Calendering Your Holiday Spending

The holidays can be wonderful with fun activities and time with family and friends. The holidays also can be a time when you feel tired and overwhelmed from too much to do. Also, when overwhelmed and time is running out, it’s easy to spend more money than planned. This year, take time to make choices about activities and plan your time wisely so that you can enjoy the holidays.

A useful time management strategy is to make a list of all the things you think you need to do. Making a list is a good first step, but it’s the next steps that can help you the most. Once you have your long list of “to-dos,”

  • prioritize your list;
  • think about what is most important to you;
  • take some items off your list, and simplify your plans. This is an important step. Most of us are better at adding to our lists than choosing what is most important.

For the third step, work towards a visual picture of when you can do these things. You’ll need a calendar you can write on, erase (or scratch out), and write on again. Many software programs (such as Word or Publisher) will let you print out blank calendar pages, or perhaps you have an extra calendar available. Start by adding in holiday events such as office parties, school concerts, family get-togethers – places you need to be and when.

Next, take one item from your to-do list and mark it on your calendar on the date when it must be completed. Then break the to-do item into specific, simple tasks that need to be done to accomplish the to-do item. Add these tasks to your calendar. For example, if Halloween is on Thursday, you may want to buy candy the Saturday before when you plan to be at the grocery store.

As you add tasks to your calendar, notice if too many things are ending up on the same day or weekend. If it looks overwhelming on the calendar, think how you will feel that day. Here are some options to consider:

  • delete items from your to-do list,
  • start doing holiday tasks earlier,
  • delegate some of the work to family members, or
  • change and simplify your plans.

As you go through the holiday season, be sure to adjust your plan as needed. You may want to ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you spending time doing things you want to do or things you think you should do?
  • Are you spending time with the people who are important to you?
  • Can you change a chore (such as baking) into a fun family event?
  • Have you planned time for relaxing activities?

Let’s try an example of using the calendar to plan an activity. Imagine that your sister and her family live in California. You want to send presents to her for Christmas. (And this year you want to plan well so that you do not have to spend extra money to send the package overnight!) To be sure your nephew’s present arrives on time, you decide to mail on December 15th. Therefore, the presents need to be wrapped and boxed on the 14th. However, your daughter’s school concert is on the 10th and you also have a potluck dinner on the 7th. Thus, you need to go shopping on the 6th so that you have time to wrap the presents and prepare for the potluck. Wow – Christmas is on the 25th and you are all ready backed up to the 6th!

When can you go shopping? Will you do it the weekend before or earlier? Would it be easier to shop online and send things directly to your sister’s house in California? What other options do you have? Will your plan work?

When you plan your activities (and the tasks that are necessary to complete the activities) on a calendar you can see when too much is planned. Then you can evaluate your plan and make choices that will allow you to enjoy the holidays. Good luck with your planning!