Our 12 days of perfect Christmas planning goes right back to basics today: what do you need to plan? Here's 12 categories where making lists will help you out.
It's no secret that we're big fans of lists here at Lifehacker, and their utility is never more evident than when you're planning for Christmas. While there are plenty of great tools you can use to store those lists electronically (our Hive Five of to-do list managers has some great options for starters), the technology you use isn't anywhere near as important as the commitment to making the lists in the first place. Here's our suggested 12 areas where a list will help for Christmas; add your own suggestions in the comments.
12. Track the cards you've received
E-cards are an easy option, but Christmas cards by snail mail are still big business (70 million this year, according to Australia Post). As you receive cards, make a note of them; that way you'll have a head start for sending cards both this year and next year.
11. Calendar for future Christmas plans
If relatives or in-laws live interstate, then it's pretty much impossible to see everyone every year. If you have a rough schedule in mind — this year in your home town, next year with the in-laws, overseas the year after that — there's less room for surprise and offence. (That doesn't mean you have to stick to that schedule at all costs, but it's a good planning tool and a handy conciliatory gesture.)
10. Music to entertain family and friends
Don't spend Christmas day topping up the CD player. See our Christmas music guide for some tech-savvy ways to get your Christmas music.
9. Set a Christmas budget
A budget is, at heart, just a list: what you want to spend and when you plan to spend it. We'll be visiting the topic of budgets for Christmas in more detail later this week.
8. Do a home inventory
If you're anticipating visitors at Christmas, make sure you've got enough of the essentials (towelsm bed linen, cutlery, plates). If you're running short, Christmas sales make it cheaper to restrock.
7. Emergency contact lists
Christmas should be a time for positive thinking, but a little forethought doesn't hurt. Find out which chemist in your area is opening on (or near) Christmas, and check the opening hours for your doctor and dentist.
6. Christmas day dining
It doesn't matter whether you favour traditional turkey or a seafood BBQ: Christmas dinner works better if you've planned ahead. It's not the ideal time to test out a new recipe, especially if there's lots of people coming over. Plan ahead and shop ahead as much as possible (though buying close to the day is clearly wise if you are going the seafood route).
5. Food for Christmas week
Supermarkets in the days before Christmas are a nightmare; come Boxing Day, they're often shut. Make sure you've got plenty of food around so you can concentrate on Christmas cheer, not annoying restocking on the basics.
4. Travel plans
If you're going away, make sure you've got all the relevant details collected. If you're staying at home, you may still need public transport schedules — or the travel details for any friends or family who are visiting. See our Christmas travel guide for more thoughts.
3. Your contact list
Christmas is a time to catch up with others, but that's difficult if you don't have up-to-date phone numbers, emails or whatever your preferred channel of communication is. Set aside a little time to check that you've got the relevant details, especially if you're heading away from home and will be solely reliant on your phone.
2. New Year resolutions
OK, this happens after Christmas — but good resolutions deserve more than just brief consideration on December 31. Make notes during the year of areas where you'd like to improve, and then pick one or two that appeal the most as the year ends.
1. Gifts for others
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