Let’s jump into it: the holidays are rough. Rough on you credit card, rough on your relationship, rough on your sleep—and some people seem to think that they start mid-November. Lookin’ at you, Chapters/Indigo.
Well, we here at DailyXY firmly believe two things: holiday season starts on the first day of December (and, if elected, we’d sponsor a law to that effect), and that the holiday season can be a little less painful with a little more planning. That way, we wrap up all the odds and ends by a tight December 15 and just coast until New Years.
Don’t believe us? Here’s how:
Oh, are we crushing your candy-cane dreams with cold, hard reality?
Well, two things. One, you don’t want to start 2015 with stifling credit card debt. Two, it’s possible to be generous without spending a bunch of money—specifically, you can also spend time and effort—so chin up, Hermey the Dentist.
Here’s what you do: be thorough. Figure out what you’re spending on gifts, entertaining, cards, alcohol, decorating, travel costs, food, and cab rides home from booze-soaked Christmas parties. We insist on that last budget item. Now that you’ve settled on a budget, stick to it.
2. Make Like Santa and Start a List
‘Tis the season to be generous, so don’t worry about reciprocity here. Make a list of everyone in your life who plays at least a semi-positive role and put them in three categories.
Category one is your close friends and family—you’re buying these people individualized gifts no matter what.
Category two involves the people with whom you’re friendly, but you either don’t know enough about them to warrant an individualized gift or there isn’t room in the budget. These are co-workers you’re friends with, members of your friend circle you wouldn’t see outside of the group, your significant other’s friends (with whom you really want to ingratiate yourself), and whatnot. These people are excellent candidates for something homemade, like jerky, homebrew beer, or whisky gums. Failing that: bottle of scotch.
Category three is the professional courtesy category. These are co-workers and other people you see regularly, like, but don’t ever really see in a friendship context. Have a friendly rapport with your butcher . . . but the relationship remains that of merchant/customer, albeit a good one? They fall into this category. Buy a bunch of festive mugs, fill them with Ferrero Rocher or some Lindt chocolate balls, slap a bow on ‘em, and you’re set.
3. Buy Supplies Now
We went shopping on December 24 once. The memory of that event haunts us still. Get it done now, and while you’re at it, stock up on the following:
Red wine: A case should do. Why? Well, it’s the party season. We’re going to have dedicated hosts gift guide published later this week, but, in a pinch, a bottle of red always works. Speaking of that pinch: it’s also the season for last-minute party invites. That’s why it’s good to have a case handy.
Gift wrapping stuff: wrapping paper, tape, and if you’re especially festive, bows. Go buy these (and everything else) in bulk from a Costco or the dollar store. Suckers buy a thin roll of paper from the mall as a afterthought.
Cards: You want a big stack, like these.
Sundry alcohol: Back when I used to work in a liquor store, we did an entire month’s worth of business on December 22. And on the 23. And on the 24. We didn’t’ even put the Bailey’s on the shelf; we just dropped a pallet and watched people tear it apart like lions on a wounded wildebeest.
So get it done sooner rather than later. Make a list of all the stuff you need (crème liquor for the eggnog! Beer for Grandpa! Champagne for mimosas!) and buy it now. Otherwise, we foresee a miserable two-hour line-up in what might be described as the closest thing to a human feeding frenzy in your future.
Food: Sure, you can’t buy a turkey now, but you can make sure your order is in with the butcher. As for the rest, make your list and fill your freezer. Freezer full? It’s cold out. Use the balcony or unheated garage. Seriously, we don’t even plan on leaving the house after the 20, which affords our turkey a wicked brine.
Chocolate: If you have a significant other, you’re guaranteed to piss her off somehow during this stressful time of year. So be ready to mollify her.
4. Prepare for Ugly Travel
This is Weather Canada’s airport index—start checking it a couple days before travelling.
This is a luggage scale. Get this one, or one like it, before packing. WestJet and Air Canada limit your checked baggage to fifty pounds and you pay through the nose for more, so keep that in mind. Also, they’re both charging for your first check-in bag from now on.
If you’re travelling to visit family, consider doing your shopping online and have it sent to your intended destination. Just give the people on the other end a heads up.
Also, don’t make the rookie mistake of wrapping gifts before travelling, especially if you’re heading to the States.
Finally, this is a padded bag for travelling with booze. You’re welcome.
5. Enlist an Elf
Maybe you have a nephew. Or a niece. Or a second cousin. Or a friend’s kid. Or whatever. Chances are, there’s someone in your life you can pay to wrap Christmas presents.
Bonus: Various Ways to Minimize Holiday Pain
Have a big family or workplace? Organize one of these, pronto, and save some dough.
I know you’re shocked, but: we aren’t really into decorating. Most of the women in our lives are, though, so we do the bare minimum and throw a wreath on the door and light a bunch of candles. Candles, an inexpensive way to class up any condo. Also, she won’t complain about your décor if you start putting the moves on her.
Pick Inoffensive Music
Download something like December by George Winston, which is all solo piano. It’s at least 95% less annoying than pop star holiday albums, or, God help us, muzak.
Know what 15+ family members in the same house sounds like? Hell. It sounds like hell. Keep the peace (and maybe even bond) by stocking up on Taboo, Pictionary, Cranium, and whatnot. Word to the wise: monopoly will only increase the potential for family strife, and Cards Against Humanity will only work if you have an especially fun family. Better yet, fire up the Wii. Even grandma can get into Wii Bowling.
Aside from the fact that blank cards are way more inexpensive than the kind with bad poems on them, handwritten sentiments are always more valuable. And if you can’t think of any particular sentiments, use this: “Let’s see more of each other in the new year. Merry Christmas and all the best to you and your family.”
Last Tip: Hot Buttered Rum
This month will have more than one stressful day full of screaming children, fussy relatives, annoying shoppers, snowy streets, and tedious office parties. At the end of one of those terrible days, we recommend having a cup of hot buttered rum (he’s a sweet one-cup recipe) and going to bed. It’ll all be over soon enough.
Photo courtesy of flickr.