Reducing Christmas Stress

by Ellie Kay

The "most wonderful time of the year" is supposed to be a time of building family traditions. But somehow "peace on earth" morphs into "rush in the city" when holiday pressures rob us of cheer. The two top reasons for stress at Thanksgiving and Christmas:

  1. Over-spending/money issues
  2. Lack of organization

If you start now, you can de-stress the holidays with this simple checklist that I created for my household.


  • Jot notes for the annual Christmas letter.

  • Purchase Christmas cards or select a family photo and order photo greeting cards.

  • Make a gift list, and check it twice. Substitute baked goods for purchased presents whenever possible. Consider giving a free subscription to Thriving Family magazine.

  • Set a budget for the family and stick to it!

  • Help family members set realistic budgets that do not contribute to credit card debt.

  • Shop for bargain, clearance and price-reduced gifts.

  • Begin making handmade presents.


  • Order return labels for Christmas cards or print them on your computer.

  • Generate Christmas card list (remove names that haven't responded in two years); print mailing address labels for sending cards.

  • Establish family traditions.

  • Write, copy, personalize and stuff holiday letter.

  • Purchase, wrap and prepare presents for mailing.

  • Place postage stamps on cards to mail Dec. 1.

  • Shop food values for holiday baking.

  • Strategize one of the biggest shopping days of the year, post-Thanksgiving Friday. Look at sales ads in the Thanksgiving Day newspaper, note the store's opening time, list sales on gifts you want to buy, map the stores you'll visit, select a shopping buddy to go with you, purchase discounted gift wrap, pray for wisdom while shopping and avoid impulse buys.


  • Schedule holiday party baby sitters early in the month.

  • Mail out-of-town gifts by Dec. 5.

  • Take small children to shop at the dollar store.

  • Organize, prebake and freeze holiday baking.

  • Wrap and label presents to put under the tree.

  • Check items off your list so you don't overbuy.

  • Complete shopping by Dec. 15 and stick to your list!

  • Budget post-Christmas sales: nonperishable teacher gifts and wrapping paper, cards and decorations for next year.

Ellie Kay is the best-selling author of over 14 books.

This article first appeared in the Early Stages edition of the November 2003 issue of the Focus on Your Child newsletters. Copyright © 2003 Ellie Kay. Used by permission.


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