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Monday Mom challenge: Start preparing for the holidays now

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Avoid the frenzy! Start early!

OK, so you're just through the start of school stuff, Halloween is rapidly approaching and Thanksgiving follows Halloween. You're busy enough -- yes, you are -- but take a look at the calendar: It really is time to start thinking about the winter holidays, whatever holiday you celebrate. With some strategy, organization and planning now, you can be sure to enjoy them more than ever this year.

Woman looking at schedule

Moms are busy all year 'round, but the winter holidays seem to be particularly intense. The demands of the season, along with regular life demands, seem to take every ounce of energy! If you start your holiday planning and strategizing now, however, you stand a better chance of being organized (or at least not as overwhelmed as usual). Start with the holiday calendar and budget -- and don't forget to plan ways to take care of yourself amid the holiday crazies!

1Look at your calendar

Start planning your holiday calendar now. Yup, now. Cross-reference your calendar with the school calendar, and any other calendars that might affect your plans (religious institutions, work and so on). If it's often a challenge in late November to plan extended family gatherings, why not make the calls to the relatives and set the dates now? Schedule a day for baking cookies or a day of holiday shopping in the city. What you can plan now for the holidays,  do now -- and you'll be more organized and have less scheduling stress later.

2Set your budget

Now is the time to set your holiday budget -- and start looking for bargains! Identify your gift recipients, jot down ideas for gifts and choose a budget for the gift. If you make your holiday plans now, you're more likely to get just the right gift at the right price than if you're grabbing something in a last-minute panic.

Keeping track of all this in a spreadsheet is an easy way to make sure you have everyone covered -- and if you're lucky,  track how much you save on the budget by early planning!

3One thing (at least) a week

Now that you've identified what you need to do for the holidays and set the budget, resolve to get one holiday task done a week. Whether it's holiday photo cards, gifts for one side of the family or even baking (put that deep freeze to good use!), do one task a week. By the time the holidays roll around, you'll be in terrific shape to enjoy the season, not caught up in an 11th-hour preparation frenzy.

4Set aside time for yourself

With all this advance planning and holiday organizing, you have the opportunity to set aside some time for yourself in the final run-up to the holidays. Now is the time to make an appointment for a holiday pedicure or haircut -- or even a lunch date with your girlfriends. (Encourage them to make holiday plans early, too, so that lunch is really relaxing and fun!) Plan now to make sure you are still getting enough sleep and regular exercise in those crazy weeks in December.

Holidays are fun and joyous, but they also can be exhausting for the people doing most of the work to make sure they go off smoothly -- namely, moms! This year, plan ahead to make the holidays as great for you as they are for the rest of the family.

More holiday tips for moms

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