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Planning Now for the 2010 Holiday Season

lightsChristmas is just around the corner! Okay, that’s not completely true. To use another cliche, though, the holiday season will be here before you know it. And it sometimes seems like the season becomes more and more stressful each year. The end of the semester hits hard for many of us, with final exams and papers arriving in huge batches, demands for committee reports to be drafted and revised before break, and that last little push to wring some research out of the term (I never understand academic journals that choose December 15 as a deadline in their CFPs). There are a few things we can do now as summer wanes that will make our lives easier in a few months.

  • Revise Your Holiday Card List. My partner keeps a list of everyone to whom we send a holiday card on his computer. As new addresses arise during the year, we revise the master list. If I want to add someone new, I send an email to him to add it to the list. Some people can use that list to print labels and make card sending easier, but my partner forbids that for us. He prefers the handwritten address. Still, having that one list and updating it throughout the year makes the first days of the December much easier on us.
  • Start Your Holiday Letter. Lots of people debate the value of the letters that some people include in their holiday cards, but now is a great time to start yours if you send one. After all, more than half of the year is over, so you can easily jot down the major events of the year so far. You might even already have a photo or two for it that you can insert now. On a trip to Maine a couple of weeks ago, a friend took a photo of us along the river in Bangor, and I said, “Well, that’s the Christmas card photo for this year.”
  • Buy Gift Cards for Staff and Others. We all have people on our list, perhaps some who are staff members at our universities or others like postal carriers and babysitters to whom we might normally give a gift card to a place like Starbucks or Bath and Body Works or a local establishment or two. Why not buy some of those cards now? Sure, you’ll miss the ones with the holiday logos, but that seems like a minor point to me. Plus, last year I accidentally bought more than I needed in August, which gave me a couple to play with myself.
  • Plan Your Regifting. Personally, I do not regift, but I also don’t have a problem with the practice (in most cases). A few years ago, my step-brother unknowingly gave my partner and I the set of candles we bought for him and his wife a few years earlier. We know because we bought a set for us at the same time because we liked them so much! While you might want to be careful of that, if you do regift, you might want to go through your closets and shelves now to see what you already have on hand. It could save you a bit of money and time if you find something now rather than buy something later.
  • Determine Your Gift Budget and List. I actually do not give a lot of presents, and my partner and I limit each other to $100 for each other. It’s actually become a bit of game to see how far we can stretch that amount across used books and other cheap or sale items we can find. We also have a short, short list of people for whom we buy gifts. Now might be a good time, when you are not rushed, to think about who will get a gift and who will not. And it might even be a good time to have that conversation with family. Getting them to stick to that plan might be in an issue in a few months, but making the plan now might ease some stress later.

What about you? Are there things you can imagine doing now that are not on my list? My list might focus too much on Christmas since it is what I celebrate, so there might be things related to Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Festivus, or other celebrations that are a part of your life at the end of the year. What can you think of doing now that will help you and others later? Let us know in the comments, like usual.

[Creative Commons licensed photo by Flickr user George Deputee]

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