7 Things You Can Do in the Coming Months to Get Ready for Christmas 2013

Christmas planning at Happy Simple Living blog
Photo: Mats Lindh


Who thinks about the holidays in March? Have I finally lost my marbles?

I wouldn’t blame you for thinking so, unless perhaps you participated in last year’s “All Done By December One” holiday initiative. Happy Simple Living sponsored our group effort to simplify and get organized earlier so we could actually enjoy the holiday season. Read what one participant had to say:

“All Done By December One was AMAZING in my life! Thank you so much for posting it. I did not get everything done but I scaled down a LOT of unnecessary things, and I am so happy and having so much fun this year for the first time in a long, long time! Thank you! I have most of my shopping done, and everything that is bought is wrapped and ready to go. Skipped Christmas cards and only put up minimal decor. VERY liberating!” ~ Christina

I realize it might sound kinda nuts to some folks, but if we take some little baby steps in the coming months to get a jump on things, the 2013 holiday season might be even sweeter. Along with scaling back and simplifying, here are some ideas:

1. Start a gift list, and write down any suggestions or ideas that arise during the year. For instance, if you’re browsing in a store and your sister admires something, make a note or even snap a quick photo of the item.

2. Make or buy a few gifts in the coming months, and tuck them away. Does your library host an annual used book sale like ours does? This can be a great place to snag some gifts for the book-lovers in your life.

Christmas dogs at Happy Simple Living blog
Photo: TRF Mr. Hyde

3. Collect stocking stuffers. If you order a few free samples every week from sites like ILoveFreeStuff or Shop4Freebies, you’ll have plenty of little goodies by December 1.

4. Accumulate free gift cards. Last year I discovered Swagbucks, a search site with free rewards for gift cards  and other goodies like PayPal credit. You can also earn bucks by watching videos (handy if you’re stuck on hold), filling out surveys and referring others. I try to remember to use Swagbucks as my primary search engine, and it’s already netted us several free Amazon gift cards.

5. Save recipes, holiday decorating tips and craft ideas on a dedicated board on Pinterest. (My holiday board is Happy Simple Holidays.)

6. Tuck away a little money. The $5 Bill Savings Plan is an easy, painless way to save for the holidays.

7. Watch for opportunities to take a fun family photo for the Christmas card. While you’re at it, jot down memories for the Christmas letter.

How about you? Do you start knitting sweaters and buying a few gifts long before the holidays, or do you prefer to wait until it’s closer to the season? Perhaps you’re thinking about skipping the trappings altogether. (Read about the McDonalds’ real simple Christmas here.) Whichever camp you’re in, we’d all love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Fa la la la la la la la la,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. Have you entered to win a free copy of the book The Ultimate Guide to Permaculture yet? The drawing is open until midnight MST on Tuesday, March 12.

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of 15 books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

13 thoughts on “7 Things You Can Do in the Coming Months to Get Ready for Christmas 2013”

  1. How timely! I saw some craft ideas today that I think might be just right for some people on my gift-giving list.

    I also save $5 a week toward Christmas and use Swagbucks as a search engine, banking Amazon gift cards to make Christmas purchases.

  2. Eee Gads! Seriously?

    I don’t mean to be critical, but I think it’s so much easier/healthier/greener/simpler to just skip all the form-over-substance holiday stuff in the first place.

    I’ve never decorated, or sent cards or letters, and I think obligatory gift giving is absurd. I mean really… if you don’t know the person well enough to be able to easily pick out something that they’d like to have, you probably don’t know them well enough for them to merit a gift from you in the first place! If you really feel obligated, just send something edible and be done with it!

    I don’t mean to come across as a total Grinch, I just think that all the worry and fuss over the holidays is crazy, and totally NOT the point! I mean it’s a HOLIDAY for heaven’s sake… which is defined as “A day of festivity or recreation when no work is done.” Wouldn’t it be better to simply use it as an opportunity to spend time with the people we love?

    • Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Cat, and you don’t sound like a Grinch to me. I really agree with you and I love the definition you shared – the holidays should be about good times with friends and family, not buying a bunch of stuff. That being said, although I’ve simplified quite a bit I still enjoy giving a few thoughtful gifts, cooking special foods, etc.

      Here’s to “a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done,” spent with the people we love!

  3. I would add a bit more to two of your ideas. Idea #2: As a teacher I always had many people I wanted to say thank you to for their help in my classroom. My Christmas preparations for the next year always began right after this year’s holiday. I would shop the post Christmas extreme clearance sales looking for cloth holiday napkins to wrap next year’s homemade banana bread in or craft items for homemade ornaments as small thank you gifts. There were usually other things on clearance such as gift wrap and small generic gifts for the Christmas boxes that our church packs each year. All of this was placed on a shelf reserved for that purpose so it was ready to go the next year.

    Idea #6: For finances I always followed a suggestion you had in a recent post. You described saving for major blips in the year’s finances (taxes, insurance, etc.)so that when they come along you have the money ready to go. I figured out the total costs of Christmas from the tree and wreath to the added entertainment costs and divided that by 12. I also did this for summer break since, as a family of two teachers, the summer was a time we had off and spent more money! All of these amounts were put aside each month on a ledger. The amount in the check book register was the monthly operating expenses. To balance the checking account I would add the ledger and register together. This method worked really well to raise two sons on our salaries, save for retirement and other large items, tithe and always have the sense that we had plenty of money.

    I would agree with EcoCatLady that we need to be careful with the overdoing of holidays. Americans put a lot of emphasis on stuff at Christmas. Our extended family is in discussions right now about forgoing Christmas gifts and putting that money and effort into just being together at a summer gathering. After all, time together is really what we want, not more stuff.

  4. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks of Christmas this early. 🙂
    I think planning ahead is actually one of the best ways to reduce waste over the Christmas holiday season. I’m already setting aside materials to “recycle” by using them in homemade gifts and cards.
    Additionally, my husband and I are already saving money for our holiday travel (both of our families live out of state).

  5. I enjoy cross stitching during the winter months when it’s just too cold to be outdoors. I have a collection of little Christmas patterns that I began working on this year. When Christmas arrives they will be hung and guests will be told they can take one they like to have as a gift from me. This avoids the shopping for gifts and the money that involves.

  6. I really appreciate this post today, Eliza. Planning ahead feels better to me in general. Thinking about Christmas in March reminds me to make time to plan better for the entire year–summer travel with family, more short weekend trips with my husband, Thanksgiving week (whose house and which location)plus Christmas gifts for wonderful family and great friends. Thanks for the inspiration!

  7. Preparing ahead is good, providing you have the extra cash along the way. We have decided among our immediate family and extended family that Christmas should be not so much about the giving of gifts, but of putting what money we have into a fabulous dinner to be shared together. I miss the days of scrambling for gifts for the kids (now grown) and due to economic hardships we have forgone all gift giving. I miss the years that I built “theme” baskets for my extended family based on each ones personality. Those were the gifts from my heart that I know they cherished the most.


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