holiday stress management

The fact that the holiday season can sometimes be a wee bit overwhelming isn’t news. According to a 2011 survey by Consumer Reports, 90 percent of Americans find at least one thing stressful about this time of year. Add shopping, cooking, entertaining, gift-wrapping and list-making to an already jam-packed schedule and it’s no wonder we have to-dos rather than sugarplums dancing in our heads. But it’s just November, thank goodness, so that means we have a whole month to get organized and get ahead. Here’s how:

Cash in your rewards.

Before you start draining your bank account, think about what you can pay for with all those credit card reward and loyalty program points you’ve been saving up. Yes, you can cash them in for gifts, but think about other uses, too, like flights to grandma’s house or the Christmas dinner bill (using restaurant or grocery gift cards). But don’t wait too long—some programs urge customers to allow four to six weeks for delivery.

Take a personal day. 

Look for coupons or one-day sales and get a ton done. But don’t stop there—Cap off the afternoon with a nice mani/pedi or a massage so you’ll feel rested and treated when you go back to work the next day.

Restock gift-wrapping supplies.

Take stock of your inventory (gift wrap, bows, boxes, Scotch tape, name tags, etc.). For replacements, hit the dollar store or try discount shops with pretty papers like HomeGoods, Marshalls and T.J.Maxx, which all carry wrapping paper during the holidays. Look for coupons from craft stores like Michaels, too; They often run a 25–30 percent off sale in the weeks before the holidays.

Start to put aside cash weekly.

Whether it’s $10 or $50 per week, stashing cash (even if it’s just for four weeks) will help you avoid going into debt during the holidays, says Andrea Woroch, consumer-savings expert and contributor to Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance and Money Magazine. “Open a separate account at your bank that isn’t linked to your checking account so you aren’t as tempted to dip in,” she says.

Check out Groupon for deals on holiday cards.

Email sale sites routinely feature discounts on holiday cards in the weeks before the holidays—start perusing for deals. Try to get the cards done by the end of the month before things get really hectic.

Buy gifts in bulk.

It’s okay to buy the same (or similar) gift for multiple people on your list, especially if they don’t know one another. For example, give the same gift to all teachers or coaches in your child’s life. It’s much easier to buy presents in bulk (it can even save you shipping costs) and you’ll be able to quickly cross off multiple people from your gift list in one fell swoop.

Susan Jara is a full-time editor, writer and mom of a toddler from New Jersey. Her work has appeared in Everydayhealth.com, Lifescript.com, Canyonranch.com and Bergen Health and Life Magazine.