7 Ways to Plan Ahead for Christmas Now—and Have a Stress-Free Holiday Later

By planning ahead for Christmas in July (or August, or September), you're guaranteed to have a less stressful December.

You can be the most organized person in the world, and yet the Christmas season rarely fails to sneak up and throw you into a frenzy at the last minute. Given how much there is to do, from shopping to meal planning to decorating, planning ahead for Christmas far in advance is the golden key to protecting your sanity. Leaning into the spirit of "Christmas in July"—yes, a full five months in advance—is a great place to start. Check out these simple ways you can plan ahead for Christmas.

01 of 07

Organize Your Existing Stash

Before spending any additional money on Christmas decor, gifts, wrapping paper, or other essentials, take stock of your current holiday inventory. At this time, you can discard broken items or anything past its prime and set aside things you know you'll want to use this upcoming season. You can also organize things by type and color and untangle ornaments and lights if necessary. Regarding storage solutions, clear containers are best since they'll make it easier to locate stuff later. Make note of items you'll need to replace or purchase to bring this year's holiday vision to life.

02 of 07

Buy Gifts During Christmas in July Sales

"Summer is a notoriously slow time for retail. People are more likely to spend money on experiences, like a vacation, rather than products. For that reason, retailers are eager to provide some incentive to give consumers a reason to shop, which helps explain the rise of Christmas in July sales and Black Friday in July sales," says Courtney Jesperson, consumer savings expert for Nerdwallet.

She adds that while these sales are a good time to stock up on a variety of items, they're particularly beneficial for those who want to give personal electronics as Christmas gifts. In years past, Best Buy has hosted a sale, as well as Amazon, which now has its own mid-summer holiday called Prime Day.

"Prime members can shop in the luxury of their own home and watch for advance alerts of discounts on popular products like all of the Amazon electronics, such as Echo, Alexa, Kindles, and Fire tablets," says Sara Skirboll, the shopping and trends expert for RetailMeNot.

Amazon isn't the only retailer offering Christmas in July sales, though. Skirboll says that QVC, Nordstrom, and Macy's typically offer big summer shopping sales during this time of the year, and retailers such as Best Buy, Target, and Walmart are eager to jump into the sale competition, too. In general, the best categories to shop during these annual summer sales are electronics, fitness, sporting gear, travel deals, and outdoor home and garden decor.

03 of 07

Pick Up Hostess Gifts While You're at It

You can begin collecting hostess gifts in the summer, too. Think lovely bottles of wine, luxury candles, elegant picture frames, wine stoppers, and other barware, flower planters, and sweet mugs. If you're feeling extra ambitious, you could even wrap them in advance so they're ready to go once the party invites start rolling in. Brown paper packages tied up with string (just like the song) is a classic choice. We recommend sticking a Post-it note to each gift that lists the package contents so you don't forget (just make sure to remove it before gifting).

04 of 07

Start Prepping Your DIY Gifts

If you're the type who likes to give homemade food items such as pickled vegetables and sweet jams, or handmade items like quilts, scarves, soaps, or paintings, now is the time to embark on those crafty missions. Make sure you have all the supplies you need and enough time to complete everything before December rolls around. You don't have to start making everything in the summer but do come up with a game plan so everything's on schedule and you're not frazzled at the last minute.

05 of 07

Plan Christmas Cards

If you wait to get your Christmas card family portraits taken until November or December, you just might be too late. Having photographs taken requires some forethought since you'll have outfits to consider and locations to choose from, not to mention finding a photographer and then booking the actual session. You'll also need to factor in the time it takes to have your images processed, give yourself time to go through the proofs, and then actually order the cards themselves. Note that some photographers do offer Christmas in July sessions complete with props, but a great summer family portrait works well, too.

In addition to having your pictures taken, you can also go through all your addresses to make sure your loved ones' details are up to date and add any new ones to the list.

06 of 07

Make Travel Arrangements

Whether your family is large or small, figuring out holiday logistics can be a bit of a headache. This is especially true if you're all spread out across the state, country, or even globe. First, determine when and where Christmas will be so that everyone has ample time to make travel arrangements. From there, you can discuss day-of timing and add any extra holiday-related activities to the calendar. If you're hosting at your house, this is also the time to begin thinking about guest room necessities. If you or other family members require a hotel, you can also start researching and booking lodging.

07 of 07

Plan Your Christmas Meals

It may feel premature to come up with a Christmas dinner meal plan in the midsummer heat, but it will make the holidays go much smoother. Start with the meat (or meat alternative) of choice and then craft holiday side dishes, desserts, appetizers, and drinks around it. It shouldn't take too much of your time to devise the menu, and you'll have months to tweak it if necessary. If you're trying new recipes, consider giving them a test run in advance so you can adjust ingredients or nix a dud altogether. At this time, it's also wise to take stock of your existing tableware, serving dishes, and cutlery, and replace or add items to complete your collection.

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