Five Simple Tips for Planning for a Less-Stressful Holiday (and a Free Printable Planner)

It never fails. As soon as stores put away the back-to-school merchandise, Christmas merchandise comes out. For the record, I hate decorating, and the thought of planning for Christmas gives me a permanent twitch that lasts through December. When I was a young wife and mom and thought I had to do it all every year, I stayed stressed from October on.

I've matured a little (sometimes) and realize that I don't have to do it all. We do Christmas in a pretty small way around here. We have some special traditions. But we don't do much in the way of decorating or parties. Simple is better for me. When I keep it simple, we can all enjoy the season a little more with much less stress.

Less-Stressful holiday planning

One way to alleviate a little stress is by planning. Planning doesn't have to involve lots of detail. But even some basic planning can help the holiday season to go a little more smoothly. Here are some basics that have helped me to stay a little more sane during the holidays. And keep reading to get my holiday planning pack free for a limited time. There's also an awesome giveaway at the end of the post, so don't miss it!

Have a visual of your plan for the holiday months.

I like to be able to see the month and the dates as I'm planning the holidays. Use a monthly calendar to get a glimpse of the whole holiday season, and always check this as you're making your plans. It's too easy to forget and double schedule when you can't see your month planned out.

I like to have an October, November, and December calendar ready to start putting events on early in the fall. Although I keep a very detailed calendar all year long, I really like to have this holiday view separate as well as writing events on my regular calendar.

Keep your holiday simple.

Maybe you love Christmas and decorations and parties and gift shopping. If you do, and that doesn't stress you out, go for it. Have fun. But if you, like me, break out in hives when you first hear stores playing Christmas carols, learn the lesson I've learned. Keep it simple.

Have a small tree with only homemade decorations. Or don't have a tree at all. Plan for simple, homemade gifts for the family. Limit the number of events you'll attend. Make lots of time for quiet nights, sitting with the kids in front of the fire and watching classic Christmas movies.

When it's all said and done, all of the parties and expensive gifts aren't going to be remembered. But those precious, quiet times together will be.

Plan Christmas cards and gifts early in the year.

Many people don't send cards anymore. We like to send a Christmas photo card- especially to friends or family who don't live locally. It's important to plan for these cards early, however. Otherwise I find myself in mid December with no photo, no cards, and lots of stress.

It helps to have a list of who to send these to and their addresses- all in one place. I make a list of the families we want to mail a card to, and then I can check them off as we go.

I list out people to purchase gifts for in the same way. It helps to have this list ready early in the year. That way I can purchase gifts along and not have to use that money all at once. 

Have a list of the holiday traditions that you really want to do with the family.

As busy as we are during the holiday, if I don't plan for something, I'm probably not going to do it. So when I have something special that I want to do with the kids, it's important to write it down and schedule it. Otherwise, it probably won't get done. These traditions are, for me, the best part of the holiday season, and I want to make sure that we make time for them.

Keep everything you need for the holidays all together.

Do you have a list of addresses of people that you always want to send cards to? Do you have recipes of traditional cookies or candies that you like to make each year? Create a system that allows you to keep all of these things together. 

I can speak from the experience of hunting for hours for that one special fudge recipe that we love. Where in the world did I put it after last year?! If you keep all of these things together, you can avoid that panicked moment and wasted hours.

Less-Stressful holiday planning

Your Free Holiday Planner and How to Use It

If you're looking for a way to get organized this holiday season, download my holiday planner for free! Hole-punch it and put it in a binder. (You can make it a pretty Christmassy binder if you want to.) You can print as many sheets as you like of each category.

You'll find a place plan of Christmas cards and gifts, a place to record things you want to bake along with recipes, printable calendars for October through December, space to plan for decorations or crafts you want to make, and more. The calendars and other pages aren't dated, so you can print and use this planner year after year.

Keep this planner in your binder, and you'll have space to collect anything else holiday related. Did you receive a paper invitation to a party? Stick it in your binder. Did you print a new candy recipe from Pinterest? Stick it in your binder. You can keep all you need to have well-planned, less-stress holidays all together with your holiday planner.


Can you believe that this is the last Christmas in this decade?! Where has the time gone? I have teamed up with some pretty generous bloggers for the 6th annual Christmas Blessings Giveaway with the hopes of making this a Christmas to remember for TWO families as we close out this decade.

While we wish we could bless many more families, we were able to come up with a big prize for TWO families - $500 each (delivered via Paypal) - that we pray will make a big difference in their lives this Christmas season - whether it's to fulfill their kids’ Christmas wishes, pay off some bills, or to help build some savings, our prayer is that it helps to lessen any financial burden and/or fills a specific need.

There are lots of entry options in the Rafflecopter form below - the more you enter, the better your chance of winning! I know it can seem tedious and time consuming to go through all the entries, but isn’t a chance at $500 worth it? I think it is! Plus, all of these amazing bloggers donated their own money toward the cash prizes, so this giveaway wouldn't be possible without them. I hope you'll take the time to check out each one. Who knows, maybe you will find some new blogs to follow.

The giveaway will run from Monday, November 18th through Wednesday, November 27th (ends at 11:59pm EST). Winner will be notified by email shortly after the giveaway ends and will have 48 hours to respond to claim the prize or another winner will be drawn. You must have a Paypal account to win. By entering this giveaway, you agree to be added to the email lists of the participating bloggers. Please be sure to read the Rafflecopter terms and conditions upon entering.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Thank you so much for this post! My husband was just diagnosed with cancer, and so I am looking to make this holiday season as stress-less as possible. Great ideas here!

  2. These are great tips, Leah! I especially love the reminder to have a visual of our holiday plans. This has been key for me to be able to manage.
    I have a Christmas planner I've used for several years, but I look forward to incorporating some of your ideas and improving my system - thanks so much!


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