Holiday Hacks: 9 Things To Do and Not Do

(Don't let stress turn you into "The Grinch")
Written by Greg Lewerer
Written by Greg Lewerer

Insurance doesn’t have to be boring. That’s why we hired Greg Lewerer to be our main insurance writer. Greg specializes in making mundane subjects entertaining. While still giving the needed information.

It's that time of year again, when the holidays are on the horizon and there's supposedly all kinds of magic happening. Too bad all you can really think about is the stress from having so much to do. But who could blame you? There's shopping, decorating, wrapping and all kinds of other stuff that has to get done. And you're on a tight deadline in which to do it all. Somehow.

But what if we told you that the holidays don't have to fill you with slow-burning rage from a seriously upped stress level, and that those fingernails can go an entire season unchewed? It's true - we made up a list of some do's and don'ts for the end of the year that can reorient your holiday cheer status from "super-negative" to "super-pumped" in no time. So check it out.

#1 - DO: Organize Your Decorations in Creative, Stress-Busting Ways

The thought of breaking out or breaking down all the decorations is enough to induce a bout of eye-rolling and heavy sighing from the get-go. Fortunately, with just a few simple household items you're guaranteed to already have lying around, you can make both processes much smoother. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Wrap holiday lights around a piece of cardboard to prevent tangles.
  • Keep beaded garlands in a water bottle to eliminate knots.
  • Cut toilet paper rolls and put them around rolls of wrapping paper to prevent unrolling.
  • Store ornaments in egg crates.
  • Store rolls of ribbon on a pants hanger for easy access and zero chaos.

#2 - DO: Hire a Cleaning Service

You've got a bunch of guests coming over. Too bad you haven't given your house a serious cleaning since the last holiday season. Why shoulder the burden of cleaning when you could get someone else to do it for you? If you've got the funds, give yourself one heck of a shortcut to the finish by just hiring a cleaning service. Shelling out money to someone else to do the (literal) dirty work for you can be a super-satisfying and stress-melting feeling. 

#3 - DO: Saran Wrap the Entire Christmas Tree Before Storing

Remember when decorating the Christmas tree was fun, until one day when it wasn't? At a certain point in time, dressing the tree becomes just another chore to add to the growing list of holiday prep tasks. But there's a ridiculously easy answer to this - one that's so obvious we actually hit ourselves with a facepalm for not having thought of it sooner. 

Once you've got the tree decorated to your ideal vision, instead of dismantling your creation piece-by-piece (only to fail to recreate the same end product next year), do yourself a huge favor and break out the Saran wrap. Wrap the entire tree, with ornaments and all, intact. That's right, turn that Christmas tree into a plastic mummified spark of genius. Then simply put the whole thing into the closet, smile, and do your victory dance for being such a pro.

#4 - DO: Use Your Cell Phone to Create Virtual Holiday Cards

No need to run out and buy all kinds of greeting cards, envelopes and stamps, or even bother with getting professional photos taken, then going to get those printed. Nah, why not just go the digital route and shorten the entire ordeal by like a billion times? That's right, just take out your cell phone, set the timer and take a few family portraits (until you get one where everyone's not blinking or about to sneeze).

Once you've got your photo, use your phone's fancy photo editing features to create a nice holiday border or add text and maybe a smiley or two. (You can also download other apps to get even more creative with your photo editing). When you're all done, just text, email, FaceBook message or tweet out your photo to all your extended family and friends. Boom.

#5 - DO: Reuse Halloween Pumpkins/Gourds to Make Snowmen 

If you've managed to keep the squirrels from eating your leftover pumpkins and gourds from Halloween this long, you might as well reward yourself by putting them to another good use. The ones that weren't carved into spooky or hilarious jack-o'-lanterns can be repurposed into some convincing and cute snowmen, with just a little bit of paint and a couple of extra materials. Don't believe us? Check this out:

See? All you need is a little paint, a scarf, a marker, googly eyes, some buttons, a carrot and maybe a couple of sticks. It can be as simple or intricate as you wanna make it. Now you've got a winter decoration and more miles out of the money you dumped into Halloween. Win.

#6 - DO: Make Your Own Ugly Sweater with Stuff You Already Have

Shopping for ugly sweaters can be tricky. You know the thing's supposed to be ugly, but when you're actually in the process of hunting for it, you can end up so repulsed that you're tempted to say, "Forget it, this is stupid." But you've got that contest coming up at work and you don't want to be left out, so what can you do?

Easy. Grab a sweater you've already got lying around - any old sweater will work, but preferably one that's fairly plain - and then bust out your wrapping supplies and maybe a couple of decorations. Then put on your brainstorming hat and get to work. A few bows, some tinsel and maybe a couple of ornaments or paper snowflakes can go a LONGGG way.

#7- DO: Take a Social Media Vacation

One way to make it easier to appreciate all the (real) face time you'll be sharing with your family, friends, extended family and in-laws? Cut out all virtual interactions, at least for a little while. You don't have to be dramatic about it and make a big announcement or deactivate your account. Just don't sign in for a few days. Heck, go a week - or even two. Mad props if you go a month.

You might be amazed just how relaxing it can be to relive the days when little red numbers and constant notifications weren't competing for your attention. Not being glued to your phone while you've got company over will be an added bonus. It'll help you live in the moment and be polite.

#8 - DO: Get Control over Your Tape

Do you use so much tape while wrapping presents that the thing ends up shinier than the tinsel on the Christmas tree? It's understandable. But there is an easy solution to even this: double-sided tape. That's right, your wrapping experience will never be the same again, after you take advantage of this hack just once.

And how 'bout that dang roll of tape with its maddening disappearing end? Well, you'll never have to lose it again if you use this simple trick: 

No more eye-rolling and groaning for you. 

#9 - DO: Have a Movie Marathon

Downtime and relaxation is super-important to break up the zillion arrangements you're running around like a chicken with its head cut off to make. Seriously. So take one day to set aside the To-Do list and just chill. Break out the DVDs or log into your Netflix account. It's time for some Home AloneA Christmas StoryIt's a Wonderful LifeHow the Grinch Stole Christmas, or the often "Is this a Christmas or Halloween movie?"-debated A Nightmare Before Christmas.

It really doesn't even matter what you watch. Heck, binge an entire season of your favorite TV show if you'd prefer. But having a holiday-themed movie marathon is a great way to restore your excitement about this time of year, as well as give yourself a much-needed and well-deserved breather to regain your momentum. Treat yourself to some holiday treats during this, too.

#1 - DON'T: Pay for Shipping

Why rack up the bill for all those presents when dozens of retail giants participate in a Free Shipping Day annually on December 15th? And better yet - the deliveries are all guaranteed to arrive by Christmas Eve. If you're worried about getting everything wrapped in time, you could just go ahead and select the "gift wrap" option before you order. Otherwise, prep yourself for a wrap-a-thon the day before Christmas.

Check it out: Kohl's, Best Buy, Amazon, LEGO, Target and JCPenney are just a few participants in Free Shipping Day.

 #2 - DON'T: Spend Too Much Money on Gifts

There are a couple of ways you can save some serious dough while doing your holiday shopping. The first hack is to download a specific retailer's app right to your phone. They'll give you better deals than randomly searching for a product online. You can also plan to just shop from December 10th to18th, which have been proven to be the cheapest shopping days of the season.

 #3 - DON'T: Throw away Unwanted Gift Cards

Did you get a Starbucks gift card, but caffeine makes you break into a sweaty panic attack? Or maybe for some reason you ended up with a stack of Bath & Body Works gift cards, but the smells in that store make you cough and wheeze and run away crying. Well, there's no reason these need to turn into empty, useless gifts, and no reason you can't redeem at least some of their monetary value to spend on things you actually want.

Head over to Gift Card Granny and try your luck at selling your unwanted gift cards. You won't get the full amount, but you will probably get most of it - and then, turn, someone else gets a cheaper gift card that they really want. While you're there, turn your profits toward a discounted gift card that'll make you happy. It's a win all-around.

#4 - DON'T: Put Off Shopping until the Last Minute

Not only does it add unneeded stress to your plate to procrastinate on your shopping, but it can also really screw you over, money-wise. People who study these sale trends have found that prices don't drop any further on or after December 19th, because retailers know they can count on tons of last-minute shoppers who will pay more than they need to. 

Also, shipping costs can skyrocket if you delay too long. Experts advise getting all your online shopping done by mid-December, in order to avoid having to select the expedited shipping option - which can seriously add to the price of your gift. 

#5 - DON'T: Overspend on Amazon

Amazon's obviously a favorite for many holiday shoppers. You can get practically anything you could ever want in one place, from the comfort of your own home (even while wearing your pajamas). And the deals are typically way better than in stores. However, there are little hacks you can use to save even more money through Amazon.

Take Honey, for example. It automatically searches for coupon codes for the items you put in your cart, and it's free to use. You can also use Camel Camel Camel to track price changes for the items on your (or someone else's) wish list. It's a good one to watch if you've gotten an early wish list from a proactive family member. For even more suggestions for cool Amazon money-saving apps, check out this list here. 

#6 - DON'T: Be Bored - Be BOARD

So you're not on social media for a while, which is cool. But what will you do with those moments of precious downtime that add up as you follow these super-awesome time-saving hacks? Why not break out that stack of board games that's collecting dust on your shelf and amazingly hasn't toppled over through the many years of neglect? Nothing says holiday cheer better than a nice, hearty round of Sorry! or Monopoly (preferably a themed version).

#7 - DON'T: Stress over Meal Prep

With all the technology we have these days, there's no reason that meal prep needs to be half the battle it used to be. Here are just a few ideas about how to seriously hack the effort required for a major meal:

  • Sign up for a food delivery service. Some even come with free trials that you could take advantage of, right around holiday time. Boxed meals arrive right at your door with the perfect ingredients and proportions included for the number of people you select in advance. All you have to do is follow the instructions to put it together and cook.
  • Check out Uber Eats. Another option to get food delivered right to you is Uber Eats. Simply place your order online, kick back and wait for that steaming hot food to come to your door. In today's world, no one will judge you for having your meal catered, Uber-style. The only challenge will be selecting a place everyone agrees on.
  • Have a potluck party. It's easy: Everyone's responsible for a certain dish or type of beverage. Maybe you provide the main course, or maybe not even that. Maybe you just provide the setting, and everyone else does the rest. More time for board games.

#8 - DON'T: Step on Broken Glass

There are bound to be a lot of bodies together in an enclosed space during a holiday gathering, and more than likely, all of them will be holding a glass of some sort. Depending on what's in those glasses, the probability of them breaking before the night's over could seriously increase. But say a glass does break. After you've done the initial round of swearing, there's no need to fret about the shards.

Just grab a piece of bread - any old type of bread will do - and press it onto the shards. The bread will pick them up with ease. If you're unsure of where exactly the pieces all went, then press your bread sponge over the entire surface area of the floor, just to be safe. Then safely dispose of it. Tragedy avoided.

#9 - DON'T: Skip Alone Time

The holidays tend to involve big gatherings just full of people. Especially for introverted types, this can be overwhelming and draining after a certain point. That's why it's so important not to skimp on alone time - no matter how much you really love these people. Here are just a few suggestions for some serious, much-needed you time:

  • Read a book.
  • Go for a drive.
  • Meditate.
  • Look through any photos you've already taken.
  • Take a nap. 

Ready to Hack the Holidays Like a Boss

So there you go. Instead of dreading the upcoming holidays, you can put your feet up and smile to yourself while sipping a tasty glass of your favorite beverage (you're even prepared now if you drop it). There's no reason this season can't be enjoyable, even if there's lots to get done. So pick a few of your favorite hacks or go ahead and use 'em all - we won't tell. 

Happy holidays.

Share this page on Twitter Share this page on Facebook Share this page on LinkedIn