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How to get ready for the holidays now

Get a jumpstart on the holiday season

You know those annoying moms who are done with the holiday prep by Dec. 1? Well, now you can be one of them! You just don’t have to brag about it.

Happy woman during the holidays

Contributed by Katie Bugbee, global parenting expert and senior managing editor, Care.com

Here are a few quick things you can do now to save you stress during the holidays.

Hire babysitters

You probably know when your company holiday party is, and you know you want to go out for New Year's Eve. So call your favorite babysitters now to get on their calendars. Even book some time for just you — so you can get some last minute shopping, cooking or relaxing done. And if you have a nanny, ask her if she’d be willing to help you wrap presents (while kids are sleeping of course!).

Create your gift list

I don’t know about you, but my husband and I have about 30 people “we” shop for. And guess who doesn’t lift a shopping finger? One hint, it’s not me. So writing the list of the people we need to buy for, and attaching a budget and idea for each, works best for us. With enough prep time, I can organize other family members to buy “group gifts” and cash in on free shipping specials and deals. I also keep this list in my phone, so if I’m at TJs or Marshalls and see something cheap and cute that fits a description, I’ll pick it up.

Budget for tips and bonuses

Who are the people who make your life work? Your office assistant. The day care teachers. The house cleaner. Your kids’ nanny and babysitters. This is who you will want to be extra generous with at the holidays.

The easiest, most welcome gift? Money and gift cards. Working at a care service, I can tell you that teachers usually get gift cards, nannies get 1 to 2 weeks’ pay while housekeepers and sitters get an average day or night’s wage. Also include what you normally spend on gift cards to your mail carrier, dry cleaner delivery service, etc. And yes, this might mean scaling down on the holiday décor expenses or the big tech presents, but don’t discount the good feeling you’ll get when you know you’re taking care of all the people who take care of you.

Book airfare

Flight prices start rising mid-November, so if you know your plans, sign up for email alerts on Expedia or Kayak.com to let you know when your flights are at their lowest.

Plan your menu

Whether hosting Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas — or all, create your ideal menu now. What will you make? What can you ask others to bring? What can you buy (and pass off as your own!)? Write out your grocery list and start buying ingredients as you see them start to hit the shelves. The trick is to store them in the pantry or basement so you don’t use them before it’s crunch-time.

Arrange pet care

This is why I swear pets are harder than kids. Aunt Lorraine can’t turn your cute but messy, and potentially-destructive kids away, but she’s fine telling you Fifi and Fido have to stay home. So where will they go for the holidays? Look into pet sitters and kennels now. Interview and price out your options. Then give Aunt Lorraine a framed photo of Fifi and Fido for her mantle.

Catch the spirit

With all the tasks on your to-do list, it’s easy to enter these holiday months with a humbug spirit. But try to remember why this is the best time of the year. Remember the smiles, squeals of joy, music and deliciousness of last year. Remember why you’re grateful for this year. This might mean taking a few minutes or an afternoon to volunteer, stop in your place of worship or leave baked holiday “surprises” for others. Reflect on those who are less fortunate, remember the reason this holiday exists — and try not to hit the other shoppers as you battle for the closest mall parking space.

More about the holidays

How to reduce the stress of the holidays
6 Christmas survival tips for divorced parents
Creating holiday traditions around food

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