Does the thought of Christmas and all that planning often fill you with panic? The key to a stress-free festive season is to plan ahead, so here are some ways of ensuring your days are merry and bright – rather than a bit of a fright.

Image courtesy of gazrock/

Image courtesy of gazrock/

Christmas Day without lots of food would be something of a disaster. Make a list of exactly what you want to buy, so you don’t get too swept up in all the offers on things you don’t really need. Start buying non-perishable items early in December and use up the items in your freezer so that you have room for anything you want to freeze over the festive period. Whether you’re getting your festive meat from the local butcher or the local supermarket, you’ll need to order by a certain date, so make sure you know what you want, the right quantities and when you will need to order it by. You should consider ordering your fresher items (such as milk, bread and vegetables) online and arranging a delivery or in-store collection for Christmas Eve or a day or so before. This way everything comes to your door or is packed ready for you to turn up and collect it. You beat the rush of shoppers trying to buy the last milk on the shelf and you also get fresh items that will last you over the festive period. In terms of cooking Christmas dinner, a lot of veg can be prepared the night before, and some people even cook their turkey on Christmas Eve to minimise the stress on the day.

Christmas cards and presents
If you plan on sending Christmas cards, start early, as it may take you a while to get through them all. Make a list of everyone you would like to send a card to, and check that you have their correct addresses. Buy plenty of stamps, and for speed and convenience, consider printing address labels on your computer. Make sure you find out the last postage date, and set aside a bit of time over a few nights to get the cards all written in time, ticking each person/family off your list as you go. When it comes to gift buying, the first thing to do is make a list of everyone (and we mean EVERYONE) that you need to buy a gift for. You should then set a budget, as sometimes it’s very easy to get carried away, especially if you pay for things on a credit card. Buy more wrapping paper and sticky tape than you think you’ll need, so you don’t run out mid way through wrapping a gift. Wrap presents as you buy them, and label gifts as appropriate.

Going away
If you’re visiting family or friends this Christmas, you should check that your car is up to scratch, particularly if you have a long journey ahead. If you are going to travel by plane or train, you should book your tickets as early as you can in advance to get the best price. With trains, it may be cheaper to buy two single tickets rather than a return one, or if you have to change trains at any point, buying separate tickets for each leg of your journey. Set aside some time to do a bit of research into the best deal, rather than just paying for the first option you find. Check that your go-to suitcase is still intact, and if you have pets, remember that you will need to make arrangements for them to stay at a kennel or pet hotel.

Suit hire
If you’ve got a special occasion – perhaps even a wedding – over the Christmas period, you may need to think about hiring a suit. Staff can advise you on appropriate fit and styles so that you go away happy and comfortable. If you have your own suit, check if it needs dry cleaning ahead of the event. It’s no good checking the day before and discovering you need it cleaned.

Hair and beauty
Everyone wants to look their best at Christmas, so hairdressers and beauticians find themselves in huge demand. If you know you’re going to want a haircut and colour or your nails done just before Christmas, make your appointment as soon as you can to ensure you are fitted in.

If you’ve received an invite to a party, meal out or a school Christmas concert, make sure you write down the details on your calendar or in your diary. Keep your diary or calendar somewhere you know where to find it, so that when the next invite arrives, you’ll know straight away if you are free and able to attend.

Going on a work Christmas party or catching up with old friends for a meal out in the lead up to the big day? Local taxi companies are always in huge demand once the party season has kicked off, so it’s important to plan in advance if you’re thinking of having a few festive drinks. You could investigate the cost of minibus hire to take you home if a large group of you live close together, or you could hire a limousine to add some glamour to your night out.