If you’ve been to any store lately you’ve seen that the holiday decorations have hit the stores. It’s the time of year that puts everyone in a good mood until the time that the family arrives on your doorstep. Then of course, the rush is on to get it all done in time. If you’re anything like me and my family, there are always last minute trips to the store to get everything that is needed for the dinner and the delivery of presents.

Now is the time to plan out your whole event. You should know now whether you are traveling to a relatives’ for the holiday or even just for dinner. It’s a good time to start planning your menu’s and your presents for the people on your list.

Here are a few things to make your holidays run a bit smoother:

Write a list of each person who is to receive a present. If you need to draw names, make it happen via email this week. Then select a budget for each person and draw the cash out and put it in envelopes. Make a vow to stay within the budget you’ve set.

Start by perusing the catalogs. It’s an easier way to shop. There are so many catalogs on line now so shopping on line will help you stay away from that crazy holiday rush.

Shopping in one place certainly saves time, and places like TJ MAX and Marshalls are old favorites and do carry affordable items for the whole family.

Once you’ve gotten the shopping done, it’s time to start the decorating. I usually purchase a few magazines specifically for the holidays and do one art project that will last. It’s been fun to see my projects through the years that took a day to make, but have been in our family for years. If you’re “crafty” enough, then these items make excellent gifts for your friends and neighbors. Presents like pinecone wreaths or candle covers are easy, fun to make and last for years.

Next, comes the cooking! This is the one that seems like it should wait, but in realty it’s a great time to start right now! We still have a few weekends before Thanksgiving and those early Saturday mornings are a great time to bake up and decorate holiday cookies and bars. In addition, homemade jellies and jams make excellent holiday gifts to share. My personal favorite is Hot Jezabel. I make it with pineapple and apricot jelly, horseradish, dry mustard and black pepper. It is delicious on top of cream cheese with crackers. Put in a cute jar, with a box of crackers, the recipe in a basket makes an affordable and delicious gift.

Get your kids dressed and head to the nearest hotel lobby for a beautiful holiday picture! Sure, you can go to a studio and spend upwards of $100, or you can get dressed and go to a nice hotel where you can take a picture that is classy and will impress your friends! Get them printed at Walmart and you’re good to go for your holiday newsletter and card!

Last but not least, understand that the holidays are some of the most stressful times of the year. If you have a family and are traveling or entertaining, you need to schedule some time for relaxing without doing anything. Book your manicure ahead of time or a fun cookie exchange evening out with the gals in advance.

Then kick back and enjoy the time this year. If you plan ahead this year, like you SAID you would last year, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the holidays creating memories, instead of stress!