means the more opportunities you have to catch some great sales throughout the year, and it allows you to shop around for the best deal (rather than running last-minute into a store on December 25th to pick up that gift you should have gotten long ago).

If your family does stockings, throughout the year you can also stock up on nifty items you see on sale to put in family members’ stockings.

5. Bake Ahead of Time

Lighten the Christmas baking load by starting early. The great thing about Christmas goodies is that you can make them ahead of time and store them in the freezer, and they’ll come out of the freezer fresh and ready to enjoy.

You can either mix and bake cookies and goodies ahead of time, then throw them in the freezer until they’re needed, or if you want that sweet aroma of Christmas baking to waft through your house on Christmas morning, mix the cookie batter and drop the raw cookie dough onto cookie sheets, then store in the freezer (tightly wrapped) until ready to bake them.

6. Pre-Write Holiday Cards

If you use generic Christmas cards, grab a pack early in the year (bonus points if you can get them on sale after Christmas, for next Christmas) and start filling them out as you have time.

If you prefer not to write the cards until just before sending them off to ensure they’re the most up-to-date, hold off on filling the cards out, but already start addressing envelopes and getting stamps ready to go.

7. Start Putting Away Fall Decor

Slowly start weaning down on the decor around the house so that you’re ready to put the Christmas decoration up as soon as it is socially acceptable. (This works for some people, but not others; some people do well with slowly taking down fall decor and slowly putting up Christmas decor, while other people like to tackle the whole job in one go.)

8. Deep Clean

You’re going to want to clean your house before putting up your Christmas decor, and especially before guests arrive for the holidays. Take advantage of right now and start tackling your house – the bonus of starting early is that you can tackle it one little bit at a time, rather than spending 3 days straight panic-cleaning. 

(If it’s quite far before Christmas that you decide to clean, don’t worry – deep clean now, then before Christmas you’ll have a mere quick clean to get everything tidy and in its place.)

Don’t know where to start? Learn how to deep clean your house with our guide.

9. Plan a Family Fun Day

It doesn’t all need to be serious business. Plan a break in the holiday chaos to have some fun together as a family and enjoy the season leading up to the holidays. This could be taking the family out for the day to explore, or something as simple as family game night. (This game gets everyone together and involved!)

10. Prepare the Guest Rooms

If you’ll be having guests staying with you, it’s a good idea to freshen up the guest bedrooms and bathrooms with freshly washed linens and bedding and a quick clean.

11. Make a Holiday Meal Plan

Plan out the meals leading up to Christmas to eliminate that last-minute “oh, shoot. I was so busy running around getting all that last-minute holiday stuff in order that I forgot about supper. again” I have a love-hate relationship with meal planning; this is my go-to meal planner so that I don’t have to do any of the work.

12. Christmas Dinner Meal Plan

Speaking of meal planning… plan out what you’ll be making for Christmas dinner and start a shopping list. 

One of my favorite things that makes the holidays just a bit less chaotic is a Christmas dinner where every family attending is responsible for a different dish. This spreads out the workload (and cost) amongst everyone so it’s not all dumped on the host.

For example, if you have 5 different families attending Christmas dinner, do as follows:

  • Family #1: turkey, gravy
  • Family #2: salad, rice, stuffing
  • Family #3: potatoes, vegetable side-dish
  • Family #4: drinks
  • Family #5: dessert

…and just like that an entire meal comes together without one single person being stuck with the cost and workload of it all.

13. Start Putting Up Holiday Decorations

Now the fun begins. Slowly start putting out a few Christmas decorations here and there, until before you know if your entire house will be decorated without you having to spend an entire day doing so. (Unless, of course, you’re someone who enjoys getting it all done in one go.)

14. Partake in Holiday Traditions/Activities

Since you taught yourself how to prepare for Christmas early, now you can actually partake in some of your favorite holiday traditions and activities guilt-free. Everything is coming together and will finally be in place with much less stress than other years. Now take time to enjoy the holiday season with your family.

A fun idea is to find a new tradition or activity to try out each year – and if you and your family end up enjoying the activity, it can become a tradition you do year after year. If it’s not such a hit, it was a fun experiment.

15. Quality Over Quantity

Something my family has started doing is purchasing fewer gifts, but better-quality ones. Gifts that the person we are buying for truly wants, and ones that won’t fall apart after one use. 

So, under our Christmas tree isn’t as full, and the stockings aren’t filled with gadgets, but we are purchasing gifts that are much more meaningful to that person, rather than random things just to “fill the space”.

How to Prepare For the Holidays Now FAQs

Let’s tackle a few pressing questions you may have in the space below. Questions like:

  • How do I prepare my house for the holidays?
  • When should you start getting ready for Christmas? (this is the question we all have)
  • How do you emotionally prepare for the holidays?
  • How to prepare for Christmas ahead of time?
  • How to enjoy the holiday season

How Do I Prepare My House For the Holidays?

The best way to prepare your house for the holidays is to ensure it is:

  • Clean
  • Decorated (to the extend you want it to be)
  • Welcoming

Clean your house before the holidays arrive. You’ll be glad you did. Next, decorate it how you want it to be decorated. While some people need every space occupied with holiday decor, others feel that minimal decorations are sufficient. Do what you like, not how your neighbor with the completely decorated yard thinks it should be.

Finally, the biggest way you can prepare your house for the holidays is this: a warm, welcoming house. A house that greets people with a warm, cinnamon-scented hug when they walk through the doors. Somewhere that isn’t so put together that they’re afraid to bring the kids inside, but somewhere that feels like it’s happy to have them there.

When Should You Start Getting Ready for Christmas?

This is the big question. You may be wondering things like, When is it okay to put Christmas decorations out? When can I start listening to Christmas music? And so on. 

The socially-acceptable answer to this question is anytime after Thanksgiving. But really, it comes down to when you want to start getting ready for Christmas. 

I am a solid believer that it’s never too late to start planning for Christmas (i.e., the ways how to prepare for the holidays listed above). When it comes to Christmas decorations, the general public tends to wait until end of November/beginning of December.

How to Emotionally Prepare for the Holidays

The best way to emotionally prepare for Christmas and eliminate the holiday overwhelm is to plan ahead. 

The stress and overwhelm that often comes with the holidays is enough to send almost anyone into a tizzy. 

Here are a few ways to avoid emotional and mental overload this holiday season:

  • Don’t try to make it perfect. Be realistic with your holiday planning. Remember that all that matters is being with your loved ones (if the past few crazy years have taught me anything, it’s this); not that 10-foot chocolate fountain you’re wondering if you should buy.
  • Do something fun. Don’t focus solely on the holiday season and checking everything off your Christmas to-do list with no breaks. Take a moment to do something for you, something fun to enjoy the season rather than stress about a daunting to-do list. (And, if your to-do list is daunting, that’s probably a sign you have too much on your plate. Let a few things go.)

How to Prepare for Christmas Ahead of Time?

15 simple, yet effective, things you can do to prepare for the holidays now are:

  1. Plan ahead
  2. Develop a holiday budget
  3. Make a gift list
  4. Start shopping
  5. Bake ahead (and freeze)
  6. Pre-write holiday cards (or at least pre-address)
  7. Put away fall decor
  8. Clean the house
  9. Have a family fun day
  10. Prepare the guest room
  11. Make a holiday meal plan leading up to Christmas
  12. Create a Christmas dinner meal plan (spread out the workload)
  13. Start putting up holiday decorations
  14. Enjoy some Christmas traditions
  15. Quality over quantity (stop buying so much stuff!)

For a more detailed list, see above.

How to Enjoy the Holiday Season

Remember the reason for the season. Not only is it a wonderful time of year to spend time with the ones you love (try to make the best of it and truly appreciate the family you have around you), but it’s also a time to reflect on the love and life of Christ. Now is a perfect time to join in a relationship with Christ and spread the good news to those around you. Don’t know where to start? This is a good place.

Conclusion: How to Prepare for the Holidays Now

Now that we’ve gone over our list of the 15 things to do to prepare for Christmas early I’d love to know what your must-dos for lowering holiday-induced stress and taking time to truly enjoy the season. What are your must-dos for how to prepare for the holidays now? (And, how early in the year do you dare start preparing?) We’d love to know… feel free to share in comment below!