As the days inch closer to December 25th, people start getting more and more frantic, trying to figure out ways to get everything done.
Shopping, baking, decorating, sending out cards, cooking, upcoming parties, cleaning, guests arriving, wrapping, kids out of school, traveling...the list is endless.
While all of these tasks seem daunting, if you take the time to do careful preparations, they will mark themselves right off the to do list!
Here are a few ideas that I came up with to get extra help during the holidays.
1 - Friends Looking for Extra Cash -
Pay friends to clean the house, help decorate, wrap presents, house, elderly and/or pet sit, cater a party, be your personal shopper, drop off packages at the post office, address and mail holiday cards, make dinner for the family, or watch the kids over the Christmas Break while you are working or shopping.
Read Day 13's post to find out how adults are able to offer additional services in each of these areas as compared to a teenager.
2 - Neighbor Kids -
Pay kids to mulch the flowerbeds and "winterize" your yard, hang Christmas lights, short-term babysit, house sit or pet sit, or help kids with homework.
3 - Grandparents and Extended Family -
Family members are a wonderful help at this time of year.
They might even come a bit earlier for their holiday visit, if they know that they will be of help, instead of feeling like a burden.
You just need to remember to do something very special for them.
A few ways that you can enlist the family's help is to have them shop from afar for gifts that your stores are out of, babysit during the kid's Winter Break or on days when you are tying up loose ends, go grocery shopping, cook meals, bake with the kids for teachers, friends and neighbors, wrap presents, do laundry and ironing, help with light house cleaning, take the kids to extracurricular activities, help with final decorating tasks, and attend school parties.
4 - Shop Online -
This may be one of the easiest ways to lighten your load during the holidays, since shopping for presents is so time-consuming.
Not only can you rapidly comparison shop prices and find online promo codes for use at checkout, but you frequently save money on taxes and shipping is often free.
Don't forget to use your gift cards. For more tips on finding the best deals and saving money on Christmas purchases, read Day 10's post.
However, you need to shop as quickly after Black Friday as possible, as many people have figured out this little trick to saving time and money.
A store's inventory depletes online, too.
5 - Barter with Friends -
Adopt the "you help me, I help you" mantra this holiday season.
Everyone is trying to accomplish the same tasks and if we split the load up, then everything gets done faster.
It's as simple as sending a text saying, "I'm running to the grocery store...need anything?"
Another idea, "I'm going to the post office to mail gifts at 3:00, let me know if you'll have packages ready to go out then."
A simple, but effective, "Hey, if I take the kids to gymnastics, can you bring them home?"
Even look back at #1 for additional ideas of ways that you can help each other out.
6 - Christmas List Swap -
This can be a fun little activity to do with friends over lunch that will be quite productive, too.
For it to work, everyone must agree to a lunch date and commit to bringing your Christmas lists (kid's, spouse's, and extended family's), complete with stores where you can get the items and the best prices that you have found.
Luckily, many gifts span age ranges and some are even gender-neutral, which helps immensely with children's presents.
My son most likely wants the same electronic device that my friend's 14 year-old daughter wants.
You can even bring leaked Black Friday ads to finish building Christmas lists together.
7 - Pick Up Two -
Once you have discussed Christmas lists with friends and have determined who is getting items similar to yours, help each other with the shopping.
I may decide to run to Macy's and pick up scarves, kitchen gadgets and a pair of jeans for the kids, grabbing any extras that a friend had planned on purchasing, as well.
Another friend may run to Target and get multiple gaming packages and the newest movie releases for those of us who had planned on buying them.
Make sure to ring up purchases separately, though, so that reimbursement for items is simple.
If you use debit cards or cash for friend's purchases, then any returns that a friend has to make for an item that you purchased will be refunded to them in cash.
8 - Baking Party -
This fabulous idea was introduced to me last year by my good friend, Yvette.
By hosting a baking party with friends who are also neighbors, you are able to share recipes, make tins full of goodies to share as Christmas presents with each other, complete baking for your children's class and have treats around the house for the holidays.
This was such a wonderful idea that I immediately threw one for another set of friends, too.
One morning after we had dropped the kids off for school, everyone met at my house with recipes and ingredients in tow.
With the ovens ready to go and extra items available for any that were forgotten, we laughed, baked and lounged around in comfy clothes for the first part of the day.
Within a few short hours, tins and trays were full and the kitchen was clean.
Everyone left happy and several tasks were checked off of the Holiday To-Do List in no time flat.
9 - Share Coupons and Promo Codes -
Since most people have smart-phones and are proficient in texting and emailing, sharing coupons has become unbelievably easy.
I first got the idea from a friend of mine, Tracie.
Every time Disney sent her a coupon for their latest movie release, she forwarded it to me.
That simple task had saved me $10 or more on each new movie.
If either of our printers were down, we printed two copies and left one in the other's mailbox.
10 - Implement a Point System for the Kids -
I will soon write in more detail about this plan, but what I can tell you is that it has drastically changed the interactions that my children and I have regarding chores and extra help around the house.
In a nutshell, I have listed chores that each of my children has to complete every day.
Each chore has a point value attached to it.
I have also developed a menu that details all of the rewards for which the kids can cash in their points.
The trick here is that you do not give anything away for free.
Children have to earn playtime, TV watching time, sweet treats, spend-the-nights with friends, eating out and the like.
This has turned my youngest two children into hard-working kids who want to complete tasks without being asked, while not arguing, crying or fighting with each other.
The Point System Plan has changed the dynamics of our family in a truly amazing way.
11 - Develop a Schedule and STICK TO IT -
One of the hardest things to do at this time of year is to remain proactive.
Every Sunday I make a schedule for the following week which includes all tasks that must be completed for each day, such as home-related (bills, house-cleaning, dry cleaning, errands), work-related, extracurricular activities, school events, upcoming tests, appointments, and working out.
I list which items must absolutely be done on that day and then add extra items at the bottom, in case time permits.
The items that are non-negotiable, must truly be non-negotiable.
I have learned to not let last minute calls deter me from getting my primary tasks accomplished.
In recent days, I have declined going to major sporting events, participating in a last minute luncheon, and even helping out for an improperly-planned school event.
Yes, I do allow flexibility to some degree in each day, but I feel better knowing that I successfully completed my non-negotiable tasks and lightened my stressful load.
One of my most favorite sayings is, "A lack of planning on your part, does not constitute an emergency on mine."
While sometimes a bit harsh for the kids and others, it is still very true.
12 - Wine Tasting & Recipe Swap -
With all of the parties, house guests and friends dropping by, I have learned that when you come across a great dish that is easy to make, be sure to get the recipe.
Over the years, I have not been shy about letting a host know how much I enjoyed particular dishes that they served.
Frequently, I will request the recipe and pass it along to other friends who might be interested.
A great idea that I will soon pull together is a Wine Tasting coupled with a Recipe Swap.
This is a fantastic way to find a selection of wines and dishes to serve during the holidays and other events while enjoying the company of your friends and neighbors.
It's very simple...everyone brings two different bottles of wine that they like and their favorite, easy-to-make dish.
Now, you have a potluck dinner with a fancy, holiday twist.
I hope that some of these ideas help you lighten your load this holiday season, just as they have mine.
Here's to another Inspired Minute!
Hi there! My name is Tracey and I’m on a mission to turn average days at home into meaningful minutes. I’m a wife, mother of 3 and an Inspired Life Blogger. This is my journey to create ways to save time, maximize money, creatively organize, craft, gift, and decorate and humbly volunteer. Please visit my blog at InspiredMinute.com for ideas and tips that I hope will inspire you!