Avoiding Christmas craziness: Your best ever December starts in November


For the past two years I’ve had quite the cruisey December. So much so, I kind of assumed everyone else was having the same kind of nice time.

Turns out – not so, given I’ve recently been asked by four different publications/podcasts for my thoughts around having a less frantic December. Today I thought I’d summarise the things I shared with them.

Here are my best tips for making the run into the end of the year as chilled as possible. If you’re reading this in November, great, because that’s what’s going to give maximum ability to set up your December!

1. Make sure you don’t HAVE to go to a major shopping centre in December

  • The car park rage at having someone slip in and steal your parking spot after you’ve been waiting not-so-patiently for 10 minutes.
  • The ridiculously long line at the checkouts.
  • The sheer volume of people who are seriously on edge – and the angsty energy that goes with that.

Major shopping centres are not fun places to hang out in the last month of the year which is why  I spend November setting things up so I never have to go near one. Can you achieve this too? Sure you can. Here’s how:

1. Do all your Christmas shopping in November.

Yes, that’s right now. This current month. Most people are denial about Christmas in November which is why it’s perfect present buying time. So make your list, make some notes about what you might like to get each person, and then hit the shops with a plan of attack (i.e. I’ll get Johnny, Lizzy and Gary’s presents from Target, Mum and Dad from Dymocks, Suzy and Jenny from Pumpkin Patch etc). There is no reason why you can’t knock off your entire list in one afternoon with this approach. If you find yourself particularly stuck with certain people – buy them a voucher so they can take advantage of the great discounts in the after-Christmas sales. Or buy them an experience like movie tickets. And keep in mind you don’t HAVE to buy your Christmas presents from a major shopping centre. Why not buy online from small independent retailers. Like my friend Amy. That way, you don’t have to go to the shops at all!

2. Do your food shopping online

I’ve been doing my food shopping online for years and I’ve you’ve never tried it, this is a good time to start. If you’ve done all your Christmas shopping in November, and you do your food shopping online, that means even if you run out of something you can run down to your local IGA or fresh provisions store rather than needing to go a major centre.

2. Pre-Christmas catchups

Ah yes – those people we’ve not managed to catch up with all year. All of the sudden December is on the horizon and we’re saying things like ‘We must catch up before Christmas’. Why? Why set yourself up for Saturdays where you are going from one engagement to another and just as you’ve settled into one you have to hustle and get everyone in the car to get them to another place? It’s just crazy.

I have three three rules for December catch ups

  1. If we’ve not seen each other all year, we can catch up in that break between Christmas and the New Year. Or, even better, January.
  2. No more than one engagement per weekend ‘day’. i.e. Friday night, Saturday and Sunday. I actually aim to keep one weekend day each weekend in December completely free of plans. This gives us the flexibility to spontaneously catch up with someone we see out and about if we want to. Or go home and have a nap if we need too.
  3. Catch up for walks rather than a coffee or drinks. Walks are great. You don’t have to get dressed up. You can meet at someone’s house, or a mutually convenient location. You can walk with a coffee in your hand. You’re getting exercise at the same time. And walks don’t accidentally turn into boozy all-nighters.

3. Food and drink

I find people get caught between two extremes in December:

  • OMG summer is here – I need to look great in a bikini by Christmas Day
  • I don’t want to be obsessing about what I eat and drink in December – I’ll think about that stuff in January

How about we aim for something in between? We all know December is going to feature dinners and parties where there’s a lot of alcohol and delicious food on offer. You don’t want to spend all of December obsessing about ‘Oh, I shouldn’t have this or that’. You just want to have fun. These simple rules take all the agonising and second-guessing out of it for me

  1. Eat off a smaller plate. Yep, that’s it. Fill the small plate and eat just what can fit on there. The amount you fit on there will be enough to make you feel full – but not overstuffed. And yes, have dessert. But just one serve ok?
  2. Space alcoholic drinks with something like a soda, lime and bitters – something this is refreshing, hydrating … and can pass off as a vodka, lime and soda if your peers have a need for you to keep up with the alcohol they’re consuming. Where possible, stay away from pre-mixed drinks, diet sodas and full sugar sodas at this time of year. Stick with low carbohydrate beer, wine, champagne, spirits mixed with soda water, or spirits neat.

I also find it useful to do a bit of a ‘spring clean’ of my system in November. The program I do is this one. It goes for 21 days and I find it refreshes my eating habits and means I enter December feeling healthy and good about myself – and less inclined to treat my body badly by filling it with crap.

4. Exercise

20 minutes a day. That’s all. And it doesn’t even need to be all at once. Just move your body each day as this will help keep your mind in a non-frazzled state. Remember all those people who want to catch up with you? Like I said before – catch up with them for a walk. Two birds with one stone. Perfect.

5. Christmas Cards

Sending real Christmas Cards is nice isn’t it? People love getting those in the mail. But finding a time to get the family looking nice so you can take a picture, takes a bit of doing. How about this instead: wait until Christmas Day when you’re already all going to be in the same place at the same time AND looking nice, and take the picture there. Then, in January when things are a little less crazy and you actually have the headspace to write a nice, personal note to friends and family, send out ‘Happy New Year’ cards.

6. Take the higher ground

Face it, the end of the year is filled with irritations. Your racist uncle at Christmas lunch. The person who just cut in front of you at the checkout. The old family friend who just cannot see anything good in the world.

Here’s a promise I want you to make to yourself in November (so you have time to practice before the sheer volume of irritations makes it hard).

“I will not engage with negative behaviour.”

Don’t ‘pick your battles’ at this time of year. Simply refuse to battle. You’re going to come into contact with so many people and situations that are not part of the rest of your year. The energy you’re going to waste trying to change their mind about something they’re never going to change? Not worth it. The chilled out state of mind you’ll achieve by refusing to engage? Totally worth it.


Comments 25

  1. Wow Kelly what a helpful post. Last year we went on holidays in the week before as to escape the crazy rush. The weather was perfect less crowds at the beach too. You do have to be hyper organised and prepared to miss out on concerts and xmas parties etc but we were all less stressed. Also experiences rule for adults, theatre tickets, footy tickets, meals ALL welcomed! But for kids too, we are asking our families for contributions to send our 6year old to Matilda rather than an influx of gifts. Also, what about shopping handmade? Online via Facebook or etsy you can get vintage teatowel tote bags or tea keepers and then a handmade hat for a child. It keeps you away from the shops and its supporting someone else’s xmas!

    1. Oh wow that would have been awesome!

      A few years ago we went away in the first week of December and that was just so delightful!

      And I am compiling a post of handmade/small retailer people now so I can suggest people buy from them rather than the bigger retailers

  2. Do you not get wish lists from the people you are shopping for? I would like to start shopping early, but I won’t get their lists until the end of the month or December. I like shopping from the list so I know I am getting something they want.

  3. Absolutely amazing advice! I am a bit more slack this year, but I definitely think the biggest key is keeping your cool, no matter how organised or disorganised you are! A good attitude and the ability to pick your battles is definitely important!

  4. Great tips Kelly! I usually have great intentions for November, but it’s all too easy (for me anyway!) to get busy and not realise it’s December until it’s right on my doorstop.
    This year, I’m determined to make the change from a “best intentions” to an actual action list so that stuff actually gets done!
    Thanks again for the reminder of this…

    1. It’s so so easy for December to suddenly be all like HERE! And then next thing you know it’s Christmas. Hopefully this post is a good reminder for everyone that November is the best time to get on top of December. And a chilled out December is really worth it!

  5. This was a really informative post – some great ideas in it 🙂
    I like the family photo one on the actual day

    (typo in the first line for the shopping centre tip)

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  6. Just got the toy fundraising catalogues from my son’s daycare. Every time we go to anyone else’s house or into a store the kids ask for certain items to go on their gift ‘wishlist’. (The whole “what a cool thing. let’s add that to your wishlist” line has saved me from countless tantrums.) I am poised and ready to shop.

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  7. This is so perfect and much needed for me since I’m pregnant and due mid December! It’s the kick in the ass I needed to start thinking about Christmas now, we don’t need that extra stress in December.

    My early morning brain was a bit confused by the bikini talk though – December is freezing!!! …unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, duh! Blows my mind that you guys have Christmas in summer whenever I remember.

    1. Haha that whole Southern Hemisphere/Northern Hemisphere thing IS confusing!

      And I remember the year my son was born in July. I did all the Christmas shopping online that year and it was just the greatest thing ever!

  8. Love these tips Kelly! So helpful. I’ve been making a Christmas Gift list so now is a good a time as any to actually buy the gifts rather than sit on it until December!

    What is it about Christmas that makes everyone say “we must catch up for Christmas?”…even if you haven’t seen each other all year…!


  9. Your article is fabulous advice!!

    I have been doing this for years. I start my Christmas shopping in September and sometimes I have gifts before then because I pick up meaningful gifts for people as I see them. I keep my gifts organized in an app on my phone, that way I can see at a glance that I have already bought a gift for so and so and keep on top of my budget.

    I aim to have all of my presents bought and wrapped by Thanksgiving at the latest. The last 2 years, I wrapped presents at the end of October. This allows me 2 things. There are always last minute gifts that have to be bought, no matter how organized I am. If that happens, then no biggie, my other shopping is done.

    Being wrapped and ready to go by then allows me to cruise thru December and enjoy the family events we have and allows me the time to go look at Christmas lights with my husband and daughter or whatever other fun activities we find in our area. It allows me to be able to offer to bring an extra food dish to a party for a frazzled host, or help someone else who may need it. It allows me to attend my daughter’s Christmas plays and parties and be present. I don’t have to think that I should be getting shopping done, I can truly enjoy the moment I am in.

    Some people think I’m crazy for doing it this way, but mostly I receive comments from others wishing they were done or more on top of things or even worse, hearing how stressed out some people are because of the volume of things that need to be done.

    I have also found that keeping on top of my deep cleaning year round makes a significant difference during the holiday season. Keeping on top of deep cleaning year round lets me get all of the “last minute-for the party” deep cleaning in my home finished up in November. Come December, right before we host our family for Christmas, I have an very easy regular clean of my home to do and that’s it. I am not frantically running around trying to make my house presentable.

    These things any many of the things you mention in your article have been life changing for me, I too cruise thru December and Christmas feeling light and sometimes forgetting how stressed people are. I am thankful for the sanity I gain doing things this way. I know my family reaps the benefits of this as well.

    Happy mom, happy wife, happy life 😉

    Cheers to a relaxed and enjoyable holiday season!

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  10. Hi Kelly. I’ve been dragging my feet on sending Xmas cards to people and time is seriously running out. I sent handwritten cards to my family, and was planning to send ecards to close friends. But I’m so burnt dealing with other stuff I just can’t do it. Then I remembered your New Year card suggestion – brilliant! I reckon they’ll be more appreciated then anyway. So thank you for helping to preserve my sanity. Merry Christmas to you!

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