Planning for a Covid Christmas Season

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Christmas 2020 looks like it will be as different as the whole year has been, and like me, you may be starting to realize that all the usual Christmas traditions aren’t going to be possible this year. With disrupted travel, social distancing, greater demands for online shopping and the usual holiday stresses compounded by the presence of Covid-19, it is hard to anticipate the usual joys this holiday season. Now is the time to start planning for a Covid Christmas season – one that creatively adapts to the “new normal” while still giving the whole family a very Merry Christmas!

Here are some ideas to consider as you begin your holiday planning:

Entertaining: This will probably be the most impacted part of the Christmas season, and it will be important to think creatively about alternatives. Depending on where you live, it may be permitted to have small gatherings – or not. Know what the restrictions are for your area, and ask yourself what you and your guests will feel comfortable with.

Each year for the past 20 years, I have hosted a 20-30 person neighborhood ornament exchange. With winter and a closed up house, I am not sure that it will be worth the risk this year, and I would hate to be responsible for one of my friends becoming sick. One alternative that I am considering is just a small porch pick-up grab bag or maybe cocoa and the exchange at a forest preserve shelter some Saturday afternoon. Whatever we do, we can make it fun!

Gift Giving: There are two things to be thinking of when it comes to gift giving. The first is that shopping this year is bound to be more difficult, with limited store hours in many cases, and restrictions on the number of people who can be in a store at one time. It will be a good idea to make a list and start early, going at off hours whenever possible. Likewise, many of us do a lot of holiday shopping online. But with everyone doing online shopping for necessities as well as Christmas gifts, there are bound to be delays in shipping and availability of certain items. Again, starting early will be key.

It will be important to consider the types of gifts you are giving as well. Particularly for friends or family who have had to self-quarantine or shelter in place for any length of time, a gift of an online activity (like a cooking class or live streamed concert) may be greatly appreciated. Think outside the box and remember that anyone who has been lonely or depressed during the pandemic is likely to appreciate something to do with someone they love more than anything else.

Decorating: Not much to change here, except that it is likely going to be harder to get into the Christmas spirit for many people this year. Maybe decorating the outside of your house, lighting up your neighborhood, will be more important this season! And as you make the inside of your house as festive as possible, remember to light candles for scent and play music for mood. If possible send photos of the decorations to family or friends who are sheltered-in-place so that they can feel a part of the festivities, too.

As with every holiday season, planning is essential, but because there is so much uncertainty now, it is also important to remember to be flexible and that everyone else is in the same situation. We can make this a Christmas to remember despite the limitations imposed by Covid-19!

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Find Amazing Christmas Fabrics Online

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Now is the perfect time to start Christmas sewing projects! From pajamas or quilts, to placemats or stockings – getting a head start on gifts and home decor will mean less pressure and a more festive Christmas later. One way to find inspiration is to shop Christmas fabrics, and now is the time of year when most fabric stores begin to display holiday materials. But if your local fabric stores are not available, where can you find amazing Christmas fabrics online?

Etsy is a wonderful option for buying Christmas fabric online! With tons of smaller fabric sellers, each with a unique selection, you are bound to find one-of-a-kind fabrics for your projects. Here are some of my favorites:

Of course, there are plenty of other fabric stores on Etsy, and it is fun to explore!

If you prefer to shop the larger stores, here are two other options:

Joann Fabrics is an obvious choice. With 850 locations in 49 states, it is a go-to fabric store that offers curbside pick-up. Their site is easy to navigate and has a large selection of Christmas fabrics. Everything is organized by fabric type (cotton, flannel, fleece, etc.), which makes finding the appropriate fabric and comparing designs within a fabric type much easier.

Michael’s is another option, also with locations in 49 states and Canada. They offer curbside pick-up and same day delivery, though many of their Christmas fabrics are delayed due to high demand. The site is more difficult to navigate because the fabrics are not organized in any particular way, and when you search for Christmas fabrics, you still have to scroll to get to them. Comparison is difficult, and the selection is small, but the styles are cute.

If your summer is looking a little quieter due to shutdowns or stay-at-home plans, think fleece blankets, flannel pajamas, Christmas lap quilts or stockings – and start your fabric shopping now!

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Dos and Don’ts of Early Christmas Shopping

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When spring arrives, everything winter goes on sale. And with those sales comes the possibility of finding deals on the perfect Christmas gifts for the upcoming season. It is worth trying, of course, because the special prices will help you stay within your Christmas budget, and potentially save lots of time in the fall.

But it isn’t always easy to make the most of early Christmas shopping. First, we aren’t always in the mood to think about Christmas just as it is getting warm outside and flowers are starting to bloom. Also, how do you know what your family and friends will even want next Christmas season? And of course there is the age-old problem of forgetting what you’ve bought or not liking what you chose for someone when you look at it six months later.

Make the most of early Christmas shopping.

Here are some dos and don’ts to make the most of early Christmas shopping:

Do make a point of browsing the sales racks whenever you shop, keeping family and friends in mind.

Don’t buy anything just because it is on sale. Make sure it is something that you would want to give as a gift.

Do add what ever you find to your gift list, so that you don’t forget what you’ve bought come fall.

Don’t store the gifts in such an obscure place that you forget where they are. Designate a corner of a closet, or high shelf away from prying eyes.

Do mark the gifts by recipient and store them in an airtight container if possible. This will prevent them from becoming dusty or damaged in some way.

Don’t limit yourself to sales items. When you are able, take the time to try a new store or a different department. You may not find early gifts, but you’ll like have some new ideas for family and friends.

Do remember to look for more little novelty items that can be used as hostess gifts, stocking stuffers, or workplace surprises.

With no time pressure, lots of sales, and of course new spring and summer inventory to look forward to, you can find the perfect gift and save time and money later. Just follow these dos and don’ts to make the most of your early Christmas shopping!

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Handmade Gifts and How to Plan for Them

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One thing that I love to do at Christmas is to surprise those closest to me with something handmade in addition to, or even instead of, other gifts. Handmade gifts can really reflect what you know and love about the other person, and they always show how much you care.

I have always wanted (but have never quite achieved) a Christmas where each person on my list received a handmade something from me. There are no shortage of gift ideas online and in craft books, of course, so it is never a question of picking things to make for my family and friends. In fact, I usually save gift ideas in my Christmas planner, or just in a list on my phone.

For me, it all comes down to time and planning. In order to have my handmade gifts ready for Christmas – and to enjoy the process of making them – it is essential to begin early. Handmade gifts should be made with love, not stress!

Now is a good time to start.

Decide which handmade gifts to make (and for whom).

The first thing to decide is to whom you’d like to give handmade gifts. Maybe you’ve seen a pattern or two for DIY gifts that would be perfect for a few people on your list. Start with those ideas or, conversely, begin with the recipients in mind. Either way, the first step is to list who will receive a handmade gift and what you plan to make for each person. The gift ideas should be fluid, as not every project will work the way you hoped, but by being flexible, you will be able to treat everyone on your list to something made by you.

Buy the materials now.

Two weeks ago I was at the fabric store and noticed that they already have a limited selection of Christmas fabrics. Within the coming months, there will be much more. But for most handmade gifts, specific Christmas materials are not needed. General craft supplies, fabrics and other materials may be purchased now, so that you have what you need and can work on the projects when you have the time over the coming months. Print out any patterns for your projects and keep them in your planner. Make a list of supplies and watch for sales.

Organize materials by project.

Because life is busy, you’ll want to be able to pull out your handmade gift projects whenever you have a chance to work on them – and without having to hunt for the pattern or materials. Use shoeboxes, or other small containers (even the extra-large Hefty zipper bags work great!) to keep all the related materials with the pattern so that you can easily pick up where you left off and complete the projects over time.

Store the handmade gifts safely.

As you complete your projects, store them in a gift closet or wherever you keep your early Christmas purchases. Make sure to note them on your planner and to congratulate yourself on a job well done!

Handmade Christmas gifts make the holiday extra special for the you, the giver, as well as the recipient. So enjoy a little Christmas spirit anytime, and start planning for handmade gifts today.

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Save Now for a Simpler Christmas Season

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It is only March, but now is a great time to begin a savings plan for the holiday season. By starting to save now, you will have a simpler Christmas season later!

Get Started

Start by making a comprehensive Christmas list. Include not only the gifts you buy, but all the extras you will need (decorations, lights, wrapping paper, etc.) Now, put what you want to spend on a gift next to each name and add a rough total amount that you’d like to spend on the extras. Once you have your total, make any adjustments to arrive at an amount that you are comfortable with and that is affordable – and then divide by the nine months that are remaining until Christmas. That is the amount you must save each month between now and December.

Shocked? That’s good! So often, we shop under pressure during the holidays and don’t even realize until the credit card bills come in January how much has actually been spent. With a budget in hand, you can save now and pay cash for holiday expenses, as well as take advantage of early gift purchases when you see something special.

Take Simple Steps

So, let’s say that you’d like to save around $1200 for Christmas, and you have nine months to do it. If you save roughly $135 a month between now and mid-December, your holidays will be paid for and you will not have the shock of January bills. Sounds good, but how?

In his article, “How to Save Money: 20 Simple Tips”, Dave Ramsey suggests ways to “find” money that can be saved for a special purpose, such as a holiday fund:

  • Cancel subscriptions you don’t use. I recently went through my Amazon charges and realized I have been paying for a subscription to a movie service that I apparently signed up for when renting a film one evening. I was also paying for Kindle Unlimited, which I had never used. By cancelling these, I save $25 each month. What subscriptions do you no longer use?
  • Cut your grocery bill. This could be an easy place to save at least $50 – $75 each month. Plan a few meals each week, look at what you have already before you shop, stick to the grocery list, and buy generic when you can. You may find your entire Christmas budget at the supermarket!
  • Explore cell phone and cable options. By streaming TV, rather than paying cable, you can save $50-$60 a month, and the same with switching cell phone carriers or eliminating features you don’t use or need.
  • Borrow or buy at a discount. When you do need to purchase something significant, check online marketplaces or even a Buy Nothing Group, if you have one in your area. Often you can find what you need for free, or at a greatly reduced cost – and save something from the landfill in the process.

Saving for Christmas may seen strange when spring is just arriving, but when the holiday crunch hits, you will be glad you did!

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The Perfect Time to Make a Gift List

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The end of February is near, and maybe you are thinking ahead to spring planting or a summer vacation. But now is also the perfect time to think ahead to those who will be on your Christmas 2020 gift list!

This may seem a little absurd, especially if, like many, you have just finished paying for all the gifts you gave this season. But that is precisely why it is a good idea to plan now for giving at the end of the year. By planning ahead, you can take advantage of unique gift ideas and sales, which will save you time and money in November and December.

If you have a created a Christmas planner, you may already have a gift list started. If not, creating a gift list is a great way to begin planning. I keep a running gift list on my computer, which I usually update once immediately after Christmas, and again in September when I start looking for gifts in earnest.

For Family First

I am someone who likes to wake up Christmas morning to a huge pile of presents under the tree. I always have numerous gifts for my immediate family to open. My gift list reflects this: next to each family name, I add spaces for the number of gifts I want to have them unwrap.

My immediate family page also has a section for stocking stuffers, where again I add spaces for the number of things I want to put in their stockings. Extended family and friends are on the next page, where their names are simply listed down the side, with one space for each.

And Everyone Else…

Here I also include the more general gifts that I know I’ll need, such as small hostess gifts, gifts for exchanges, something for neighbors, work colleagues, or household helpers (babysitters, dogwalkers, etc.). and a couple of “emergency” gifts, good for last minute giving to anyone. By putting those smaller items here, no occasion or person is forgotten and you will always be prepared for any last minute needs.

Giving the right gift to everyone on my list is, for me, the most fun part of the Christmas season. By making my list early and keeping it updated throughout the year, I can be sure to make everyone on it feel special!

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Getting Organized for Next Christmas Season

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By the end of January, Christmas is a happy memory. The decorations are put away, the carols are off, and the house is back to its normal state. But rather than put the holidays out of your mind, now is the perfect time to get organized for next Christmas season!

While there are certainly obvious things to do in January, like hit the Christmas sales and return gifts that didn’t work out, now is really a great time to sit down and think clearly – and yes, strategically – about next Christmas.

Grab a pen, and write down your ideas as you consider these questions:

What worked this Christmas? Maybe your party was a smash, or you were able to finally bake cookies with your kids. Maybe you started gift shopping earlier so you were less stressed in December. What will you want to do the very same way next year because it went so smoothly?

What didn’t work this Christmas? This year I wasn’t able to make gifts for my kids like I wanted to, and I never planted the paperwhite bulbs I usually plant to be in bloom on Christmas Day. Those are two things I’d like to do differently next year, and I am sure there are others. What will you want to do differently next year to make your Christmas all you’ve dreamed it could be?

What do you know you need? As I put away my Christmas decorations this year, I took stock of what I have and what I will need next year. To keep this list handy, as I am sure I will think of other things throughout the year, I started a Note on my phone. Already it lists “Lights for the tree” and an “Extension cord for outside” among other things. What do you know that you’ll need for next season? Don’t try to remember later, start a list now!

What do you know you want? Maybe you’d like to host a party next year, or like me, you’d like to make more of your gifts. Maybe you know you want a family portrait taken for the cards or you want to do more baking. Write down whatever will make your holidays ideal. Many of these things a can be done during the year and that will save you stress next season.

Finally, what are your Christmas priorities? For me, it is hosting Christmas Day and having as many from the family as possible be a part of the celebration. It is being personal in my gift-giving and as stress-free as possible come December. Keep these priorities in mind as we go through this year and prepare for Christmas 2020!

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