It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be a little bit stressful… so cut out the negativity, kick back and relax with our top tips for dealing with the holidays. Plus, these tips are so clever, everyone will applaud your creativity. Trust us. Still need a helping hand? Hire furniture to seat extra bums or have an extra pair of hands in the kitchen if it’ll make your life a little bit easier.
- Wrap presents in a gift that your recipient can re-use. There are a ton of tutorials online for wrapping gifts with a scarf. A scarf! Super clever, super pretty, and great for the environment, too. A good all rounder. Plus, you don’t need to worry about having four hands for sellotape and scissors.
- Don’t let those lovely holiday snaps from last year go to waste: transform them into gifts for this year. Even if your budget is low, you can print them off at home and then pop them into cheap photo frames. If your budget is a little higher, turn them into mugs, acrylic art and cool pop art pieces.
- Make some sweeties, chocolates, biscuits or crackers for your children’s teachers or their friends. It makes a wonderfully personal gift, it’s cheap, brilliantly Christmassy and best of all, you can make a great big batch all in one go, which effectively sorts out gifts for loads of people all in one fell swoop.
- My new best friends: cleaning wipes and carpet shampoo. Makes it much easier to clean up spills and drips, you don’t have to get sponges and rags out of the cupboard and they’re easy to stow away in a coffee table. Plus, the sooner you clean up those red wine stains or those mince pie crumbs, the less likely they are to stain.
- Got fussy in laws or relatives coming to stay? Let them bring their own food, or arrange for everyone to bring one dish of their own. Alternatively, if you know that you’re not going to be able to please everyone? Get the meal catered or go out. Try not to stress out over something that you can’t change.
- Flatten gift bags and boxes for re-use, and keep a box wrapped in pretty paper next to the tree for all of that errant wrapping paper – it’ll look prettier than a black bin bag in photos. Recycle any other paper, or re-use it for crafting if you’re that way inclined!
Source: Real Simple
Although it seems like Christmas carols have been playing in the shops forever, Advent has actually only just begun. But if you’re hosting Christmas this year – or even just having the family over for a meal on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day – there are a few things you have to do to get the house ready before the masses descend. You don’t have to spend day after day cleaning, and you don’t have to buy new furniture – just spend a little bit of time getting organised so that the hustle and bustle of having the peace and quiet of the holidays interrupted by lots of small children and overbearing relatives (or is that just us?!). If you need any extra help, hire a handyman or cleaner – or why not hire some furniture if you need extra seats for extra bums?
- Bin the clutter. When you have a house full of people, even the largest and most spacious of rooms can fast become a dark, dingy hole. Those spaces that you retreat to when you’re in need of a little bit of TLC? Well, when you’re trying to find places for your boyfriend’s mum, his sister, your sister and your grandparents to sleep, it can be difficult to find anywhere relaxing for yourself. In the week before your guests arrive, have a wander around your rooms and check out everything in them – all of the accessories and all of the furniture. What should be there? What shouldn’t be there? What’s really necessary? If you could shift anything to the loft or to another room, move it – give yourself as much space as you possibly can.
- Put out the welcome mat. You don’t have to go quite as far as rolling out the red carpet, but a new welcome mat (perhaps Christmas-themed, if you’re so inclined), a few plants dotted here and there, a wreath hanging on the door and a strand of lights twinkling around the doorway or window will all help to make your guests feel extra welcome. And if it snows? Shovel your driveway and salt your path – you really don’t want a trip to the A&E department due to a broken ankle on Christmas Eve, do you?
- For overnight guests, make their stay extra special by providing them with fresh towels, freshly washed and made beds – and if you have space – hangers, fresh flowers, and a fluffy dressing gown and slippers. The hotel experience, as we like to call it!
Source: Good Housekeeping
Old favourites like kissing under the mistletoe, unwrapping one gift on Christmas Eve and laying out a mince pie, glass of whisky and a carrot for Santa and Rudolph are all brilliant Christmas traditions, but sometimes, it can be lovely to add new family traditions that are completely unique to you and yours! Maybe you leave the stockings to be opened after Christmas dinner, play a game of Scrabble in the morning or always have scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and bagels for breakfast. Whatever it is, celebrate this Christmas in style with your own traditions – and if you’re stuck for ideas, check out our list.
- As an alternative to opening all of the presents at 6am in the morning – and Christmas being “over” by 7am, plan to open the gifts after lunch. To keep the children (and you!) going through the day, open “taster” gifts from the pound shop (or similar) every hour or so starting from around 11, as a fun way to gather you all together until you sit down and eat lunch. Plus, opening the presents and playing with them will tire the kids out which means that they’ll go to bed ready for sleep – bonus!
- Give each family member a new pair of pyjamas, slippers or a dressing gown on Christmas Eve so that they can wake up on Christmas morning nice and snug in their new winter warmers. Good for photos, too. If you have pets, don’t forget them!
- If you find Boxing Day boring, try and make it as much of a fun day as Christmas Day itself. If you’re lucky enough for it to snow, go toboganning, or sledding. Or, you could always go shopping or to the local pantomine. If you always make a point of doing something on Boxing Day, be it watching Christmas films in your pyjamas with a box of popcorn or visiting family and having a nice meal out somewhere, when Christmas is over, it won’t feel quite so anti-climactic.
- If there’s a cause that’s close to your heart, try to include it in your Christmas traditions. A lovely thing to do – that’ll also make a big impact on your children – is to visit the local hospital, carehome or dog kennels. Make a donation, visit with the patients and do something for someone else! It’ll be good for them, good for you and it’ll also boost staff morale, too. If you can’t make a donation of money, make a donation of time – it’ll be appreciated by everyone.
- Something you can do in the day or days before Christmas is spend a few hours in the woods gathering holly and pine cones – lovely and Christmassy, but completely free!
It might be the most wonderful time of the year (for children, mostly) but for many of us, Christmas leaves us stressed, overworked, stuffed and a bit of a nervous wreck by the time January rolls around after all of the parties/relatives/gift-giving takes all of the fun out of the festivities – not to mention the amount everything costs. But, you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy Christmas, nor do you have to sign up to a catalogue to start saving money a year in advance. Just have a look at these money saving tips to get you started.
- Remember that Christmas is but once a year – it happens every year, it happens on December the 25th, and you have 365 days to prepare for it. It’s not a surprise. Sorry! Rushing and huffing and rushing and huffing on December 24th will stress you out more than you ever could have thought imaginable, so say goodbye to the stress, make a list and get your Christmas shipping done and dusted online by the beginning of December. If you’re brave, wait for the Black Friday sales. If not – or if you’re very very organised, buy your gifts in January.
- Don’t buy gifts just because you’re expected to. Gift sets of smellies or beauty products can be lovely but they often go untouched and unopened. Make a pact to give to children only, or just give a nice card instead. If you have a big expense coming up, such as a house purchase or a wedding, this is generally easier – but if you’re a little bit tired of giving gifts that will never be used or likely re-gifted, start giving thoughtful gifts (that means you do really have to put thought into them, for example, a framed photograph of their children), or no gift at all – or an experience instead of a material gift. Coupon websites offer a great array of experiences and are a unique alternative gift for the couple that seemingly has everything – plus, it shows a lot more thought than a gift set of foot cream and shea butter. If you must give gifts, you could always put a cap on the price spent, or ask for something homemade instead – homemade jams and chocolates always go down a treat and when made for more than 4 or 5 people are really rather cheap, too.
- Want to give? But don’t want to go retail crazy? You could always donate to charity. Alternatively, have a nosy around a few charity shops. Many fully wrapped gift sets, brand new books and antique jewellery end up in charity shops for mere pence – you’re getting gifts for next to money and doing something good for charity! What more could you want!
- IOU. Yep, we know, you probably think it’s a cheapskate’s way out, but hear us out. If you’re the type to give big at Christmas but can’t this year for one reason or another, consider giving small gifts, then presenting your recipient with an IOU for when Christmas is out of the way – for example, IOU a slap up meal with plenty of wine will be a lovely way to say to close family members “Sorry I can’t give you as much as I normally do, but I still want to do something special for you when Christmas is out of the way”.
- Rent, don’t buy. If you’re struggling for space or need new furniture, don’t buy new, especially if you’re minding the pennies – rent some for a few days instead.
Source: Money Saving Expert
If you don’t usually have guests, Christmas can be a real nightmare – particularly if you have to put up family members that you only see once every few years, and you’re not used to cooking. It can be very much like being thrown in at the deep end of a very cold, very glittery, very noisy swimming pool. Fear not – with preparation, love, care and a good dose of tidying up (and hopefully, help from friends/family/anyone you can rope in), you can transform your home into a winter wonderland without having to worry about catering to everyone’s whims and needs. Make sure that you have enough seats for bums and beds for bodies and you’ll be pretty much on the right path.
In part one of our series, we share all of the tips, tricks and techniques you’ll need to employ to get your home ship-shape for guests this Christmas.
- First, you’ll need to get organised. What do you need? How many guests have you got? How many people are staying over? How many people are eating? How many people are vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free/paleo etc etc etc? Know what you’re dealing with and you’ll be much more able to cope with it! Plan out where you’re going to put everyone, where grandma can sleep – for example, she’s going to need a much more sturdy bed than your little cousins – how many people can fit round the dinner table and how many/which dishes you’re going to cook.
- If you need extra beds, chairs, tables or any other furniture – and you’re only going to use it once a year on Christmas day, don’t buy brand new stuff! Just hire it instead. There’s really no need to use that much of your budget, especially if you’re not going to use the furniture again. Use what you would have spent on food (and booze) instead – eat, drink and be merry!
- When you’re sorting out your Christmas dinner, make a list of all of the dishes you’re going to cook, who is going to eat what, when you’re going to serve what, and how you need to cook each dish. For example, if you’re serving up food to people with allergies, you do need to be really careful about cooking food in certain pots to make sure that there’s no cross-contamination. If you think it’ll help, write yourself up a timetable – prep time, cooking time, when stuff goes in the oven/on the hob, when to take it out, when to serve it, when to put the next dish in the oven etc. It’ll keep you on track, which should help to take some of the stress out of the day. Or, pre-approve a dish with each guest and ask them to bring it with them to give you less work to do – then, all you need to do is warm everything through. Oh, and the most useful tip of all – always, always use foil baking tins and roasting trays. You will not regret it, particularly when you don’t have to stand at a sink scrubbing a tin with 4 hours’ worth of baked-on turkey skin stuck to it.
Come back next week for part two.
We know, we know. The Christmas ads start earlier and earlier every year. But as the saying goes, if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail – so even if you don’t want to start thinking about Christmas until December, it’s worth planning your decorations in advance so that you can pop up the tree and make the house look festive in a flash, without having to worry about what to put where.
- Inject a bit of sparkle by hanging baubles from surprising spots in the house, as in the image above from a chandelier. You could also hang ’em from door handles, cupboard doors – basically, anything that you can drape them over. They also look fab piled into a pretty bowl.
- You can create a festive look without going over the top. Use white fairy lights, silver and mercury finishes and voltive candles for an elegant, pared-back approach that’ll still look chic in the New Year.
- Using winter florals and pinecones is a really simple way to add a bit of winter flair to your home without breaking the bank – plus, it’s wonderfully seasonal, too, as you can head to the woods with the kids and pick your own ornaments. Think of it as your very own Christmas tradition.
- For a cool and quirky Christmas centrepiece, pile a three-tier cake stand with baubles, beads, pine cones and ribbons, and position a few fairy lights here and there to make the ornaments sparkle. Or, you know, use the cake stand to display cake. Cake is always a great centrepiece – particularly with a Christmassy sprinkling of icing sugar snow.
- There is something about green holly and boxwood that immediately makes you feel wonderfully festive – and although it’s usually paired with deep, dark red, why not pair it with something a little bit different, like bright orange, turquoise or pink? It’ll add an unexpected and modern twist to your festive fayre.
- Things like vintage toys are unexpectedly festive, so why not pop to your local charity shop or antique fair and buy some vintage toys? Display them in a little tableau on a side table for a lovely and rather unusual Christmas display.
- Settle on a theme. Red and white are known festive hues, so you could recreate your usual decor with Christmassy-decor – for example, fill mason jars with red and white candy, candy canes, red pine cones, then hang up a framed print of the word “JOY” in place of your usual artwork. It’s an unusual way to decorate, but it’s really lovely, as your decorations slip right into your usual scheme so nothing feels overdone.
Source: Style at Home