The holidays are almost over and while I’m exhausted, we had a wonderful celebration. Although I have to admit that my decorations are still up since I don’t take them down until the Epiphany on January sixth.

Since I still have some company and will be serving a big dinner on the Epiphany, I always considered this week a Prep & Plan regroup week. Just like the week after Thanksgiving, this week is a time for regrouping and recovering. And since we’ve been saving our receipts like we discussed during the Prep & Plan Week Week 9 post, we’re going to pull those out today as well.

The first thing we’ll need is the Family Holiday Notebook we made in Prep & Plan Week 8. If you don’t remember, here’s a quick rundown on what that is.

For a regroup week after a holiday, I use a cheap notebook I got at Dollar Tree. This notebook will be for an annual review of holidays and other large family events. And you’ll need a separate piece of paper for a shopping list. In this notebook, I mark a new page with the title Christmas 2021. Below that, I begin listing things that worked and things that didn’t. I’m talking about food, cleaning, guests, etc–anything that you had to do or deal with during the holidays. In my case, I made Christmas Eve dinner for 12 people and had company all weekend. I also served a Christmas breakfast for six people and made appetizers to bring to my sister’s house later in the day.

I use this list as a total brain dump. As I drink my coffee, and eat leftover Christmas cookies, I write down anything I can think of that went right, went wrong, and what I would do differently next year that I know I’ll forget if I don’t write it down now. I also note anything I need to buy for next year’s holidays. If I need it for next year’s Christmas, I can start looking for post-Christmas sales or shop for it throughout the year. As I work in this notebook, I use the separate shopping list to write down anything I ran out of and need to pick up now while the post-Christmas sales are still running.

I will also write down any gifts that still need to be exchanged or returned, as well as any refunds I’m waiting for. And I keep a separate list of any gift cards that still have credit on them.

HERE’S AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT I WROTE IN MY NOTEBOOK:
  • Buy a new set of towels for guests (dog ruined the bath towels!)
  • Order 4 tumblers in my Christmas china pattern, but only if I can find them on eBay or Etsy. I’m not paying Replacement’s prices.
  • We did not need the dinner rolls.
  • Send my Christmas linens to the dry cleaner.
  • Order new table pads for the dining room table.
  • Buy some Christmas cocktail napkins, if I can find them on sale.
  • Buy some Christmas wrapping paper and tissue paper on sale.
  • Order a pumpernickel bread round four weeks out instead of two weeks out.
  • The cinnamon bread casserole for breakfast was a huge hit!
  • The poinsettias were beautiful but I don’t know if they were worth the money.
  • I love Ina Garten’s do ahead Chicken Pot Pie recipe. It was fabulous, and I am definitely doing that again next year. 

So you get the idea…. it’s a list of all the things in your head that you’ll be grateful you kept note of when you begin preparing for next year’s holiday. 

TRACKING THE BUDGET:

Once I finish my list, and leave some room on the next page for things I’ll think of next week, I take the envelope where I stuffed all of my receipts (we discussed this in Prep & Plan Week 9) and sort them by type: food, presents, etc. Then on the next page in the Family Holiday Notebook, I begin to tape in the receipts I saved. I keep the receipts for everything from dry cleaning the linens to the last minute gifts and bottles of wine. Yes, I keep all those receipts–but I didn’t always do that. Years ago, the habit was recommended by a Certified Financial Planner I know, and it’s been eye-opening. Because I use one notebook for about five years worth of family events (I keep track of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July, Family Reunions, and birthday/anniversary parties), it’s easy to see what I’ve spent over the years and track the inflation. As I plan for next year’s events, being able to see what I paid makes it easy to budget ahead. Yes, keeping receipts is kind of “extra”, but it does help me when I do the household budget for next year. (which we’ll talk about in January). It also helps me keep track of the “emotional” last minute purchases.

So that’s the homework for this week. Work in your Family Holiday Notebook and add the holiday receipts. From that work, begin a shopping list of things you need to replenish in your pantry for the week and anything you may be able to get during the post-holiday sales. If you organized your holiday wrapping supplies like we discussed in Prep & Plan Week 10, you’ll already have list of what you need for next year! This exercise takes less than 30 minutes, and you’ve set yourself up for an even better prepared 2022.


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