Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be the most stressful time of the year. There’s so much to be done before the big day, from wrapping gifts to stringing lights. We asked the experts for their best tips to help you breeze through your holiday to-do list and focus on enjoying the season with loved ones.
Save on cards with strategic shopping.
Mailed greetings are one of the most special holiday treasures, but choosing the perfect card can feel daunting. To simplify the process and save money, budgeting expert Sarah Fuller suggests picking up card packs at craft stores like Michaels, which offer huge discounts (up to 50 percent off) in the weeks before Christmas. Sending a family photo card? Fuller advises opting for printing on photo paper instead of cardstock, which can slash the price by 25 to 50 percent.
Streamline entertaining with labels.
Whether you plan to host a holiday dinner potluck-style or fill plates from your kitchen, take a cue from Fuller and label each platter or bowl with a sticky note indicating what foods will go in it, then arrange the empty dishes in your kitchen or on the buffet table. “This is helpful so you don’t forget to serve anything on the day of the party,” says Fuller. “Plus, family members and friends can jump in and help you without needing lots of direction.”
Make a Christmas tree last with a refreshing bath.
Once your Christmas tree is in its stand, fill the stand with hot (not boiling) water, and your tree will stay fresh for weeks! The reason: After a tree is cut, the sap inside solidifies, making it impossible for water to travel to the branches. Hot water softens sap so the tree can drink easier. Also smart: Add three tablespoons of vodka to the stand every time you add in water, to ward off bacteria.
Speed up wrapping with a clever caddy.
To nix wrapping chaos and corral “tools” without investing in a pricey organizer, try tucking supplies into a cardboard wine box, says Stephanie Bailey, owner of the Prudent Penny Pincher blog. “The slots are the perfect size — no more wasting time searching for supplies!”
Secure string lights with zip ties and clothespins.
Winding strands of lights around banisters, railings, and boughs is so pretty. If only it weren’t so tricky! To speed up the process, simply lay a strand of lights straight across a surface and use zip ties to secure it. Also smart: If you plan to attach lights outside to siding or gutters, Bailey suggests clipping the strands with a few clothespins.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.