Real Simple Holiday Survival Tips

Real Simple magazine offers all sorts of shortcuts and strategies to help you keep your head this holiday CBS/The Early Show

Instead of letting the holidays send you into a tizzy, stop spinning your wheels and getting so dizzy. The latest issue of Real Simple magazine offers all sorts of shortcuts and strategies to help you keep your head this holiday.

Editor Kris Connell offers these tips on Tuesday's The Early Show:

Start a Holiday Binder

Find a binder with tabbed dividers that makes you happy in that back-to-school kind of way.

Things to keep track of:
  • Rrecipes you make each year and new ones clipped from magazines (which are currently sliding down the refrigerator door)
  • Gift lists, so next year you won't give the neighbors that same Santa candle
  • Catalog pages with gift ideas
  • Receipts and printouts of online orders (otherwise, it's your word against theirs, and how do you return that fabulous garden gnome that somehow failed to please Aunt Margie?)

    Book Beauty Appointments

    Schedule your December haircut and manicures now (especially if you'll need a Saturday appointment), before you're shut out.

    Buy, Write and Send Christmas Postcards

    Personalizing your holiday greetings doesn't have to mean an afternoon spent typing up an annual newsletter or licking envelopes. Save time and spare yourself the gluey aftertaste by sending photo postcards. Snapfish (www,snapfish.com) can transform a favorite picture into ready-to-mail 4-by-6 or 5-by-7-inch postcards for as little as 75 cents each, depending on how many you order. Upload your digital pictures or slip a negative or print into a mailbox. Your return address is printed on each card, so after you write in your warm (if brief) wishes, just address, stamp, and mail.

    Order Stamps

    Waiting your turn at the post office during the holiday rush is about as much fun as a trip to the DMV. Instead, order your stamps online this year - whenever you like and with the click of a button - at www.shop.usps.com. New holiday stamps are on sale now.

    Make It A Bill-Free Holiday

    If your budget allows, pay projected December phone, utility, and cable bills when you're knocking off November's. It will be one less thing to think about; just file away the next couple of credit-balance statements when they arrive and you're done.

    Create a Centerpiece

    Instead of paying a princely sum on Christmas Eve for the florist's last scraggly bouquet, shop for a centerpiece at the supermarket. "Fill a simple glass jar or bowl with multiples of the same fruit, nut, or monochromatic ornament," suggests David Turera, author of America Entertains: A Year of Imaginative Parties (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $35).

    Stock The Freezer With Crowd-Pleasers

    You expend so much energy planning for the big events that you may forget about the days before and after, when houseguests will still need to eat. (How demanding can they be?)

    Prepare one or two freezable no-fail dinners (like lasagna, meat loaf, or hearty soup) that you can pull out at practically the last minute and then just pop into the oven or the microwave. And don't forget about dessert. Having in the freezer a roll or two of cookie dough means you're only 20 minutes away from a treat for drop-in guests or (if, heaven help you, you've forgotten it), your daughter's bake sale.

    Make A Kid-Taming Car Kit

    To preempt the cries of "Are we there yet?" during the trip to the grandparents', put together a bag of smart but simple essentials that will keep your kids quietly entertained. Novelty (meaning bribery) is the best distraction: Get something new for each child, such as a book, a comic book, or a video game; put it in the bag; and save it to break out in a clutch moment, like after you've taken a wrong turn that will tack an extra hour on to the drive.

    Also, pack a pad of drawing paper and a box of pencils or crayons you can tuck into the pockets behind the front seats. Throw in snacks that store well, like juice boxes, bottled water, pretzels, granola bars, Fruit Roll-Ups, nuts, Cheerios, maybe even a bit of...candy.

    If you have a little one who's still in diapers or newly potty trained, add a change of clothes and some diapers. And what family car is complete without wipes for those inevitable spills and accidents?

    Buy Gifts in Bulk

    Yes, of course you want your gifts to be personal, but only for the people you really know personally. For the rest, shop at the supermarket. Choose your favorite gourmet food item (such as festively packaged Terra Medi Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($10 at gourmet stores or www.crateandbarrel.com) and buy enough of it to last you through this season's parade of parties and visits.

    For more details or ideas on how to get ahead for the holidays, see the November issue of Real Simple Magazine.
    • Brian Dakss

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