Six Christmas Stressors (And What To Do About Them)

Christmas time is a season of joy, love, and . . . stress.  I wish it wasn't true, but especially if you are a mom, you know what I am talking about.

I never realized how stressful Christmas season could be, until I had a family of my own.  It is hard to juggle four kids while accomplishing everything that make up beautiful Christmas memories.  But the whole purpose of building good Christmas memories for my family is defeated if I am stressed out in the process.  Nothing is very fun when mom is stressed out.

Over the last couple years I have been trying to find solutions to my most common Christmas stressors so that I can be jolly for my family during the Christmas season.  I have identified six things that can become stresses, and I am in the process of figuring out how best to deal with them.  These are the solutions I have come up with so far.


Christmas Shopping

Christmas shopping can be fun, but it can also be stressful.  For me, there are two things that make shopping stressful - waiting to the last minute, and not knowing what to buy for someone.  


Start your shopping early.  

Some people thrive on last-minute shopping, but that is just not me, so starting early is a life-saver.  When I say start early, I mean several months before Christmas.  In December the weekends start to fill up, so if I don't want to be stressed, it is best to get the majority of my shopping done sometime before that.  I like to save a little shopping for closer to Christmas, just to add to the festive fun, but I don't want to have to buy for everyone on my list.  

Shopping early also helps for those people that are difficult to shop for, because I can keep an eye out for things they might like, and snag that perfect gift right when I see it, instead of getting to December and still having no idea of what to buy.

Christmas Spending

Money is one of the most stressful aspects of Christmas - we live in a Christmas culture where advertisers tell us that spending money equals love, especially at Christmas.  You can try to limit the amount of money you spend, but you can't completely avoid Christmas gifts, even if you wanted to.


If you don't want money to be a big Christmas stress, then save throughout the year and plan a budget early.

Even though we have a Christmas budget, it seems like every year we go over, so clearly I still have some improving to do in this area.  But can you imagine what it would be like if I didn't budget at all?    Derek and I have a system where we save a certain amount each month for Christmas expenses - then around October I create some sort of Christmas budget guideline based on how much we have been able to save.  I try to include everything in our budget, from Christmas cards to baking to presents.  Unexpected expenses often come up to throw us off, but having a plan keeps us mostly on track.  

Christmas Cards

I am a big advocate of sending out Christmas cards - mainly because I send them out every year and get so few in return.  But I persevere, because who doesn't like to get a little Christmas joy in their mailbox?  Receiving Christmas cards is a great Christmas time de-stressor, and if you want to receive, you need to send.  

I'm not trying to add to your to-do list, I just really like Christmas cards.  If you are a friend of mine and are reading this, send me one and I'll send you one, and then you will know of what I speak.

Christmas cards can be a big source of stress, but it is also a great way to cheer up someone else's December which is in the giving spirit of the season.  So what to do?


Realize that Christmas cards do not have to be fancy or complicated!  When it comes to Christmas cards, it truly is the thought that counts. 

You know those boxes of Christmas cards at Walmart?  I guarantee a quick "Merry Christmas" and signature in one of those will bring someone just as much joy as a fancy, professionally printed photo card.  The reason why?  You thought about them.   

If writing all those addresses seems overwhelming, try putting your addresses in a spreadsheet and printing your address list on labels (I am not computer label savvy, so I hand this off to Derek). For your return address, spend a few dollars on some printed labels, or invest in a return-address stamp (I got one last year and it is wonderful).

If it all gets to be too much, simplify by dropping a card in the mail only for the people who send you one.  

If you must skip Christmas cards - I understand.  But think about it.  Snail mail is a dying art.  Something is better than nothing.

Christmas Decorations

I never understood why some people complained about how much work Christmas trees are, until I was the adult and had to pack everything away (Christmas is so much less complicated when you are a kid).  As much fun as putting the decorations out is, it's never a joy to put it all away again.


Keep the packing away in mind when you decorate.  Try to see how few items you can put out while still giving your house that Christmas feel.  

I have started to realize that I don't have to put every little knick-knack out for my house to be filled with Christmas cheer.  The tree is a non-negotiable, but I have limited the rest of my decorations to only my favorites and it is a little less overwhelming to pack it all up.  

Christmas Baking

When I was growing up, my mom always had a huge spread of goodies on Christmas morning.  Chocolate covered pretzels, several different kinds of cookies, Christmas fudge, wassel. It was so much fun to have all our favorite treats all at once, and my Christmas memories always include the Christmas goodies.

Because I have such fond memories of the treats on Christmas morning, this is still something that I want to do for my family - but the baking could take up a lot of time in December if I let it.  


First,  get started early and freeze.  A lot of Christmas cookies freeze well.

Second, limit it to only your very favorites.  When we were first married I tried out several new recipes for Christmas goodies every year, but now that we have four kid under five, I just don't have time.  We have three favorites goodies that I try to make every year, and if I don't get around to any others, that's okay.

Third, do Christmas cookie swaps.  This year my Bible Study group is doing a cookie exchange.  I'll make nine dozen of one kind of cookie, and I'll come home with nine dozens of different kinds of cookies.  This is my sole Christmas cookie plan this year, and I think it will save me a lot of work.  It is easier to make nine dozen of one kind of cookie than bake nine different treats myself!

Christmas Festivities

How can Christmas festivities become a stress?  I don't know if this is typical, but we have had Decembers where every single weekend is filled with some sort of Christmas activity.  It can get to the point where it can be hard to sneak in some of our own family activities, or we are left exhausted and cranky by the time Christmas actually arrives.


Learn that you don't have to do every single Christmas activity.  It is okay to say no.

It can be a challenge to figure out what festivities to pass on each year, but we've learned that we need at least a couple Saturdays to ourselves to enjoy the Christmas season as a family.  We try to attend as many of our family and friends' Christmas gatherings as we can, because we want to also be a blessing to others at Christmas.  But if we are so busy that we don't have time to pause and reflect on what Christmas is really about (hint: Jesus), that is not healthy.  Say no when necessary to make sure you have enough time to remember why we do all this crazy stuff in December in the first place - to celebrate our Savior's birth!


Those are the six things that are most stressful to me during the Christmas season, and what I try to do about them.  I'd love to hear some of your tips and solutions for combatting the Christmas stressors (I'm pretty sure some of you have it a lot more figured out than me)!  Comment below.

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Chandler Larsen said...

I completely agree with all of this. I don't have kids of my own but I have lots of nieces and nephews that we are really close with so we typically do Christmas for them and their parents and some of our friends! I honestly start shopping sooo early (I'm talking like July/August) for the kids because I figure in a few months they will still like what they get. And I typically leave my husband and harder people for later when I know for sure what they want. Thanks for sharing!

Chandler @ Life as a Larsen

Kristin C said...

So true! It really is the thought that counts with Christmas cards. I am sending Christmas cards out this year and mine came from the $1.50 rack at Michael's!
ps- I love your blog design.

Chrissa - Physical Kitchness said...

Oh my gosh AMEN on the Christmas cards. I LOVE receiving them but getting mine out is always a sh*t show!!

Ariel @ Keys to My Life said...

Budgeting for Christmas is a great one. I'm trying to work on that myself!

Laura said...

Christmas Spending is my number one stressor... I definitely try to start shopping early and space it out so I don't feel like crying in January when I get my bill. I haven't done my Christmas cards yet this year (oops!) must get on it!

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