Holidays Without the Hassle

Last night when the hubby got home from work the Christmas tree was illuminating our front window, supper was ready, the girls were peacefully coloring at the kitchen table (although they were teetering precariously at the great yawning edge of the abyss heretofore known as endless whining and bickering), and I was playing an Elvis Christmas CD. I felt like a vertitable modern day June Cleaver I tell you! He will never tell, but for a moment he just might have thought his family had been abducted by aliens.

The holidays can be a stressful time, with parties to attend, presents to wrap throw into last year’s gift bags, and mile-long to do lists to plow through. Here are some of my tips for saving time and stress:

Order your holiday cards this week if you haven’t already done so. I ordered 100 photo cards from Winkflash yesterday for less than $40! They are running a great special and the prices are cheaper than WalMart. (Savvy shopping mamas around the world swoon!)

Buy your holiday stamps online. That’s right. You can go directly to the U.S. Postal Service’s website, order stamps, and have them mailed to you. You might think this is silly, but I can’t tell you how nice it is to avoid one more trip to the post office this month. And it costs a whopping $1 for the convenience.

If you are really into convenience and you aren’t on a tight budget, Hallmark offers a service where they will address and ship your cards for you. I’ve never tried this, but one of my friends has. For a $1.25 per card, Hallmark will even have a staff member handwrite your personal greeting. They also have gorgeous photo card templates to choose from. Of course I think it might be odd to get a card with someone else’s handwriting, but this might be a great option if you have a very large number of cards to send.

I am no longer a mall rat, but if you have a day of power shopping planned at your local mall, take advantage of their gift wrapping service. Just be prepared to stand in line, although some malls will offer a drop-off option. I’m not a big fan of wrapping presents now that I have small children and must lock myself away at midnight in the bathroom in order to get any wrapping done, not to mention the fact that the first word that comes to the mind of Miss A when she sees a beautifully wrapped package is DESTROY!

Recycle your holiday gift bags from year to year. I think this is the third year the Sesame Street bag will appear under the tree. You’ve got to love Grover in a Santa hat.

Learn to say no. You don’t have to attend every event or party you are invited to, now do you Miss Paris Hilton?

Make a shopping list and stick with it. Your wallet will thank you. And honestly sit down and ask yourself if you can remember who gave you what for Christmas last year. Think about it.

Shop online and check out a website such as Current Codes for the latest discount codes for free shipping and other good deals. For out of town gifts, remember that Amazon will gift wrap and ship the item directly to to the recipient. If you’re super lame and forgot someone on your list or are completely out of time and resources, you can e-mail a gift card at literally the last minute.

Purchase a few inexpensive generic gifts, such as holiday candy or a pretty embroidered hand towel, for those impromptu holiday lunches. It’s good to keep a couple of bottles of wine on hand, too. The bonus is you can drink them if you don’t give them away.

Cook suppers with staying power. In the winter I like to make heartier meals that provide at least one night of leftovers. Last night I made this Southern Living skillet taco recipe and it was a big hit. I know my psyche is shoring up for a long winter when KFC commercials start to look appealing. (I am a fan of the original recipe variety as well as the mashed potatoes and gravy. Dang, that is some good sodium-laden shizzle.)

And one last thing, don’t forget that the holiday memories that will have the most impact on your children involve the gift of your time. Take the time to drive around your neighborhood to look at holiday lights (and the cynical among us adults can snicker at the neighbor with the gawdiest amount of inflatable lawn ornaments), put on a Bing Crosby CD and bake a batch of sugar cookies, and sit down to read a holiday book, talk about the true Christmas story, or watch a holiday DVD.

So, what are some of your holiday sanity savers? Add them to the comments!

p.s. Feeling the need to get the heck out of Dodge? One of the ads in rotation on my sidebar is for a five-night Tuscany getaway sponsored by PAM (complete with airfare and cooking lessons for two.) Check it out! 


14 comments

  1. Bluegrass Mama says:

    Thanks for a couple of good links (especially that taco recipe, though I’ll ditch the cilantro and substitute black beans for the pintos). Do you mean that some people DON’T reuse gift bags? I use them till they fall apart! Unfortunately, Santa decided sometime ago to use special “From Santa” paper for my children’s gifts, and has designated ME the elf to wrap them. Pretty presumptuous of the old guy, if you ask me.

  2. mayberry says:

    I am big into food gifts, especially for people like my husband’s elderly aunts — what the heck else would we get them. Go to Harry & David or Wolferman’s or wherever and we can take care of 5-6 gifts at a time.

  3. Rachel says:

    Thank you so much for all the wonderful info!!
    I can always count on you to keep me up to date and informed, and there’s almost always a few grins thrown in for a bonus!

  4. Lisa says:

    Great ideas! I love the idea of a few generic gifts for the “oops” moments. I just ordered my cards & feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders!
    I am de-stressing before the holidays by taking a long weekend to Vegas with my uber-sweet Hubby! Having “nocturnal activities” without feeling like a teenager who’s about to get caught sounds mighty relaxing!!!

  5. Blonde Mom says:

    Holly:

    I ordered from Winkflash last year and was really pleased…here’s a cropped version of last year’s photo card (and no, I’m not getting any kickback from them…they are just really reasonably priced cards and I’ve had great luck with them!)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamie_r/2089297187/

    I’ve been on a holiday scanning kick this afternoon and decided to scan some old Christmas photos.

  6. steppingoverthejunk says:

    Your evening with the kids coloring and dinner being made and such, is just like mine, minus the husband…he he. I love your list, most of which I abide by…I dont think I have bought wrapping goods for presents in 10 years! The best thing I do is shop starting in the summer for presents, with my list, and cross it off…stocking stuffers for the kids included…get great deals and put more thought into what I am giving since i have more time.

  7. Heather says:

    Delegate. My husband is used to me delegating tasks to him…it started with our wedding planning over 8 years ago, he was in charge of entertainment, alcohol, transportation, men’s attire, and the honeymoon. Did he do everything the way I would have done it? No. But he did just fine. So, it comes as no surprise to him during the holidays (or any other time of the year, for that matter) when I delegate task after task after task. And he’s still with me, bless his heart.

    Heather’s last blog post..I’m a big fat slob…

  8. Amy says:

    There are some great ideas! And I am definitely the neighbor with the most tacky inflatable ornaments, when DH doesn’t take my extension cords! And I have Winnie the Pooh gift bags that are at least 5 years old.

  9. Erin says:

    great tips! I didn’t know about the stamps online! And you have your Christmas tree up already! Bravo!!! LOL About the re-used Christmas bags. I just threw out a bunch that had been ruined in storage- I need to store them in a way that they don’t come out ripped and just looking bad. If worse comes to worse, I do what my grandma taught me- use the comics in the newspaper!!
    And I am ALL about shopping online. I almost never buy in stores now!
    The idea about buying generic random holiday gifts is a must. You just have to for whatever random office colleague needs something for a sudden Christmas lunch.

    Erin’s last blog post..random musings…

  10. Mrs. Schmitty says:

    I haven’t ordered my cards yet. I am way behind in that. I usually have them by Thanksgiving because, I too, send out about 100. I haven’t even taken the kids pic yet. I will definitely be checking out Winkflash! Thanks for the info!

    Mrs. Schmitty’s last blog post..They Took Aim And Won

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