Be ready for the holidays: An early bird's to-do list

Nov 22, 2010 at 9:40 a.m. ET

The holidays are harried -- for everyone. Which is why it's smart to start building your to-do list early. From how to prepare your holiday feast to finding the perfect gifts for your loved ones, we've outlined everything you'll need to stay organized -- and stress-free this season. Here's an early bird's list to start getting ready for Christmas.

Prepping for ChristmasDecorating

The first thing you want to do when developing a plan to decorate your home is to figure out a budget. The next step will be to decide how many decorations you want -- factoring in the time it will take to put them up and tear them down. Some key questions to ask: how many trees do you want to trim; do you want wreaths on all of your doors; where will you put all of the holiday cards you receive, etc.

Holiday card writing

Post offices are notoriously busy this time of year, shipping millions of holiday cards to and from loved ones across the globe. If you plan to send anything via mail, it's best to send everything early [by the first week in December, at the latest].

To stay organized, start by making a list of all of the people you want to send cards to [long-distance cards can be mailed, others can be handed out personally at holiday fetes]. From there you'll know how many stamps and cards to buy. If you're missing any important addresses, this will also give you time to follow up with friends and family.

Shopping for gifts

To make your trek to the mall easier, go in with a game plan -- aka: know what you're looking for. Before you head out, make a list of everyone you want to buy something for. From there, develop a budget and figure out how much money you have to spend on each person. Once that's complete, check out your favourite websites to see what kinds of deals the stores in your area may be offering.

Planning a feast

The holiday season is also about indulging in some good eats and sweet treats with friends. But for the hostess, a bash can seem a little more stressful than soothing. Which is why, if you've been nominated to host this year's festivities, it's important to start your planning early. Here's a few things to consider when hosting a holiday party:

  • Send out invites and RSVP cards in November [this will give everyone enough time to book your bash in].
  • Keep a tally of who can make it and who can't.
  • Plan your meal with the help of cookbooks.
  • Buy all of the food items you need a few days before your party
  • Lastly, be sure to set your dining room table the night before the party is set to happen--this will free you up on the day-of for last-minute tidying.

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