12 Things You Can Do Right Now to Make Christmas Less Stressful

The Holidays don’t have to be chaotic. Do yourself a favor. Here are 12 things you can do right now to make Christmas less stressful.

12 things you can do right now to make Christmas less stressful

The holidays can immediately bring to mind cozy thoughts of flickering candles, the glow of Christmas trees and time with family. But for many the thought of the holidays can also bring thoughts of stress, anxiety, and busyness. It can be very stressful for lots of reasons. For some, seeing family is stressful because of family conflicts. For others, money woes and the pressure of gift-giving is overwhelming when you are struggling to make ends meet. Lots of people struggle with the feeling that there is so much to do in such a little time. Whatever the reason, here are 12 things you can do right now to make Christmas less stressful.

Make a Budget

Money is always tight around the holidays. Once I started working as a teenager, I started to buy my own Christmas gifts for family and friends. To this very day, I make a budget and I can’t tell you how much it helps. Deciding upfront how much I am willing to spend sets the tone for how and where I will shop. On my Etsy shop and in my blog shop here, I have a printable Christmas Planner that contains a budget worksheet and covers all holiday expenses – travel, decorations, food, entertainment, gift-giving, Christmas portraits, postage, etc. Sometimes we only think about the gift-giving expenses and we fail to account for other expenses. Doing that means that our overspending creeps up and puts a lot of unnecessary financial pressure on us.

Seeing the numbers on paper, helps you to visualize where your money is going and where you can cut. For example, in tough years, I cut back on extra gifts to neighbors, teachers, and hostess gifts. I began to also see that money was trickling out of our pockets for food and entertainment. So we came up with cheaper alternatives to still enjoy festive events.

The other purpose for creating a budget is so that you will see how much money you will need. Very few of us have the cash flow to drop thousands of dollars all at once at Christmas time. It is far less stressful if you begin saving now a little out of every paycheck now. Even if it is only a small amount, it will add up over the next three months. There are lots of things you can buy now, so you have less expenses in December. As a special gift for you today, I’ve created this gift-giving budget printable. Just list out all the people you are giving gifts to and budget an amount. Then update it with your actual expenditures.

Do a Gift Wrap Inventory

I have a confession. I love gift wrap. Like actual gift wrap. I hate using gift bags. I love wrapping presents in beautiful wrapping paper with big bows and gifts tags and tie-on-ornaments. That said, it means I have quite a big collection of wrapping paper, boxes, ribbon, and other things. I also have a closet where I keep it all organized. I know most people aren’t as neurotic as me. Normal people have three or four rolls of scotch tape kicking around various drawers, a few half-used rolls of wrapping paper laying in closets, and several sheets of gift labels with only three stickers left. I get it. However, I think lots of people underestimate how expensive wrapping materials are. I’m always shocked that wrapping paper can be around $5-7. A three-pack of Scotch tape is $4-5. Gift bags can be $3-6 each. It all adds up. Because many of us have these things tucked away in closets or scattered around the house, it’s easy to forget what we already have. We may also get ready to wrap at Christmastime and realize that the wrapping paper roll we had is crumpled and mostly unusable. That’s why one of the first things I do, is pull out all my gift wrap supplies and do an inventory. This way I use what I have and don’t overbuy. How many times have you bought something because you were unsure if you had it at home and didn’t want to make a trip back for it? Yup! I’ve done it too. In our uncertainty, we buy it out of convenience, but overspending is never convenient!

By the way, I made some FREE fun printable gift tags last year. You can print them out on your printer, hole punch and run some ribbon through them. You can use them year after year. I also have some FREE printable gift tags for teachers that you can attach to soaps and lotions. If you don’t have a gift wrap organizer, consider investing in one. They keep your wrapping supplies in good condition and make sure everything is in one place.

Create Your Christmas Card List

One thing you can do right now is update your address book for Christmas cards. Start reaching out to friends and family to see if addresses are still correct. Personally, I send handmade Christmas cards. In fact, this year marks twenty years of sending out homemade cards. It is a labor of love when you consider I send out about a hundred, plus I make some to sell in my Etsy shop. I start making them in September!

Perhaps you are lucky to just get ones from the store addressed and mailed. That’s okay! No matter what you send in the mail, it is special. That said, gathering addresses now makes things easier later. That way your ready to pop them in the mail as soon as you have them. If you want until December, you will find you will be waiting to hear back from people because they are busy too! Now is a great time to start gathering those things to make card-sending seamless later. You can also buy your postage now too. You don’t even have to run to the post office. USPS allows you to purchase your stamps online and they will send them to you in your mail. Sam’s Club also offers bulk USA forever stamps.

If you really want to get a head start on Christmas cards and you don’t plan on sending out a family photo card, you can even purchase digital Christmas cards. You download them, print them out either at home on your printer or send them to a print shop like FedEx, Staples, Office Max, etc and have them printed. I have several of them in my Etsy shop and they are completely editable. You can buy some envelopes and address them now so they are ready to go!

Christmas planner
My printable planner has a helpful Christmas card list to help get your organized

Gather Shipping Supplies

If you will be mailing packages out, now is a great time to get set up for easy shipping. If you have the space, consider saving boxes over the next few months so you don’t have to purchase them. I start saving small Amazon boxes in September for Christmas packages. This is also a good time to get tape, save paper or bubble wrap and other shipping supplies you may need.

Also, just so you know, you can also print out your own shipping labels from USPS. I invested in a small scale years ago. I plug in my package measurements and weight and print out shipping labels online without ever having to go to the post office. You can even schedule a porch pick-up so you aren’t running packages to the post office. Easy peasy!

Set Up a Christmas Planner

If you have followed this blog for any amount of time, you know how much I love planners! Sorry, not sorry, friends. I used to be a very unorganized person, but during my twenties, I had an appointment based job. This really forced me to use a planner and organize my time better. Now, I couldn’t live without one! I created a Christmas Planner to help me stay organized during the holidays. I offer it here on the blog and on my Etsy shop. It comes with 34 printables to track gifts, inventory supplies and decorations, and menu planning. It also contains a party planning worksheet, budget worksheet, expense tracker, online order tracker, Black Friday wishlist, undated calendars, travel itinerary, and more!

Best of all, I’ve included a seven-week Christmas countdown that tells you exactly what you need to do that week to stay on task and keep things running smoothly. I know you’ll love it. I personally use it to plan everything for the holidays. All the printables are undated so you can buy once and use it year after year.

I also recommend creating an envelope, pocket or folder to save all your receipts for both expense tracking and for returns. I do this every year and it makes it so much easier to have everything in one place.

Declutter

In Christmas of 2015, I was totally stressed out, One thing I had overlooked in preparing for Christmas was the space we would need. That year my oldest son was born and his birth brought in mountains of baby toys, books, clothes, and other things. It was his first Christmas so friends and family showered us with presents. Something I was very grateful for, but was overwhelmed by. It stressed me out to put things away only to find cramped closets and toy bins. Now I make decluttering part of my Christmas preparation. In September, I declutter closets and bedrooms. In October, I clean out the freezer and pantry to make room for all the holiday foods. Doing this ahead of time allows me to keep the house cleaner during the holidays because I have a place for everything. It also ensures I’m not overwhelmed after Christmas with all the new gifts.

Freezer Meals

The holidays always usher in busy evenings. There are school holiday programs, events and activities, get-togethers, and potlucks. That’s why one thing I do is prepare some freezer meals. Freezer meals are meals that you make ahead of time and pop in the oven when you are ready for it. It’s a much cheaper alternative to eating out when you are pressed for time. Casseroles are a great thing that typically warm up really well.

These are so easy to warm up even a husband can do it!

Take a look at some of these great posts for ideas:

If you don’t want to prep full meals another alternative it to chop and prep veggies and pre-marinate meats for cooking later.

Freeze Cookie Dough

Speaking of freezing, if you want you can also make various cookie doughs to freeze ahead of time. Sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies and chocolate chip cookies are just a few cookie doughs that can be frozen for months ahead of time. I normally make a few batches of cookie dough in October or early November and freeze it to make holiday baking easier in December. It is a big time-saver at Christmastime. Here is one of my favorite lists of make-ahead, freezable cookie doughs.

Christmas cookies

Shop for Holiday Outfits

Once, we near October, most stores begin to bring out holiday and stylish semi-formal attire. It doesn’t hurt to begin planning out the outfits you will need. Consider if you will be needing new clothes for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Will you be buying the kids or family matching pajamas? Consider if you will need outfits for holiday parties or for a holiday family photo shoot. Start browsing online for ideas, set a budget and if possible, go ahead and purchase the clothes to scratch this big time burglar ahead of time.

Book a Photographer

Now is also the time to start searching for a family photographer if you are doing family portraits this years. You may not be ready to book yet, and that’s okay, but it doesn’t hurt to start viewing portfolios and getting quotes. Some photographers get booked quickly, so it’s best to start looking into it early if you want to have the opportunity to pick a specific date. At the very least, even if you aren’t ready to firm up a date, you can get a quote so you can budget accordingly, but getting the leg work done early is a big help when the holidays hit.

Get a Head Start on Homemade Gifts

Homemade gifts are really nice to way a personal touch to the holidays. Even simple inexpensive items can become special when they become part of a fun gift basket. There are all kinds of things you can make and give for Christmas. In the past, I’ve made soaps, bath bombs, lemon and vanilla extract, coasters, and all kinds of other things. Homemade isn’t always cheaper. So make sure you you figure out how much gifts will cost before you commit to doing them. Here are a few fabulous lists of homemade gifts.

Start Shopping Now

It may surprise some people to learn that I start shopping as soon as October starts. It is so much easier on both your pocket book and stress levels if you spread out your Christmas buying over a few months. That’s why I start shopping for things now. As soon as October hits I take my Christmas list and divide into fifths, then I get started buying for everyone.

The holidays don’t have to be stressful. I think the most important thing is to pace yourself and start early so you give yourself plenty of time to complete all the necessary things.

Thanks so much for reading. In the comments below, I’d love to hear what you do to get organized for the holidays. I give away lots of things around the holidays and so before you leave, be sure to subscribe below.

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Christmas Movie Quote Gift Tags

I’ve got a Christmas gift for you. Download your FREE printable Christmas Movie Quote Gift Tags

christmas movie quote gift tags

One of my most favorite things to do during the holidays to curl up by the fire or in our media room with some steaming hot cocoa (I make an amazing one, get the recipe here) and a favorite holiday flick. This year, my kids are totally mesmerized by the Polar Express. Of course, I grew up in the Home Alone era, so that one will always be close to my heart as is the tear-jerking It’s A Wonderful Life.

Today, I’m sharing a FREE printable! Yay! I love wrapping gifts at Christmas. I know, I’m totally a weirdo. Don’t care. While many people dread gift wrapping as a chore, I love it! I throw some fun holiday tunes, bring out my huge collection of gift wrap and revel in making pretty packages with big, beautiful bows!

So this year, I created a cute printable with my two favorite holiday things to help you through the holiday season. I’ve made some Christmas movie quote gift tags. Just print them out and put on your Christmas packages. No need to run to the store and buy gift tags. Or you can save them for if you run out and need some in a pinch. No problem. Print, cut, hole punch and attach with your favorite string or ribbon.

Featured Movies

How to Use Your Christmas Movie Quote Gift Tags

Time needed: 10 minutes.

  1. Download your Christmas gift tags

    You will need Adobe Acrobat or other PDF reading software to do it. You can download Adobe Acrobat for free here.

  2. Print Tags

    For best result, print on white photo paper and allow time to dry

  3. Cut, hole punch and tie ribbon

    Or may choose to tape to your gift.

From my family to yours, I wish you a wonderful Christmas and a wonderful 2020. Before you leave, sneak a peek at my other FREE printables here. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

25 Christmas Journal Prompts

Christmas evokes a a wealth of emotions. Today, I’m sharing 25 Christmas Journal Prompts to discover how you feel about the holiday season

25 Christmas journal prompts

Christmas is a special time of year. But for many people, it brings a myriad of emotions – some happy and some not so happy. The holiday blues is a real thing and they can leave us pining for those we’ve lost in death. We may mourn old traditions that are no longer continued. Or we may have a renewed love for the season as we watch Christmas magic overtake our children’s hearts. Sometimes you may feel all the above. Today, I encourage you to go through the list of 25 Christmas journal prompts and discover how you feel about the holiday season.

25 Christmas Journal Prompts

  1. What is your favorite childhood memory about Christmas?
  2. Did you believe in Santa? Was that a good or bad experience?
  3. What does Christmas mean to you?
  4. What does your ideal/perfect Christmas look like?
  5. If money were no object, what would you want for Christmas?
  6. What is the most special Christmas gift someone has given you?
  7. Who do you miss most around Christmas?
  8. Do you make goals for the New Year? What are some of the goals you have right now?
  9. Describe how your family celebrates Christmas.
  10. What Christmas traditions in your family do you love most? How will you ensure those traditions continue?
  11. What things make you feel most connected to others at Christmas?
  12. How will you spread Christmas cheer this year?
  13. What is your favorite holiday movie and why do you love it?
  14. Is there anything that makes you sad around Christmas? Why?
  15. Some people feel blue around the holidays. What can you do to combat those feelings?
  16. What is your favorite memory of your childhood home at Christmas?
  17. Describe something you love to do on cold winter nights?
  18. How do you feel about the commercialism around Christmas?
  19. Write a Christmas story.
  20. For what are you most grateful at Christmastime?
  21. What is most stressful at Christmas? What can you do to make it better?
  22. Describe what you love most about Winter.
  23. How can you be a more giving person during the holidays?
  24. What has changed since the beginning of this year?
  25. How was God faithful to me this year?

Be sure to visit my other posts for more journaling ideas:

How to Make a Happy Planner Squad Girls Ornament

Learn how to make a happy planner squad girls ornament with just a few materials in less than 15 minutes.

how to make a happy planner squad girls ornament
Some links are affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through one of the links I provide, I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you. I only link to things I love or own myself.

Hey planner babes! Welcome to my new tutorial on how to make a Happy Planner Squad Girls ornament. This year, I spent time making lots of different Happy Planner ornaments and this is just one of the cute ideas that I came up with. Be sure to check out my YouTube channel for lots of fun Happy Planner themed Christmas tutorials.

This cute ornament is filled with fake snow and looks like the squad girls are skiing in your ornament. This craft is very easy to make and you can do all kinds of fun scenes. This craft took me less than 15 minutes to make from start to finish. I’ve made a video for you to follow along with and I’ve also provided written instructions below. I really encourage you to watch the video since the instructions were hard to describe in writing. While you are there, please subscribe to my channel and don’t forget to follow my Instagram for daily inspiration.

Materials

  • Snow globe ornament (mine purchased at Hobby Lobby)
  • Fake snow
  • Squad Goals Sticker Book
  • Clear Acetate
  • Scissors
  • Foam Double Sided Tape
  • Super glue (optional)

Time needed: 15 minutes.

Squad Girls Happy Planner Ornament

  1. Open up your snow globe

  2. Cut your acetate

    Cut down your acetate to a manageable sheet about 6 x 8″ and score in the middle

  3. Place stickers

    Pick out the stickers you want to use. Lay your scored acetate down so that half is flat on the table and the other half stands up towards you. Place your stickers about and inch to two inches on the acetate. You may need to reposition the stickers depending on where you want them to be.

  4. Trim down your acetate

    Trim down your acetate by cutting off any excess acetate around your sticker. Then trip your base in a half moon shape. You only need an inch or two. While you’re trimming, trim a little at a time, making sure it fits well in your globe.

  5. Apply Foam Tape

    Apply double sided foam tape to the bottom of your base. Adhere to the bottom of the globe.

  6. Add snow

    Carefully, add your fake snow. Close globe and shake gently until snow is evenly distributed.

  7. Secure

    For added security, super glue your ornament for added protection once you are certain no other adjustments are necessary

Other Happy Planner Posts

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You can find me on Instagram for more ideas planner ideas, layouts, and tips.

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to PIN this post for later or share it with another planner girl!

10 Beautiful Christmas Traditions to Start

Make Christmas magical together as a family. Here are 10 beautiful Christmas traditions to start this year.

10 beautiful Christmas traditions to start

This post contains affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through one of the links I provide, I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you.

Growing up in a Catholic family, I loved going to midnight mass. It was the one time of year I was allowed to stay up late. The church was lit with flickering beeswax candles and bright red poinsettias were scattered over the alter. The choir filled the nave of the church with beautiful Christmas hymns. It was such a magical, spiritual experience. Traditions like this are so special. They create memories for us to look back on and think of fondly. They can also connect us at a time where busyness can overshadow the true meaning of Christmas.

There are lots of traditions you can start like taking holiday photos together. Perhaps you take them in front of the tree in the same positions so you can watch everyone change and grow throughout the years. Here are 10 beautiful Christmas traditions you can start right now.

10 Beautiful Christmas Traditions to Start

Light An Advent Wreath

In the Catholic Church as well as the Luthern Church, Advent wreaths are used to celebrate the four weeks in the liturgical calendar leading to Christmas. The wreath, also contains 4 candles. Traditionally, three purple and one pink. Sometimes there is white candle in the center. Some protestant wreaths, particularly in Europe use red candles. The candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world. Each week one candle is lit and is accompanied by prayers, scripture reading or Christmas devotional. Each week, an additional candle is lit until Christmas arrives and they are all lit. In the Catholic Church, this is typically done during the celebration of the mass, but it is also very common to have an advent wreath at home.

You don’t need to be of a certain denomination to use it. The wreath is about taking a moment of solemnity to remember the reason for Christmas – Christ and his coming into the world for us. If you’re looking for an Advent Wreath, I recommend these below.

10 Beautiful Christmas Traditions to Start
Courtesy of Pexels

Celebrate With an Advent Calendar

In our family, we celebrate the holidays by using an Advent calendar. An advent calendar counts down the days of Advent (4 weeks) before Christmas. Normally, each day on the calendar has a door, window or pocket to be opened one per day as you count down. Traditionally, a chocolate, trinket, or small toy is placed as a gift for whomever opens the door.

In my family, we don’t put gifts in it. Instead, we put memory-making activities on slips of paper. Every day, we remove the slip of paper and read that evening’s activity. Some are simple, like making hot chocolate together, watching a Christmas movie, or reading Twas The Night Before Christmas. Other are more time-intensive like building a gingerbread house or doing a Christmas craft as a family. To read my full list of activities see my post, The Ultimate Christmas Bucket List.

I can’t begin to tell you how special this has become to our family. With all the crazy rushing of Christmas, this helps us take some time as a family every evening and make Christmas magical for each other. Here are some of my favorite Amazon Advent Calendars.

Watch the Polar Express In Pajamas

One thing we do with our kids every year is watch The Polar Express. True to the story, we wait until it’s bedtime and once the kids are in their pajamas we surprise them with the movie. We serve hot chocolate at the same time they are serving it aboard the train to the kids. I even give my kids a golden ticket and a bell. It makes for a very special, magical evening. It’s something my husband and I really love doing for our kids.

Read the Nativity Story in Luke

One easy, beautiful tradition you can start is by simply reading the Gospel as a family. With all the focus on gifts, Santa, and holiday parties, the true reason for Christmas – Christ – can be easily swept under the rug. Taking time out as a family to read the living word of God helps to instill a focus on Christ. The most descriptive version of the nativity story can be found in Luke Chapter 2:1-20. We like to read it on Christmas Eve fireside.

family at Christmas

Ornament Exchange

When I married my husband, I learned his parents had kept a beautiful tradition going for forty years. Every year, the two exchanged ornaments. It had almost developed into a playful competition that the kids, now grown, still enjoyed witnessing. So when my husband and I got married, we agreed to continue that tradition. It’s actually quite special. It’s fun to hunt for that perfect ornament and it’s a lovely gift to look forward to on Christmas morning.

The exchange doesn’t have to be between mom and dad. It can be between anyone. Kids and parents. Siblings. Grandparents. Use your imagination. It doesn’t have to be bought either. One thing our family does as a tradition is make ornaments every year as a part of our advent calendar. My husband and I also collect them from everywhere we travel. One of our trees in our home is an eclectic mix of our collected ornaments over the years. We often gaze upon them and recall all those special trips and moments when we got them.

Help the Less Fortunate

Christmas is a time for giving alms, that is, filling a material need for someone who is less fortunate than us. As Christians, we are called to acts of charity towards our fellow brothers and sisters and Christmas seems to inspire a giving attitude.

Our family does several things at Christmas time. First, we give to the bell ringers of Salvation Army. You can find them outside departments stores. This is especially meaningful to me. You see, when my mom was a child they were very poor and she was the recipient of the used, donated toys from Salvation Army at Christmastime. Second, we fill shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child through Samaritans Purse. For some children, it is the first gift they’ve ever received. Moreover, it is an opportunity to introduce the love of Christ around the world as the program continues to minister to the children through a discipleship program.

Lastly we find local charities to help. We donate food to our local food pantry. In addition, we donate goods to our two main homeless shelters SAMMinistries and Haven for Hope. If you have children, get them involved. Instill in them a spirit for helping others. Christmas time is a great opportunity to spread the love of Christ with acts of kindness.

Make a Hot Chocolate Bar

Hot Chocolate is a staple of winter. I love making hot chocolate. More importantly, I love turning it into a fun event for my family and friends. For about seven years, I’ve been making a hot chocolate bar. Fill a slow cooker with hot chocolate so everyone can serve themselves. Then offer loads of toppings, syrups, and flavors. Kids love loading their cups with marshmallows and candies.

I make it fun for adults too. I love to include adult liqueurs like Frangelico, Bailey’s, Kahlua, Amaretto, etc. It’s actually quite fun to see adults get excited over it and every year people ask me about it. I set up the bar at the beginning of the season and it stays up all December. Then I keep the dry toppings in mason jars. I screw them up when they aren’t in use and open them up when gets come and make a hot crockpot of hot chocolate.

Read my post How to Make a Hot Chocolate Bar for the exact instructions on how to make one! By the way, I have the very best hot chocolate recipe you’ll ever have! You’ll never use another one after you try it.

Hot chocolate bar

Get Your Craft On

When it’s cold outside, indoor activities like crafting can be a fun way to spend time together. As I mentioned earlier, one thing we do is make an ornament every year. I also send out homemade Christmas cards to all our friends and family. It’s like my personal gift to each and everyone of them.

In fact, in my first marriage, my in-laws had a very special idea. One year, instead of buying gifts, we made gifts. This was one of the most special Christmases I’d ever had. It was amazing to see what everyone came up with. My ex-husband found some copper pipes left over from a house repair and put together a gorgeous copper wind chime. I broke down some old chipped dishes into pieces and created a mosaic trivet for my mother-in-law. Everyone came up with different ideas. I can’t even describe how taking the commercialism out of presents affected us. There was something so magical about that Christmas!

There are lots of things you can make and you can turn it into a family affair. Last year we made some DIY Christmas swags. It’s super easy! Even if it’s a total Pinterest fail, the memory of how awful it was will become one of those funny family stories. It’s all about making memories. Here are some things you can try:

  • Handmade Christmas cards
  • Homemade gifts
  • Make Ornaments
  • Gift Tags
  • Paint nutcrackers
  • Christmas sign
  • Make a Wreath or Garland
  • Hand stamped wrapping paper
  • Festive Decor

Look At Christmas Lights

This may not be a new one for you, but I’m including it because I think it is underestimated at times. Since we’ve been married, my husband and I have made this an annual tradition. Neighborhoods are fun to explore, but we enjoy a local commercial light display even more. We go to Santa’s Ranch, which is drive-thru property full of more than 1.5 million lights.

We bring lots of warm, cozy blankets and hot chocolate in a thermos, Christmas cookies, and sweets. Then pile in the car with Holiday tunes on the car radio. We always ask friends or family to come with us. It’s such a fun way to spend a frosty evening!

Additionally, some places to a live nativity. If you’ve never been to one, it’s impressive! These are often done by churches. They use sets, live people and animals to recreate scenes from the nativity story in the Bible. Normally you either walk or drive through the scenes. It’s so beautiful! Simple pleasures spent together are often the memories we cherish.

Christmas Eve Boxes

If you haven’t heard of Christmas Eve boxes, I’m excited to tell you. Christmas Eve boxes are curated boxes you give to family members in anticipation of Christmas. Think of them almost like gift baskets filled with everything they need for Christmas Eve night.

Some people only prepare them for the kiddos while others treat the adults to the fun-filled Christmas box too! Because, we’re all kids at heart, right? Traditionally, the boxes include pajamas, snacks, a Christmas book, and or a movie.

You don’t have to necessarily put them in boxes. I know someone who stuffs stockings with all the goodies. You can find my full tutorial on how to make Christmas Eve boxes here. I have lots of ideas on what to fill them with.

Make Christmas Magical

I hope you’ve enjoyed these 10 Beautiful Christmas Traditions to Start. Be sure to PIN this post for later and share it on social media to inspire others. Also, before you go be sure to subscribe to my blog for FREE printables, giveaways and other fun goodies. Have a Merry Christmas!

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How to Make a Christmas Eve Box

Create a special family tradition when you learn how to make a Christmas Eve box to usher in the Christmas spirit for your child.

how to make a Christmas Eve box

Christmas is such a magical time for both children and parents. As parents we get to experience the magic and wonder of Christmas through the eyes of our innocent babes. This year, we are starting a new tradition, we’re making Christmas Eve boxes for our little ones. This tradition stems from a German tradition of opening presents on Christmas Eve.

I’ve heard a few families say they do this instead of hanging and filling stockings, but it’s up to you. Personally, I decided to do it because I was already going to buy and do these things for Christmas anyway. Putting it together like a gift, just makes it more special. The idea is that you create a box filled with Christmas goodies. Traditionally, you would give your child this box on Christmas Eve, but I know some families instead give this box the day after Thanksgiving to enjoy the holiday season. There are no rules. I, however, am giving this to my little guys on Christmas Eve. It will have their pajamas, a movie we’ll watch, a Christmas bedtime story and snacks. I’m hoping it gets them excited about going to bed early on Christmas Eve!

How to Make a Christmas Eve Box

Get Your Box

You can use any box you wish. Some families simply use a large gift box. Others use a wooden crate, available for purchase at any craft store. Etsy has some amazing sellers who make personalized boxes to be used year after year. Really you can use any container, so long that it’s big enough. The buffalo plaid one I’m using in my picture was purchased at Hobby Lobby. It comes with a lid. If you are doing it on a budget, you can cover a shoe box with festive wrapping paper.

Ideas for Your Christmas Eve Box

Obviously you can put anything you want in the boxes. In fact, I encourage you to make it your own. However, if you are looking for some suggestions here are a few.

  • Christmas Pajamas
  • Snacks (Candy, Popcorn, Cookies, etc)
  • A Christmas movie
  • Christmas socks / slippers
  • Reindeer Food (see “recipe” below)
  • Snowman Soup (see recipe below)
  • Special Ornament
  • Christmas storybook
  • Christmas coloring book
  • A small toy
  • Novelty Toothbrush
  • Prayer book
  • Christmas mug (for snowman soup)

You can add any combination of items to your box. This year, I’m adding Christmas themed pajamas, a story book, a Christmas movie and some homemade bunuelos, some reindeer food and snowman soup.

Snowman soup is just hot chocolate mix presented in a cute way. Reindeer food is a cute idea. It’s just oats and glitter. Have your little ones sprinkle the mixture on your lawn to feed Santa’s reindeers when they land. Cookies for Santa; Reindeer food for the Reindeers. It’s just another way to make it more magical for the kids. See below for exact instructions. However, you can also use bird seed instead of oats. I’ve made some cute printable bag toppers. I recommend printing them out on white card stock. You can download them below.

Also, while we’re at it, there is no reason why this has to be only for children. You can tailor it for adults. You can even add some grown up additions like mini liquor bottles and liqueur flavored chocolates.

how to make a Christmas Eve box
how to make a Christmas Eve box

How to Make Snowman Soup

Time needed: 10 minutes.

How to Make Snowman Soup

  1. Gather the following ingredients

    Packet of instant hot chocolate, mini marshmallows, candy cane, and a zip lock bag (sandwich size)

  2. Pour ingredients into bag

    Open the packet of instant hot chocolate. Add marshmallows and candy cane. Seal bag.

  3. Print printable bag topper

    Print the bag topper or make your own and staple to the top of the zip lock bag.

snowman soup

How to Make Reindeer Food

  1. Gather Ingredients: Oats & glitter (any color you wish)
  2. Pour into ziplock and seal bag
  3. Shake well
  4. Print printable bag topper and staple on top
how to make a Christmas Eve box

Thank you so much for reading. Please share this post on social media or PIN it for later. I hope you and your little ones have a magical Christmas. Be sure to subscribe to my blog for more fun ideas.

Thank A Mail Carrier Basket

With all the online shopping mail carriers are busier than ever. Today, I’ll show you how to put together a Thank a mail carrier basket full of snacks, water and goodies to let them know you appreciate them and their hard work.

thank a mail carrier

A Thankless Job

Being a mail carrier is quite a thankless job. Especially around the holidays. I knew the same mail carrier Cliff who worked for UPS and was on my dad’s business route for many years. The holidays were always busy. He worked such long hours, often skipped lunch, and was always dealing with problems of missing and damaged packages. During the holidays it was stressful.

These days, so much of our Christmas shopping is done online and families are sending care packages and gifts across the country more than ever. Many employees from carrier companies and the postal service, work demanding schedules around the holidays to make sure our needs are met.

So my family decided to make them feel noticed and appreciated while they are busy on their route by offering them some snacks and drinks. It’s a small act of kindness, that hopefully brightens their day. We love doing acts of kindness around the holidays. We actually add it to our advent calendar (Christmas Bucket List) every year! If you are looking for more ideas, be sure to read my post, 50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays.

How to Make Your “Thank A Mail Carrier” Basket

First, it doesn’t have to be a basket. You can use any container to pack with a few goodies. I use a wire basket with a Christmas bow. Next you’ll need a sign. You can make your own sign with a message. However, I’ve taken some of the work out for you by making a printable one. You can download it below. I recommend printing it on white cardstock.

Next, fill your container with whatever goodies you like. Here are a list of some of the things we put in ours.

  • Granola Bars
  • Mints
  • Water
  • Soda
  • Chips
  • Cookies
  • Candy
Thank a mail carrier

Other Ways to Thank Mail Carrier

You can also leave a small token of appreciation strait in your mailbox. One year, I left a package of Oreos with a bow and a thank you note.

Thank you for reading. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season!

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Stocking Stuffers for Babies & Toddlers

Stumped on what to put in your child’s stocking? I’ve got a great list of stocking stuffers for babies & toddlers to take some of the guess work out of Christmas shopping!

Stocking stuffers for babies & toddlers
This post contains affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through one of the links I provide, I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you. I only link to things I truly love.

Hey there, friend. Christmas time is here and you may be struggling on what to put in your child’s stocking. So I’ve put together a quick guide of stocking stuffers for babies & toddlers. In full disclosure, some of these may not fit in the actual stocking. These small, inexpensive gifts are some of my families favorites! We personally love all these items, which is why I am suggesting them.

As always, use your best judgement when it comes to age appropriateness. Just because something is marked for a certain age, doesn’t always mean it’s right for your little one. Mamas know best!

Under 6 Months

As a mom I know I always appreciated clothes as gifts because they go through them so quickly and clothes are surprisingly expensive. But I absolutely loved some of the items I’m sharing today.

It seems like when your child starts drooling and teething it seems like it happens before are fully able to grasp items well. That’s where some of these things really come in handy. Some of our favorites were drooling bandana bibs. They have an attached teether on them. This keeps it fairly clean since it isn’t falling on the floor all the time and it’s always handy. Same goes for the munch mitt. This was a favorite by both my boys. Its a mitten that is secured to their hand. They can munch away on it without it dropping to the floor all the time! If you haven’t tried Baltic Amber for teething, I highly recommend it. Amber (genuine) has natural healing properties and it is a great soother for sore gums.

Feeding spoons always come in handy and my boys loved wrist and foot rattles. This made floor play super fun and it was handy even when they were in the stroller. Both my boys were disenchanted with tummy time. I received the water pad / mat as a gift and it turned tummy time around for us. It is a non-messy sensory experience and the water is very soothing to babes.

When your baby is first born their retina isn’t fully developed and therefore their vision is also undeveloped. They see high contrast images better. Thats why high contrast books, like this one are a great choice for newborns and young babies.

6 to 12 Months

With a little one, I always felt like I never had enough bibs and socks. Socks always seem to disappear in the wash and between starting solids and the constant dribble of teething, I felt used bibs like they were going out of fashion!

Six to twelve months is a great time to start introducing spatial reasoning. This is an early math skill. Believe it or not, at six months, children begin to be curious about the relationship of objects’ size, distance, direction, and space. You’ll notice your little will try to stack objects which makes stacking rings, bowls, and cups an awesome toy. They’ll also start trying to fit objects inside another which is a great time to start introducing shape sorters. They’ll need your help with it for a while, but it’s a great time to introduce it. Additionally, babies enjoy feeling things with different textures, which is why sensory balls and toys make a great addition to your play area.

Ages 1 to 2 (12 to 24 months)

At about a year old, your child’s world becomes colorful! You’ll find they are now interested in objects that are bright in color. Brown Bear, Brown Bear is a great book for learning animals, colors, and the noises they make all in one easy board book. My boys learned all their animal sounds with this book by 18 months.

You’ll also notice your little one loves bath time and this is actually another play time for her. This is where bath toys like squirters and stick-on-the wall pipes become super fun. I also used bath time as an opportunity to teach colors. I used color drops (below) and I would put toys that coordinated with that color (e.g. green water, green toys). Finger paints are great for both a sensory experience and learning colors. If you are worried about a mess, take it outside or you can do what I did – we did it in the bathtub! It’s easy to hose them down afterwards and the mess is contained. Palm crayons are awesome for kids of this age that might get frustrated with traditional crayons.

Also, your little one will be very interested in things that make noise like play phones and musical instruments. This is also a great time to read as your babies language is starting to develop at rapid speed. Board books are great at this age because they can’t destroy them.

Ages 2 to 3 (24-36 months)

Congratulations, you have a busy bee who wants to copy everything you do! This is a great age to start introducing play kitchens, household sets, play food, and other pretend toys are always loved items.

Kids love to play outside in the dirt. My son loved having his own little garden tool set where he could play in our garden bed. Kids of this age also are interested in fine motor activities which is an early writing skill. Fishing toys, lacing toys, dot markers, even wooden puzzles are great for this.

This is also a great time to work on the alphabet and counting. All kids are different, but my oldest was able to count to ten and knew his alphabet by 36 months.

Around this time, I started to introduce a rimmed sippy cup to my toddler to help transition him to a normal cup. Also the Munchkin snack catcher is one of favorites! It’s great for holding puffs, goldfish and other toddler snacks without crazy spills. Stuff can still fall out, but it certainly mitigates messes.

Ages 3 to 4

As you start approaching preschool age, fine motor activities will be a forerunner to writing. We loved using fine motor tools in our sensory bins.

Pattern blocks and counters are great teaching tools and it feels like play time to them. These are great for developing early math skills with patterns, shape, and color recognition. This is also a great time for them to start learning their name and a name puzzle is a great fun way to do that before learning to write it. Magnetic writing boards and mess free painting like Water Wow are fun pre-writing activities.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of stocking stuffers for babies & toddlers. Hopefully, it will take some of the headache out of Christmas shopping. Don’t forget to PIN this post for later. Also, be sure to take a look at how to make Christmas special with a Hot Chocolate Bar.

50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays

50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays you can do by yourself or as a family to bring the magic of Christmas to the hearts of others.

50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays
Courtesy of Unsplash

I try to do acts of kindness throughout the year, but during the holidays I’m especially mindful to do them. As my kids get older, it’s a tradition I love to do with them. I want to instill the habit of doing good in the world.

As a Christian, I believe we are supposed to be a light in a dark world. We should be an ambassador for Christ, showing his love through acts of love, kindness, and mercy. Even if you aren’t a Christian, you can’t deny the affect that kindness has on the world. Whatever the motivation, the holidays seem inspire random acts of kindness.

Choosing What Not To Do

Save Your Judgement

Now before I list some of the things my family does, I want to preface it. Kindness doesn’t have to cost anything. Kindness is as simple as paying someone a compliment or holding the door open for someone. Maybe it is returning someone’s cart or giving someone your place in a long line. Sometimes kindness isn’t what you do, but what you choose NOT to do.

For instance, the next time you see something you disagree with on Facebook, choose to extend mercy by scrolling by instead of hammering someone with your opinion. In fact, one of the places in most desperate need of kindness is social media. Everyone is so quick to judge and condemn others. The world doesn’t need your opinion about everything. Instead, commit to being a peacemaker and withhold your sanctimony. After all, you and me are incredibly flawed. Choose to be kind instead of being “right.”

Forgiveness

Just recently, I’ve seen some horrible acts of unkindness. In one instance, a man at a craft store couldn’t tell where the line started and accidentally cut in front of someone. The woman he cut off, went up the counter and started slamming her fist and screaming at him. The man apologized and explained, but she was unmoved by his apology and continued yelling inches away from his face. The man left broken and shamed.

Another time, I saw an older man come into a parking lot and nearly clipped someone. He parked beside me. The woman he cut off, parked her car directly in front of his, blocking him from getting off and entering the store. She then proceeded to get out of her car and yelled obscenities at him through the window. It was an accident and it’s not like he crashed into her. It was a near miss, but she was determined to draw blood for it.

Things aren’t going to go our way sometimes and when that happens we have a choice. We can respond with kindness or viciousness. Over the years, I’ve learned most people don’t intentionally set off to ruin our day. They’re busy, distracted, or simply make a mistake. Give someone the benefit of the doubt. One way to spread kindness is simply by extending someone forgiveness. Show someone undeserved love. It’s that kind of mercy that inspires others to be kind. It has a ripple effect.

50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays

  1. Leave a basket of treats to thank mail carriers
  2. Let someone cut in front of you in line at a store
  3. Organize a group to sing carols at a nursing home / retirement community
  4. Offer to babysit a friend’s kids so they can get a date night out
  5. Bring a crossing guard or traffic directing police officer coffee or hot chocolate
  6. Donate canned food to a food drive
  7. Give a stranger a gift card
  8. Donate a toy towards a toy drive like Toys for Tots
  9. Put up Christmas lights for an elderly neighbor
  10. Make a Christmas care package for a far away friend or relative
  11. Let someone know you’re thinking about them with a holiday card.
  12. Give to a charity
  13. Donate pet food at a local pet shelter
  14. Donate blood or plasma (it saves lives)
  15. Volunteer at a shelter
  16. Surprise someone with scratch off lottery ticket
  17. Donate blankets or coats to a shelter
  18. Volunteer at a food bank
  19. Return shopping carts in parking lots during the busy shopping season
  20. Tape coins to a vending machine and treat someone to a snack
  21. Help an elderly person with yard work
  22. Donate change for bell ringers
  23. Give a server a generous tip
  24. Walk a neighbor’s dog
  25. Pay off a school lunch debt
  26. Host a book drive for Operation Paperback
  27. Donate used toys to a battered women’s shelter or orphanage
  28. Pet sit for a family who is out of town for the holidays
  29. Say a prayer for someone
  30. Hide a dollar in the toy section of a dollar store
  31. Drop off treats to a fire or police station
  32. Volunteer at church
  33. Donate your wedding gown to a baby who has died
  34. Gift diapers to a family with an infant
  35. Pay for a strangers meal or coffee
  36. Give someone your parking space
  37. Invite someone with no family to spend Christmas with you
  38. Let someone go ahead of you in traffic
  39. Send a thank you note to a soldier
  40. Hand out gloves and mittens to the homeless
  41. Pay for someone behind you at the drive through window
  42. Babysit for a single mom
  43. Take a homebound or elderly person to church
  44. When you disagree with someone on social media, choose to stay kind instead
  45. Bring in your neighbor’s trash bins
  46. Call an old friend
  47. Do something unexpected for your spouse
  48. Bring in goodies for your co-workers
  49. Pick up trash
  50. Give up your seat

Being kind is fun and it makes you feel good. I hope you enjoy doing 50 Acts of Kindness for the Holidays. PIN this post for later and share on your Facebook wall to get others involved.

Take a look at some of my other Christmas activities in The Ultimate Christmas Bucket List. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season!

Soap Christmas Gift Tags for Teachers & Neighbors

This post, Soap Christmas Gift Tags for Teachers & Neighbors, contains affiliate links. If make a purchase through the link I provide, I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you.

Enjoy these FREE printable Soap Christmas Gift Tags for Teachers & Neighbors

We’re getting closer to Christmas and like me, I’m sure you’re probably thinking about potential gifts for neighbors and teachers. If you’re looking for an easy, inexpensive gift, I recommend some hand soap or hand sanitizer. It’s only a few dollars (normally around $3 or under) and it’s something they will actually use!

My absolute favorite is Bath and Body Works soaps because of the delicious scents and creamy moisture. I always wait until they are on sale. In addition, I use a coupon. If you don’t have a coupon for Bath and Body Works, you can usually find one at Retail Me Not. My next favorite hand soaps are J.R. Watkins and Myers Clean Day. You can find these at various stores, but I’ll leave a link below where you can get them online. Otherwise you can use any soap of your choice.

In addition, keep in mind you can use lotion or even body wash as an alternative. 

Free Printable Soap Christmas Gift Tags

I’ve created a collection of 9 tags that you can print, cut out and attach to your hand soap. No need to wrap. Just tie a ribbon, even bells and attach the tag for a unique, custom gift they’ll use. 

Download your Printable Soap Gift Tags. You’ll need Adobe Acrobat or other .pdf viewing software to use and print. 

Printable Soap Christmas Gift Tags
Preview


Soap Christmas Gift Tags for Teachers & Neighbors

I really hope these cute soap gift tags makes your life a little easier this holiday season. From my family to yours, we hope you have a Happy Christmas!

Looking for more Christmas inspiration? Learn more about how to create your own Hot Chocolate Bar

The post Soap Christmas Gift Tags for Teachers and Neighbors first appeared on My Beautiful Mess.