8 things you can do to prep for Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa *today*

When things seem not so merry and bright, we look ahead to happier times. And really, it’s a good thing that it’s November, since it means that you can start to prep for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, since they’re just right around the corner. Is it a little early? Well, maybe for certain things, but definitely not for everything.

There are a bunch of reasons to start holiday prep today, and only one of those reasons is “because it’s really fun, and you totally want to, and you’re just waiting for someone to give you permission so that your family doesn’t say anything negative to you about it when they’re over for Thanksgiving.” We mean, it’s always good to be prepared.

This year, the three big holidays are all lumped right next to each other in December — Hanukkah starts on December 24th, Kwanzaa is on December 26th, and smack dab in the middle, as it is every year, Christmas is on the 25th. Here are a few things you can do *today* that will make these days a lot easier.

1. Figure Out Your Secret Santa Situation With Your Friends

Secret Santa is the perfect solution for, “I have a lot of friends I’d like to buy gifts for, but $20 in my bank account.” Not only will this little tradition make everyone feel included, but it’ll be a great excuse to focus in on one friend every year. Part of the mystery is finding out who drew your name!

One of the best websites to use for an anonymous exchange is Elfster. Not only does the website make it easy to have accessible wishlists, but it helps organize the hard stuff for you — because really, you don’t want to stress over address organization or name drawing when you have 900 other things to worry about.

2. Create Your Own Wishlist

Sometimes, it’s just hard to keep track of what you want. And believe us, you’re going to be asked about what you want from your relatives starting on Black Friday. A good way to keep organized is through desirelist, which helps you create one big wish list that includes items from any website you can think of. Plus, if you can get your family in on it, you’ll be able to shop a lot easier for them as well!

3. Plan Out Your Day-Of Schedule

Sometimes, unpredictable things get in our way (ahem, snow.) Other times, we get so overwhelmed about trying to cram in a ton of holiday visits within 24-hours, that we push off this daunting task until last minute. Try to find a way to compromise with your family over who’s expected to visit where, and when. While traveling over the holidays isn’t the worst thing in the world, spending time in traffic will drain you of Christmas cheer.

4. Find Organizations You’d Like To Donate To

Sometimes the best present ever is just cash. And, oftentimes, the people who need cash the most are organizations fighting to protect our rights, and the lives of those around us. If you have a bit extra to spare this holiday season (since your boss is kind enough to give bonuses, and not “jelly of the month” memberships) think of a special organization or two that’d really appreciate the support. A few good ones include the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the American Humane Association, and the Coalition for the Homeless. (But of course, there are many, many more.)

5. Check Your Lights

Tree bulbs are nothing to mess with. Making sure they still work, after being shelfed in a dusty basement for 11 months, is something you’ll want to take care of sooner rather than later. If there’s a certain kind you like, you definitely want to be ahead of the game in making sure you have access to replacements at the store. Why? Well, because there’s nothing worse than mismatched bulbs.

If your holiday requires different decor, make sure to check and ensure it’s all there, and it’s all in good condition. Menorahs do break or wear out on occasion, and there are a bunch of really cool and innovative ones on Etsy that you’ll really love to replace yours with.

6. Get Your Cards Ready

 You don’t necessarily have to do the whole “cheesy portrait of you and your loved one” routine (even though we all must admit, they’re pretty hilarious and good to reflect on later) but making sure you’ve got plenty of stamps, cards, and up-to-date addresses is something you don’t want to wait until the last minute for. There’s a good chance that many of your recipients are millennials, and millennials are typically fond of moving. Make sure they get the card at the correct address.

7. Get A Good Inventory Of Your Holiday Movies

Nothing puts you in the holiday spirit like a good movie. Even though we’re all super fond of streaming, it’s sometimes tough to predict what Netflix will be offering up each year. Gather all of your DVDs, and see if you’re missing anything important from your personal collection.

If you want to take it a step further and create a post-Thanksgiving movie countdown, where you watch one per week before the big day, that’d also be a lot of fun.

8. Buy Your Annual Holiday Sweater

Tacky Sweater Parties are still happening, and you definitely don’t want to show up in the same sweater as last year. (Save that one for the family gathering!) By buying early, you get a good look at the yearly selection, and don’t need to wait until the last minute. Fun places to order from online include Tipsy Elves and The Sweater Store. And of course, you can never go wrong with checking out Target. As usual, they have everything.

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