How to Make Christmas Less Stressful

These 10 steps will keep the holidays relaxing for everyone.

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Christmas is just around the corner. As I get older, the holiday season seems to become more of a chore. Gone are the days when food magically appears on the dining room table. Gone are the days of endless hours playing in the snow with cousins. Gone are the days where clothes and bedding are washed without effort.

What happened? I grew up and realized that everything that needs to be done around the Christmas season can get quite stressful. If you are in the same boat and are looking for some help, here are some suggestions.

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Start working on the Christmas cards today.

A lot of close friends like to either make a Christmas card or get a photo of their family to send out over the holiday season. This year you can go ahead and start that process early. Call your photo studio and make your booking or buy the cards and start handwriting your notes.

Make a gift list and pick up items in conjunction with other shopping trips.

Having a list for Christmas gifts makes shopping so much less stressful. During this calm before the storm, try to creatively think of gift ideas or suggestions and write them on the computer. Print out that paper and take it with you any time you leave the house (or put it in a glove box). That way when you find yourself in a store, you can randomly pick up a Christmas gift. Not only is this a more efficient way to shop, it is also cheaper since you can buy items when they are on sale.

List your usual Christmas activities and see what you can drop from your schedule.

Much of Christmas is about traditions. The good news is that you probably know what is going to happen around the Christmas season. Print up a December calendar and start filling in your known activities. When you look at the big picture, you can get an idea of what activities you need to drop this year.

Plan and schedule a cooking day with a friend.

If you have a deep freeze then you can start baking some Christmas cookies and casseroles. Cooking days are a lot more fun when you work together. One idea is to double a casserole recipe when you are cooking and then exchange that with a friend who also doubled a casserole recipe.

Start making your own Christmas gifts.

Most adults I know love homemade Christmas gifts, but the problem is that they can take a long time to prepare. Since Christmas is still far away, you have the time necessary. It is possible to give great gifts and save money too.

Get online and order some gift cards.

Far too many people spend half a day driving from place to place trying to buy holiday gift cards. However, you can easily get online and order the gift cards sent directly to your house (or the recipients'). The best part is that it saves more than time. It saves money too.

Proactively make plans with close friends.

Sometimes in the midst of all the craziness, we miss out on the opportunity to do things with our closest friends. However, before you calendar starts filling up, you should contact your friends and make plans with them so they don’t get pushed to the side.

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Write your New Year's letter.

Since another year is slowly starting to draw to an end, you might consider starting to write your New Year's letter. At the very least, start taking notes on a piece of paper or your computer. After Christmas, it is hard to remember what happened weeks before -- let alone months before.

Start Christmas shopping and Set a goal for completion.

Challenge yourself to buy all presents by (for example) October 31st, 2010. If you’re a real overachiever, go ahead and wrap the presents. It seriously takes so much pressure off when you buy your gifts early. Here are some more smart Christmas shopping tips like shopping online.

Make your travel arrangements now.

This is the right time to book your travel because the price is right, you have more flight options, and it will be one less thing to worry about. Obviously, some Christmas tasks must wait, but if you can start doing some Christmas planning today, then that will make for a less stressful Christmas this year and may even help you save money.

What do you do early to help make Christmas less stressful? Any tips?

Pinyo is the owner of Moolanomy Personal Finance Blog, which covers a wide range of personal finance  and investing topics, with features that include reviews, comparison guides, and Q&A sections.