In our home, we don't focus on receiving. Instead, we focus A LOT on the joy of giving! There's always plenty of lively discussion about the perfect gifts for those who mean so much to us.
Advance Christmas planning is essential for me if we are to stick to a budget. I really despise shopping in December as the shops are way too busy for my liking. Long lineups full of grumpy people, and plenty of frenzied chaos all sap my energy and my Christmas spirit. Blah! My plan is very simple but very effective. I make 6 lists:
ACTIVITIES - This is for all the must do activities that the kids want to do such as a drive to see Christmas lights, sledding together, making gingerbread houses, a Christmas Eve walk, a family potluck, a cookie making party, etc.
FOOD/MENU PLAN - This is my list of the family's requested special treats for the holiday season. The list is pretty predictable, but every once in a while, they request something new or something that we haven't made for a long time. I try to ensure that we make each child's top pick :) I also record my menu plan for whatever meals we are hosting/preparing over the season on this list.
GIFT LIST - pretty self explanatory. A list of the people we give to and what we are giving them. This list evolves as we think of things to make/buy.
TO DO - this is for jobs that we need to do such as address & mail cards, put up lights, prepare for guests, decorate, etc.
TO MAKE - This is the list of things that we need to make. Many of my gifts are made this year already as I worked hard all summer making jam and soap to give in my gift baskets. I do need to get busy and make more soap, though!
TO BUY - This is my list of things that we need to purchase. I divide this list in two main lists and then, into several sub-categories.
a) to buy in advance (for advance cooking/baking or items that are not perishable)
b) to buy last minute (perishables)
* this list is always in flux depending on funds available, timeline, and what I'm working on. Items on this list could be things like craft supplies, gift items, clothing for the family, etc.
Now is a good time to quickly review our wardrobes to see if I need to make or buy something for wear over the Christmas season. I like to do this pretty early so that I have time to look in the thrift shops first before I spend money buying something new. I like to have 2 nice outfits for everyone (preferably mix and match separates) as we usually attend and host a few gatherings over the season.
....ALWAYS people before things :)