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I’ve put together a complete Christmas to do list of all the things that need to be done in the run-up to 25th December. Plus, you can download a free printable PDF version to use as your trusty Christmas planning checklist.
HOW AND WHEN TO START PLANNING FOR YOUR FAMILY CHRISTMAS
Clearly, no two Christmases are alike, but you will find my complete Christmas to do list useful if you are looking for guidance on the best way to plan and prepare for Christmas.
After numerous years of planning and hosting Christmas, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is best to start planning at the beginning of October.
This means there are 12 whole weeks during which to get everything ready for the big day, and there is plenty of time to get the heavy lifting done before the festive season kicks into gear in early December.
Planning several weeks ahead of time is by far the best approach to keep stress levels down and make sure you have enough energy to actually enjoy the festive holiday season.
I cover off the budgeting and main planning in October.
I use November for the bulk of the doing – buying gifts, buying cards and getting them written and ready to be sent, and getting the bones of the grocery list and order in place.
This means that December can be for the more fun stuff, like decorating the home and wrapping gifts.
If you need further incentive to start planning early this year, bear in mind the money-saving aspect of being en pointe with your festive organisation.
Giving yourself plenty of time to plan and get prepared helps you avoid last-minute panic buying at inflated prices or buying stuff you don’t really need.
Easy access: Jump to grab your free printable to do list
A COMPLETE CHRISTMAS TO DO LIST THAT WORKS
Let me walk you through every item on my Christmas to do list. Your list won’t be exactly the same as mine, but you can cherry-pick the things you need to get done, which will help you get organised this year.
DEFINE A BUDGET
Christmas is an expensive time of year, so it is best to work out a budget right at the start of the planning process.
Make sure to draw up a budget that works for you and your family. Consider things like:
- The costs of hosting Christmas – Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Christmas party, New Year’s Eve
- Food and drink
- Travel expenses if you are going away or to spend time with family
- Gifts – It’s worth breaking this down into individual budgets
- Christmas decorations
- Charitable donations
It’s much better to plan according to what you can afford rather than overspending and then worrying about how you’ll pay it all off.
AGREE YOUR CHRISTMAS PLAN – WHO AND WHERE
October is the ideal time to consider where you and your family will actually spend Christmas.
Will you be hosting Christmas Day or Boxing Day at home? If you are hosting Christmas, who will be joining you?
Will you have overnight guests, and if so, what do you need to do to ready your home for guests?
The sooner you know who is hosting Christmas and where you need to be, the better, especially if you are the one hosting.
CHECK/BOOK ANNUAL LEAVE
It’s awful that it has to be so dog-eat-dog when it comes to booking annual leave. But if your employer doesn’t shut down over the festive season, you want to make sure you can have the days you want or need off.
PLAN TRAVEL/BOOK TICKETS
Whether you need to be someone for Christmas Day or want to head off skiing or somewhere else during the festive season, booking early means you don’t miss out on travelling at the times, you want and can usually secure you the best prices.
START GIFT LIST AND ADDING IDEAS
It’s never too early to start a Christmas gift list. You can always cherry-pick or remove ideas as time goes on.
But hopefully, you will end up with a great list of gifts that fit within your budget; ensure you can buy them in plenty of time to get them at a good price, and you won’t have to panic buy at the last minute.
You can use my Christmas gift planner. It allows you to set a budget and keep track of the cost of each item on the list.
UPDATE CHRISTMAS CARD LIST
Even if you love sending Christmas cards, it is one chore that it feels very good to get out of the way in plenty of time.
The first step is making sure you have a list of everyone you want or need to send a card to, complete with the correct address for each person or family. This way, you know how many cards and stamps you will need.
BOOK TICKETS FOR CHRISTMAS EVENTS
The most popular events get booked up very quickly, so make sure to get in early booking tickets for Christmas shows, pantomimes and concerts.
SEND OUT SAVE THE DATE FOR CHRISTMAS PARTY
If you plan on having a few people over for a festive get-together, send out a nice and early Save The Date. There are only so many party days/evenings during the festive season, so bag a good one by getting ahead of the game.
START ADDING EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES TO YOUR CALENDAR
Add dates for family gatherings, parties, events, shows and activities the second you have them confirmed. This way, you won’t double-book or pack your family diary so tightly that there is no downtime.
CHECK WHAT YOU NEED TO HOST OVERNIGHT GUESTS
Making sure you have everything you need to host guests overnight is a chore that pays to be done early.
Does your airbed still inflate (and stay inflated!)? Do you have enough towels and bedding? Is there enough room, or do you need to find alternative accommodation for guest overspill?
CHECK YOU HAVE ENOUGH CROCKERY AND CUTLERY
There is nothing worse than getting to Christmas Eve and realising you don’t have enough stuff to prepare food with, serve food on or for people to eat with. So do a little inventory check of things like the following:
- Crockery – plates, bowls, side plates
- Glassware – wine glasses, champagne flutes or coupes, water glasses, tumblers for soft drinks
- Tableware – dishes, bowls, platters, serving tools
- Cookware – pots, pans, trays, dishes
BOOK VISIT TO SANTA CLAUS
Get that visit to Santa spot pinned down!
BOOK SUPERMARKET DELIVERY SLOT
Make sure you have your supermarket delivery slot booked so you don’t end up having to have it at a really inconvenient time, or worse still, have to go to the supermarket during peak festive buying time – unless you want to.
I’ve only really got into having a wreath on the door in the last few years, but there is nothing like a wreath-making get-together with a few friends and a glass or two of bubbles to get into the festive spirit. This is why these things book up really quickly, so make sure you don’t miss out.
PLAN DECOR THEME AND BUY SUPPLIES
Whether you like to choose a different theme each year or build on the collection of decorations you already have, it’s a good idea to make sure that you have an idea of what you have and what you need to buy.
TAKE PHOTO FOR CHRISTMAS CARD
Don’t forget to plan in time to get everyone together for that all-important photo for your family Christmas card. Diaries can get very booked up, so the sooner you get this done, the better.
ORDER FAMILY PHOTO CHRISTMAS CARDS AND BUY ADDITIONAL CARDS
Make sure you’ve ordered your family photo card and bought any additional cards you need in plenty of time to be able to write them, address them and send them off in time for the start of the festive season.
I use Canva for pretty much all my designing. It’s got some lovely Christmas card templates that you can then send off directly to be printed. I’ve always been really happy with the quality of the cards and service.
ORDER CHRISTMAS POSTAGE ONLINE
I love that ordering or buying all Christmas postage online is now possible. No more suffering in long queues at the post office or having to race back to buy more stamps because you’ve run out.
- Royal Mail Christmas stamps available 2 November 2023
- USPS Christmas stamps available 11 October 2023
ORDER CHRISTMAS STOCKINGS OR SACKS
Check that any existing stockings or sacks are fit for purpose (size, condition) and buy new ones if need be.
BUY OR MAKE ADVENT CALENDAR
The whole Advent calendar thing has gone nuts in recent years. Whether you like to keep things traditional with a classic chocolate-behind-each-door calendar or go all out with one of the latest influx of gift-laden calendars, make sure to buy it sooner rather than later.
Some Advent calendars have reached cult product status, and many of the most popular sell out really quickly.
Alternatively, get in nice and early if you want to make your own or have a reusable calendar that you need to fill with clever little trinkets.
PLAN CHRISTMAS FOOD MENU
Whether you like to keep things traditional or go for something a little different, the key to it all coming together without turning into a massively stressful operation is to plan it all out, from canapes or pre-lunch nibbles to cheeseboard or giant box of assorted chocolates.
Useful: Easy Christmas dinner menu.
ORDER CHRISTMAS TURKEY
It is always worth ordering your Christmas turkey well in advance. The same goes for any other meat you might have alongside or instead of turkey.
Never quite sure how big a turkey to order. Use the BBC Food turkey portion planner.
PUT TOGETHER CHRISTMAS DELIVERY ORDER
I must confess that I secure my annual Christmas delivery booking, which always requires a higher-than-normal minimum spend, by initially filling my trolley with bottles of fizz until I am ready to add the actual items I need.
Getting in early means you can ensure you’ve secured stuff that might otherwise sell out, and also, you have the joy of simply knowing it’s a big job well done.
MAKE CHRISTMAS CAKE/CHRISTMAS PUDDING
The traditional day to make Christmas cake and Christmas pudding is Stir Up Sunday, which falls on the last Sunday before Advent.
Stir Up Sunday is a lovely tradition to introduce if you’ve yet to do it. It’s a lovely reason to gather all the family to spend quality time creating something everyone can later enjoy.
Useful: Stir Up Sunday is 26th November 2023.
SHOP BLACK FRIDAY FOR GIFTS
My rule of thumb is to wait until the Black Friday sales to buy main Christmas gifts. I think we are all well aware that not all ‘bargain’ prices are as they seem during Black Friday, so it’s always worth doing a little research to know what genuinely is a good price.
Useful: Black Friday is 24th November 2023. Use my Black Friday Shopping Tips to win at Black Friday.
BUY CHRISTMAS GIFTS
Once I’ve done a Black Friday shop, I go ahead and get all the rest of my gift shopping done before the end of December.
There might be the odd thing or two I buy after that point, but believe me; it is so nice to know that all the gifts are bought and ready to be wrapped.
WRITE AND SEND CHRISTMAS CARDS
Achieving the zen-state of ‘Christmas cards all written and sent’ just before the start of the festive season is unbeatable.
Don’t forget to keep a couple of cards back for the obligatory card that arrives from someone you’ve forgotten to send to scenario.
BUY WRAPPING PAPER/GIFT TAGS/SELLOTAPE
Always make sure you have plenty of Sellotape. Recycle paper where possible, and make tags from the previous year’s Christmas cards.
In my opinion, having a darned good pre-Christmas declutter is an essential step in the process of being able to actually enjoy Christmas.
TAKE DONATIONS TO CHARITY
Whether your donations are the result of decluttering or you have the time to make, bake, or craft something, make sure to get them to your local charity in enough time for them to profit from or use them over the festive season.
My family has a long tradition of donating to the homeless charity Crisis At Christmas.
WRAP AND MAIL GIFTS THAT NEED SENDING
I tend to use biodegradable mailing bags whenever possible; they are lightweight and easy to use.
BUY CHRISTMAS TREE AND DECORATE
Does anything beat the scent of a real Christmas tree during the festive season? Not all fir trees have the same scent, so here’s a quick guide:
- Balsam Fir: Rich and delicious scent that is often considered to be the most Christmassy
- Fraser Fir: Mellow aroma similar to that of a balsam fir
- Douglas Fir: Sweet, citrusy scent
- Noble Fir: Distinct, spicy scent that is typically characterised as piney or earthy
PUT UP CHRISTMAS DECOR
Hopefully, if you’ve used my Christmas Decor Planner, the task of making your house look wonderfully festive will be an easy one.
BUY STOCKING STUFFERS/CHRISTMAS EVE BOX FILLERS
MAKE/BUY CHRISTMAS WREATH AND HANG IT
Get the most out of your Christmas wreath by hanging it as early as possible in December.
Useful: Christmas Wreath inspiration
BUY CHRISTMAS PUZZLES/GAMES
Our family tradition is to always have a large and complicated jigsaw puzzle on the go during the festive period. Anyone is allowed to take a turn putting it together. It’s a useful distraction for lulls in festive activities and great as an ice-breaker.
Christmas is also one of those times of the year when everyone can relax and have time to enjoy playing games. So, make sure you’ve got a good selection to hand.
I’ve put together a roundup of some great Christmas party games that work well for all the family.
BUY BATTERIES/BIN BAGS/MATCHES
Make sure to stock up on the basics you need to keep Christmas flowing – batteries for toys that come without them included, bin bags for swift clearing-up sessions and matches or electric lighters for festive candles.
STOCK UP ON EXTRA-WIDE FOIL FOR TURKEY
Just a little reminder that turkeys need a LOT of foil, so don’t get caught out by not having extra-wide foil.
WRAP CHRISTMAS GIFTS AND STOCKING STUFFERS
If you find wrapping gifts as challenging as I do, you’ll find this video guide to wrapping gifts really useful.
Hallmark also has many other gift-wrapping tutorials on its YouTube channel, covering everything from wrapping gifts with confetti to wrapping festive treats.
PLACE GIFTS UNDER THE TREE
Every family has a different idea of when gifts go under the tree. Our rule is that gifts from friends and family and for friends and family go under the tree as soon as they are received or wrapped.
FINAL GROCERY LIST CHECK
It’s always worth sitting quietly and going through your grocery list one final time. I can pretty much guarantee that there will always be at least one addition that you need to make.
PUT CHRISTMAS EVE BOXES TOGETHER
If you follow the Christmas Eve box tradition, you’ll need to set some time aside to package them up, ready for the kids to receive them on Christmas Eve.
DO BIG CHRISTMAS GROCERY SHOP/TAKE DELIVERY
This is likely to be the largest influx of food to your home for the year, so it pays to spend time organising it well. Either group things by meal or by use-by date, so you make sure to minimise waste.
DECORATE CHRISTMAS CAKE
Not everyone decorates the Christmas cake, but if you are planning to, take a look at my roundup of Christmas cake decorating ideas.
PUT TOGETHER CHRISTMAS TABLE CENTREPIECE
Having a Christmas table centrepiece is lovely if you’re hosting Christmas. I also find it nice to be able to sit and do something creative that takes my mind off of all the organising and rushing around.
PUT TOGETHER CHRISTMAS DAY TIMELINE
I know this sounds like the dullest thing ever, but it really does help to sit down and go through the timings for Christmas Day. Include everyone who will be actively involved in making Christmas Day happen.
Think about things like when to put the turkey in the oven and do breakfast or brunch. Who will be arriving and when? How you want the flow of the day to work.
HANG CHRISTMAS STOCKINGS
Finally, we’re getting to the magical bits. The excitement and joy on the faces of the kids when the Christmas stockings get hung is unbeatable.
Finally, we’ve arrived at the amazing parts. The thrill and excitement on the children’s faces when their Christmas stockings are hanging is unrivalled.
LEAVE MINCE PIE/BRANDY OUT FOR SANTA AND A CARROT FOR RUDOLPH
Leaving out a mince pie (or cookie or Christmassy sweet treat) is one of my favourite Christmas Eve traditions.
It’s a great way to focus excited kids before they head off to bed, a useful reminder that they need to be asleep so that Santa and Rudolph will stop by!
HOW TO DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CHRISTMAS TO DO LIST PRINTABLE PDF
I’ve kept the Christmas to do list printable PDF to a single sheet so that it is super easy to download, use and check as you work your way towards Christmas.
If you’re already a subscriber to Mums Make Lists, you can go right ahead and click the image or link below to download your copy of the free printable Christmas to do list.
Yet to subscribe? Then you will need to unlock this exclusive content by subscribing. It literally takes seconds.
CHRISTMAS TO DO LIST: THE WEEK-BY-WEEK PLANNER
I have broken the complete 12-week Christmas to do list down into a week-by-week planner for the benefit of anyone who feels overwhelmed by the month-by-month list.
- Agree on family Christmas plan for Christmas day – who and where
- Check/book annual leave
- Plan travel/book tickets
- Define a budget
- Start a Christmas gift list and start adding ideas
- Update your Christmas card list
- Book tickets for Christmas events – pantomime, ice skating etc
- Put events and activities on your calendar – school plays, panto etc
- Send out Save The Date for Christmas party
- Check what you need to host overnight guests – towels, bedding etc
- Check you have enough crockery and cutlery
- Book Santa Claus visit
- Book supermarket delivery slot
- Book wreath making
- Decide Christmas decor theme (use my free printable decor planner)
- Take a family photo for Christmas card
- Order family photo Christmas card
- Buy additional Christmas cards
- Order Christmas stamps online (Royal Mail: available 2 November 2023, USPS: available 11 October 2023)
- Buy/make an Advent calendar
- Order Christmas stockings
- Order Christmas turkey
- Plan Christmas food menu (use my easy Christmas dinner menu)
- Put together Christmas online grocery order
- Make Christmas cake and pudding – Stir Up Sunday is 26th November 2022
- Get kids to write their letter to Santa/gift wishlist
- Do pre-Christmas declutter
- Take donations to charity
- Shop Black Friday (24 November 2023) for Christmas gifts
- Buy Christmas gifts
- Write Christmas cards and address envelopes
- Send Christmas cards
- Buy wrapping paper, gift tags and sellotape
- Wrap and mail gifts that need to be sent
- Buy a real Christmas tree and decorate
- Put up Christmas decor
- Buy stocking stuffers/Christmas Eve box fillers
- Make a Christmas wreath and hang it
- Buy Christmas puzzles/games
- Buy batteries, bin bags and matches/electric candle lighter
- Stock up on extra-wide foil for turkey and leftovers storage
- Wrap Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers
- Place gifts under the tree that aren’t being delivered by Santa
- Do the final grocery list check
- Put together Christmas Eve box/es
- Do big Christmas grocery shop/take delivery of food order
- Put together Christmas table centrepiece
- Put together a Christmas Eve/Christmas Day timeline.
- Hang stockings
- Leave mince pie/brandy out for Santa
- Carrot for Rudolph
Hello, I’m Luci, founder of Mums Make Lists (Est. 2011). Over the last decade or so, I have combined my experience as a mum, journalist and shopping editor to create useful guides and lists of ideas and inspiration to make it easier for busy parents to plan and host kids’ parties and find great gifts. Plus I create beautiful party printables, from invites to party games. Read more.