Photo credit: thomaseagle
I know. The last thing you want to think about is next Christmas.
But with a little time and effort right now, you’ll make your next Christmas a whole lot easier.
Grab a notebook, a writing utensil and a warm beverage. Then find a comfy chair to sit in.
You’re going to write down everything that happened this holiday season. Here’s what you should focus on:
Gifts. What gifts did you give? Who did you give gifts to? How much money did you spend? Where were the best deals? What gifts would you like to give next year? Answering these questions will help you avoid duplication of gifts next year, help you set a budget, and save on your purchases by allowing you to shop throughout the year.
Donations. What donations did you make this year? Did you donate cash or did you donate things such as clothing, food or toys? Make a note of these donations so that you can put aside money for these expenditures and plan ahead. This is also a good exercise to do because it helps you figure out what causes are important to you so that you can prioritize them.
Tips. Write down who you gave extra tips to this season such as your postal carrier, hair stylist, day care workers, or others so that you can work this into next year’s holiday budget.
Entertainment and Food. Did you host any gatherings during the holidays? What did you make? How much did it cost? What dishes were big hits and what dishes were bombs?
What activities did your family do over the holiday season? Were there particular activities (such as Christmas light tours or sharing holiday movies) that you want to make sure you do again? Write it all down.
Be sure to write down all of the baking you did, as well as the amount of supplies you used. This will help you shop for baking supplies next season. And don’t forget to include candy and nut purchases you may have made during the holidays.
Crafts. What crafts did you make this season? What craft projects did your kids seem to enjoy? Did you make gifts this year? Would you do it again? What supplies will you need?
Travel. How much did you travel and how was the experience? Maybe you stayed with relatives this year and really wish you hadn’t. Do you wish you’d had more activities in the car for the kids? Make a note of your travel experiences (both good and bad), so that you can make traveling more comfortable and more affordable next season.
Christmas cards. If you have the mailing list of everyone you sent Christmas cards to, tape a copy of it into the notebook and make note of any address changes that occur during the year. What ideas do you have for next year’s Christmas cards? How much do you plan to spend on the creation and mailing of your Christmas cards?
Clothing. Does your child’s school have a dress code for holiday programs? Make a note of it so that you can watch for sales on the clothing items you need during the year. Is there some winter gear that you’ll need for next year? Make a list so that you can shop the winter clothing clearance racks in January and February.
Gift wrap. Go through your gift wrap supply and determine what you have. January is a fabulous time of year to stock up on gift wrap, gift bags and tags since many stores are clearancing out their Christmas items.
Christmas decor. Just like the gift wrap, now is a great time to find deals on Christmas decor. Make a note of what things you’d like to add to your decor, such as if you’d like a new artificial Christmas tree, more lights, or other decorations. Then take this list with you to the Christmas clearance sales and save up to 90 percent.
Use your calendar. Put a copy of your November and December 2010 calendar pages with everything you did over the holiday season in your notebook. Were you too busy? Or do you feel like everything went smoothly? What would you have done differently with your schedule? Knowing this key piece of information may make next holiday season less stressful.
Once you’re done gathering up all of this info in your notebook, I suggest keeping it in a safe place, such as with your family planner or calendar. You could also tuck it away with your Halloween decorations so when it comes time to decorate you can start thinking about the Christmas holiday season, too.
Gathering all of this information about your holiday season in one place will take a little time, but I think you’ll find this exercise will help you determine what was most important to you during the holiday season and what things you would do differently next year.
Knowing that information can help you save money and time and reduce stress during the holidays. Who wouldn’t want that?
About Christina Brown
Christina is a wife and mother dedicated to figuring out how to live a simpler, happier life on a budget.