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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Christmas in reverse

So Christmas is over. Phew we made it!
That's how I feel some moments. And then, awww I'm missing the Elf on the Shelf already. Well, OK that moment passes pretty quickly when we realize we don't have to find another damn hiding place for him for another 11 months!

So it's gone, for another whole year. And now that it's a brand new year of 2013 many people find themselves reflecting on the past and looking forward to changing things up for this next new year, making things better, easier, simpler.

So in the spirit of making next Christmas a lot less hectic and a lot more fun, I'm suggesting you mommies think ahead, NOW, when it's a whole year away and when the ups and downs of it are fresh in your minds. It will save you money AND time, I swear, to put in a little effort now instead of waiting to do the entire thing next year. Here are a few tips of things you can do right now or over the next few weeks to ensure you really enjoy next Christmas season.

1. Go Christmas shopping! After Christmas sales are everywhere. I personally find it difficult to shop now for next year because you never know what people will want or need a year from now. But if you have babies to shop for they are pretty easy to get something for next year or at least part of their presents now. Everyone loves pajamas- just but two sizes too big, they'll grow quickly into them! Buy some great Christmas books, again only things you can get right now instead of rushing into the mad house stores next December.

2. Stock up on wrapping supplies. They are at least 50% off right now and eventually in the next week or so they go to 70% off or more! Take inventory NOW of what's left in your wrapping supplies box. Do you need more gift bags? (I hope you saved the ones you got from gifts this year given to you!) Do you need more labels or tape, or perhaps a zillion more tubes of wrapping paper? What about boxes for shirts and things? I got 4 rolls of tape today for $2, originally $5. A few dollars in my pocket helps. It's nice to know also that when I'm ready to wrap next year I have everything I need and don't have to rush to the store some night when the kids are asleep and I have gifts everywhere in the living room to get some tape!

3. Assess the decorations. I have a box of ornaments and some are too breakable and some I have no clue where they came from and mean nothing to us. I have not put them on our tree the last few years. So why keep them?! I donated them this year instead. My mother-in-law made us handknit stockings this year, so I don't need the other 5 that we've accumulated over the years, again donated. Get rid of whatever you are not using. On the flip side, are there decorations you wished you'd had this year that now are on sale and you can put them aside for next year? My husband did this last year when he got GREAT deals at Lowe's and Home Depot on those huge blow-up characters for the yard. Again, saving time and money by getting these this year and storing them. Do you have your child's first Christmas ornament? Grab one now if you don't.

4. Keep the cards. Cut off the part where people wrote on them and keep the outside cover part of cards you received this year (minus people's family photo ones of course). Keep them for large gift labels for next year, or even for small versions of cards for kids' teachers, friends at school, sitters, the neighbor, etc. I kept them last year for my son to draw on instead of using our computer paper all the time. Saving money and he thinks it's cool to color on Santa or snowmen anyway!

5. Start an Amazon wish list. Get some things you really didn't need, or even get tons of doubles on kids' toys from loving grandparents who just didn't know what you already had? Make it simple for everyone next year by starting an Amazon wish list. It's easy and free and you can share it with whoever buys you gifts. It's like a registry. It's good to start it now so you can update it throughout the year instead of just before Christmas when your mind isn't working so well. It's good for birthdays, too. I found this to be so helpful this year. With kids, you already have a thousand things, and most family would have no clue that you have the fruit set but want the veggie set for the pretend kitchen, or that your child really wants the farm puzzle and already has the other 5 puzzles in the set. It's nice to put it all on one list so they know what you need.

6. Review the schedule to work out the kinks now. Look back upon the last week or so of holiday events, parties, gatherings, and even the Christmas Day routine. Did it work for you, for your kids? Was it total chaos? Could any of that be avoided next year? I know some routines are not able to be changed, but are there things you could do to make it go smoother next year? Talk about it now, while it's fresh in your mind and when it's not a pressing issue since you have a year to really figure it out. Sit with your partner and really talk it out and see what changes could be made to ensure it's more FUN and easygoing next year. Can you go later so your kids get at least a partial nap instead of skipping the nap altogether like you did this year and ended with meltdowns?

7. Think simple. What could you cut out next year? What did you do this year that ended up being way too much for you or your family? Do you really need to get a gift for that person again this year? Is the amount of money you spend on gifts a reasonable amount or does your family need to cut back? Talk about it now so that when someone tosses around the idea of purchasing gifts again next year you are ready to say what works for your family. Not doing it all is OK.

8. Plan ahead. Mark in your calendar a start date for Christmas shopping this year. I know this sounds silly, but do it! If it's November, that's fine, it doesn't have to be July (guilty of this yes I admit!). But plan it, put it in stone on the calendar so you are prepared next year. I hear so many moms say "Christmas just snuck up on me this year..." Maybe there are specific gifts you buy or make every year that you already know you could do during some down time in the summer or fall. For example, we always buy our sitter a gift card to a restaurant, so last summer I got it and stored it away. Breaking down the money in shorter increments like that ahead of time helps a lot when it comes to Christmas time.

9. Talk about traditions. Are there things you didn't have time to do this year but wanted to? Are there ideas you found on Pinterest or on your friend's Facebook pages that you want to try yourself next year? Write them down and put the paper in the ornaments box or the wrapping paper box so you remember for next year. We didn't have time this year to make cookies before Christmas. I was upset about it, as I'd gotten all the supplies to do it but ran out of time. So we did it New Year's Eve and it was 10 times more fun, relaxed and enjoyable! Thinking simply and ahead to next year, we're planning to decorate cookies on New Year's again and just put out for Santa whatever treats people have given us by Christmas Eve.It's going to be a new tradition I think.

10. Share the memories. Start a Shutterfly, Snapfish, etc. account for your photos. Do something with them this year instead of just letting them sit on the camera or computer not being seen. I got such great deals on our photo Christmas cards from Shutterfly this year because I already had our photos from the whole year uploaded by October. So when I got an email saying I could get FREE cards (paid $3 shipping for 20 cards!) I could take a half hour to whip up a Christmas card and order them that night, instead of spending hours searching for and uploading photos. People also love calendars for Christmas gifts with photos of your kids, etc. Having the photos already uploaded helps you to make creative, fun gifts at the times the GREAT deals are offered to you.

By doing a little now and all through the year you can make next Christmas an even better one than this year. More fun, relaxation and joy for all is what it's all about! You don't want to end up in tears like this pretty little Christmas girl next year by not listening to some of these ideas, do you?! :)

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