It’s no secret that the holidays are hard. Time commitments, get-togethers, quality family time, fun friend time, finishing up 80 work projects in 2 weeks of office time — it’s all a constant juggle and feat to get everything to keep running smoothly and with plenty of holiday joy. So do yourself (and your sanity) a favor: Take a breath, relax, and read these tips before conquering the season. Because if there’s one thing about the holidays that we know to be true, is that they’re gone as quickly as they sneak up on you. (Did we just make up a new holiday poem? You’re welcome.)
Create a budget — and stick to it
Holiday gifts, décor, food, keeping kiddos happy when you have to make all those stops — it all costs money. So make sure you’re getting your money’s worth by creating a thorough line budget and sticking to it. The easiest way to do this is literally creating an Xcel doc or Google Sheet for every single thing you have to buy, and allotting a specific amount to go towards the expense.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to itemize gifts so you never forget someone from your list. This means in-laws, siblings’ significant others, etc. And don’t forget your doorman and/or super, mailman (though they have certain rules, as they’re federal employees!), and other people who touch your daily life. A few easy go-tos? Movie, drugstore, or Grubhub gift cards will be used up in a snap and are easy to keep on hand for any surprise additions. If you’re nervous to drop a lot of dough on presents, find some creative ways to give to the people in your life. “My husband’s siblings and spouses decided to do a small grab bag instead of trying to get individual gifts for everyone,” says Catherine Kaffer, 35, mom of a three-year-old son in Wheeling, IL. “In my extended family, we often exchange baked/handmade goods or fun things like lotto tickets because there are so many people.”
Use cashback rewards, points, and perks wisely (now’s the time)
Speaking of budgeting, now’s the time to look up all those reward points you’ve been accumulating throughout the year and put them to good use. Think: credit card points, hotel rewards programs, airline miles, and online shopping cashback tools. ‘Tis the season to use those rewards. Create a sheet with all of them listed (so you know the amount) and book your family travel arrangements for flights back home to see family or book a nearby hotel for your parents coming into town (hey, who says you have to use the guest room? This is a gift to yourself). You can also use miles (they can be redeemed for things, not just travel!) and rewards points for gifts for everyone — this is basically free money, use it!
Now’s the time to lean into money-saving perks, too. Take the time to make sure you’re getting the best deal, on everything from your flights to your ride-shares to your food orders. Say you’re wiped out from a long day of holiday shopping and ready to order in for dinner. Save extra dollars by using Grubhub Perks, and get some free food when you order from a new restaurant. Free poke bowl, secured.
Keep holiday entertaining easy
Cooking a great meal is so satisfying, but it’s also a major holiday stressor. Don’t let it get you down. Use Grubhub yet again to avoid long lines at grocery stores or stressful hours in the kitchen by getting the whole meal delivered. Or, with Grubhub’s pre-order feature you can really plan ahead; order everyone’s favorite dishes hours (or even days) before your get-together.
“Between two full-time jobs and two kids under three, cooking is the last thing on our list — plus we can’t fit much in our tiny NYC kitchen…” says Amy Hartford, a product manager and mom of two. “So when we have family over for the holidays, we order the whole meal and have it delivered a few hours before our guests arrive. That way, all we have to do is set the table, so we can focus on wrangling the kids into order before anyone arrives.” Easy.
And even if you’re hosting a large party, Grubhub partners with tons of restaurants to also offer catering for delivery. Another reason to cater with Grubhub — you can order in the food people will actually devour. Dump the tasteless hor’s d’ouerves and have fun with it. Woodfired pizzas from the restaurant with the hardest table to get? A smattering of tacos, chips, and guac? Dumplings galore? It’s the most surefire way to make your guests happy (and raving about your party for weeks to come).
Hack your holiday travel
Let’s face it: traveling this season is never easy. But with a bit of planning and mindful hacks, you can make holiday travel work for you. Can’t fit the presents in your suitcase? Shop online ahead of time and have your gifts delivered to your destination. Can’t fit anything in your suitcase? Packing cubes can help you save space and stay organized while you travel. Panicked over the power situation for the multiple phones, tablets, and laptops needed to entertain the whole family on the flight? Order a universal power pack to charge everyone’s devices. Know you’ll be getting off the plane with a hangry family? Use Grubhub to order food ahead of time, even scheduling your order to meet you at home after your flight. Or try out Grubhub’s pick-up feature and just swing by your favorite restaurant on the way home — plus skip some lines while you’re at it.
Take time for you
“De-stress [during the holidays]? What’s that?” jokes Catherine Kaffer, mom of one three-year-old son in Wheeling, IL. Trust us, we get it. This time isn’t just for everyone else, it’s for you, too. Take a much-needed breather from responsibilities and interactions and schedule in a facial, massage, or just some alone time with your favorite book. Whatever you think will recharge you and get you back to being the best version of yourself. “I try to take time for myself whenever possible, even if it’s just to get a haircut,” says Kaffer.
Want some company (and some quality time with your loved ones)? Schedule a night-in with your significant other (and the kids) in-between get-togethers. Each of you can order what you like on Grubhub, have it delivered, and rent a movie from your favorite streaming app. Turn off the phone and get ready to settle in before an early night’s sleep.
And speaking of Grubhub, on jam-packed days when you have last-minute gifts to buy, holiday parties or recitals to attend, schedule your Grubhub order during the calmer morning hours so dinner arrives painlessly when everyone finally makes it home.
Share the wealth and pay it forward
Not everyone has it easy during this time. Gratitude goes a long way, and giving back to your community is one way to raise some spirits (including yours) this holiday. Try looking up volunteering opportunities at your local shelters, food banks, or retirement homes. Kortney Dibert, wife and mom of three in South Bend, Ind., says her family adopted a family through a charity this year, and the kids helped her shop and wrap gifts for them. “I think it’s important for my kids to learn how to give back around the holidays,” she says. “We’d been talking about it for a while so they were really excited to shop for this family.”
Crazed enough with time constraints? Don’t feel guilty, but do feel free to share the wealth — put together care packages or donate to your favorite local charity so they can continue to make a difference. (If you’re donating to a national charity, make sure to look them up and see their track record of spending funds!) Even the smallest actions, like donating the change from your Grubhub order to No Kid Hungry, can go a long way. And who knows, maybe your month-long campaign to give back during the holidays will build through the rest of the year — because the holidays aren’t the only time we’re all needed.
Yes, this time is stressful, but it doesn’t have to be by keeping things simple, having a plan, and remembering to take time out to breathe, you can come out of the holiday season merry and bright. (And full, too.)