Every year during the month of December, I repeat several hopeful promises to myself: In coming years, I WILL SHOP EARLIER. I will do holiday errands early and check off my “to-do list” before December 1 so I can fully enjoy the magic of the holiday season.  

The reality is, the early shopping goal never happens — due to a combination of factors. For one, I already have enough “stuff” in my house due to the existence of young children. I don’t want to add long-term storage of gifts that I may misplace or forget I bought altogether. Second, if I buy too early, what if the person’s tastes or interests change or I find something even better? My kids will inevitably change their minds 100 times before Christmas. Finally, I will admit there is something comfortably traditional about getting out there with your fellow Christmas comrades and shopping while Christmas carols are playing at the stores and you are feeling more festive than in the heat of July. 

Since I can’t seem to nail the task of completing my shopping early (and I bet most of you are like me), here are a few other ways to lower our stress levels and fully enjoy the holiday season this year: 

Christmas cards 

I am a big fan of mailing and receiving Christmas cards. However, a few years ago we moved to a new house two weeks before Christmas. We had a 1-year-old baby and would be traveling for the holidays, which forced me to simplify my holiday to-do list. This was the only year in my adult memory that I didn’t mail cards. Instead, I sent a family picture with a holiday message via Facebook and email, and I mailed a handful of cards to relatives. If you are having one of those years where you are just overwhelmed, don’t stress about the holiday card. If you love doing them, think about sending a card after the holidays. Your card will get the most appreciation since the recipient won’t be sorting through so much holiday mail, and it will be an unexpected surprise to family and friends!

Lower financial stress and expectations

Many of you are moms to children under the age of 5. This means their expectations for the price and quantity of gifts are still low — our kids are still in love with the simplest magic of the season. Let’s enjoy that while we can! This year I am making more of an effort to set aside some of the holiday budget to buy our family an “experience” rather than an expensive toy they will tire of in an hour. It does not have to be a pricey vacation — how about an afternoon of lunch and bowling, passes to to the Children’s Museum or zoo, or an afternoon at the movies? All are fun experiences where we set aside time be together as a family. We love some of the ideas on gifting experiences from the Wellness Mama

To simplify your shopping for your wallet, don’t forget to keep a lookout at consignment shopping sites or local yard sale sites. Parents of older kids are dying to unload some of their previous high-priced items, like motorized cars or Barbie Dream Houses. Browse for items your kids would enjoy that are still in great shape, add a new personalized item to it, and wrap it up. Your toddler will not know the difference, and you will save money for when their preferences change. 

Simplify wrapping 

One trick I learned since having multiple kids is to pick a wrapping paper print for each family member, which simplifies the process of sorting on Christmas morning. I also inevitably run out of Christmas paper at some point, because I try to buy just enough so I don’t have a lot left over. In those cases, I like to turn birthday paper inside out and have my kids draw on it or use paper bags with wool yarn, like this simple paper bag gift wrap on thebeautydojo.com.  

Photo courtesy The Beautydojo.

No matter how you approach the holidays, there is always going to be a little stress wrapped in — but here’s to doing our best to relax and enjoy the magic of the season with our little elves! 


Megan is a mom of two daughters (2012, 2014) and lives with her family in Stoneham, MA. Her interest in writing began as a child and developed throughout her study of Journalism at St. Bonaventure University, where she graduated in 2003. Megan's love for New England began in 2006 when she moved from her hometown of Syracuse, NY to pursue her masters degree in Marketing Communications at Emerson College. Boston holds a special place in her heart as the city where she met and married her husband, started a family and has planted roots. In her professional career, Megan focuses on positive youth development, community outreach and mental health awareness. Loves: Family, friends, dogs, being a mom of girls, reading, Netflix, holidays, the ocean, fall in New England. Could do Without: Winter, snow (besides at Christmas), being late, traffic.