The holidays are a hectic time of year — you’ve likely made one too many commitments to appease your relatives, and you’re already running back and forth from sale to sale checking off your shopping list, decorating the house, preparing food if you’re hosting company and vacuuming up those pines you’re finding everywhere.
Breathe. Take a few minutes. Consult this list of hacks to save you ample time over the next few weeks. Goodspeed.
1. Make a List and Check It Twice
We’re talking a traditional, handwritten list — one that’ll feel as satisfying to check off as too-tightly tucked hotel bed sheets feel when they finally give, or as sneezing feels when you look at a light. If you know what gifts you need to get, and where you can get them, you can save time driving back and forth between stores. Likewise, you can plan which stores to hit in a logical order.
2. Have Someone Stand in Lines for You
If you don’t have time to stand in lines to wait for tickets or product releases or sales — or you just don’t feel like navigating congested crowds and standing idly for hours on end, and we don’t blame you — you can hire someone to do it for you. In fact, there is a wealth of apps that help people pay strangers to stand in line for them, like LineAngel or Placer (through which you can also pay people to buy things for you and make you reservations) or TaskRabbit, which has earned professional line-sitters upwards of $1,500. If you don’t want to do it, someone else will.
3. Order Gifts via Amazon Prime
If you don’t have Amazon Prime, you should. If you don’t want to pay for Amazon Prime (it’s $11 a month, and you can cancel anytime), sign up for the free 30-day trial that’ll at least get you through the holidays. You’re offered free shipping on over 50 million items, and you can even get free two-hour, same-day or two-day shipping on the gifts you left for the last minute. It’s worth it.
4. Pay a Little Extra to Have Your Gifts Wrapped
Tons of stores will give you free gift boxes, wrap your gifts for free or charge you just a little extra to wrap your gifts. Barnes & Noble, for example, wraps gifts for free in stores and charges just $4 per online item. Other stores like Bed Bath & Beyond have free gift-wrapping stations complete with boxes, wrapping paper, scissors and tape, so you can get the job done right then and there; they also charge $4 per online order. Apple will charge $5 for signature gift wrapping; Best Buy charges $3 to $6 for a gift bag; Macy’s charges $6 for a gift box, tissue paper and ribbon online and their prices vary on size and location in stores; and Target doesn’t offer any services in stores, but they charge $6 per item online. All you have to do is ask.
5. Hire a Helper to Deliver Gifts
Do you have a lot of gifts to give out and no time or energy to haul them around yourself? Hire a helper to deliver them for you. There are tons of apps for delivering packages. Uber, to start, offers UberRUSH, through which you can schedule deliveries and then track the vehicle via the Uber map on your app. Otherwise, you can check out Roadie, which conveniently matches people with stuff to send with drivers already headed in that direction. Roadie is a usually the cheaper option; simply submit the details of your item (name, item value, size, who is receiving it and when it needs to be delivered) and Roadie will give you an estimate and match you with drivers who can help.
6. Organize Your Holiday Decorations
It’s simple: If you keep your holiday lights, ornaments, wreaths, stuffed polar bears, candles and that Elf on the Shelf organized, it’ll be that much easier to unpack them and start garnishing the walls, shelves and tables of your home. Consider wrapping your lights around slabs of cardboard so they don’t tangle, and toss dead ones so you don’t have to spend time plugging and unplugging infinite cords.
7. Enlist Help Decorating
TaskRabbit saves lives; that’s just fact. Search for “decorating help,” select a task date and time, and then choose one of two options: Quick Assign, which will hire any tasker for $50 per hour, or click on any of the number of taskers available during your timeframe who work for about $20 per hour on average. They’ll come, hopefully merrily, transform your home into a winter wonderland and leave. And you don’t have to lift a finger.
8. Get Your Groceries Delivered
Are you hosting company for the holidays but have no time to grocery shop before you get cooking? AmazonFresh will delivery groceries to your doorstep at the tap of a button. Certain cities and surrounding areas also have options such as Peapod, through which you can save $20 on your first delivery; Fresh Direct, which offers a membership that costs $69 for six months and includes unlimited deliveries; and Instacart, which sends out personal shoppers to fetch your items, rather than deliver from a massive private inventory. Instacart is ideal for those of you who prefer specific brands and, if an item is out of stock, you're dealing with an actual human who will suggest substitutions — just be prepared to tip.
9. Prep Food in Advance
This one might seem obvious but, too often, we forgo meal prepping and leave cooking to the last minute. Cook and freeze appetizers, entrees and desserts that will last before the season kicks into gear. By doing it all ahead of time, you’ll be able to sit down and enjoy those meals with your friends and family, rather than scrambling in the kitchen to feed them. If you don’t have time to meal prep, at least make sure your cabinets are stocked with all of the ingredients you know you’ll need well in advance, so you’re not stuck having to run to the store in the midst of it all.
10. Send Your Laundry Out
The holidays aren’t over when the last present is opened or your last guest leaves. They’re over when you’ve cleaned up the aftermath and can resume normal life. You probably have tablecloths stained with gravy, clothes tossed everywhere from running to all the parties you attended, dirty bed sheets from hosting guests and more. Consider sending all that laundry out to be picked up, washed, dried, folded and delivered for you. Again, if you live in a city or in the surrounding area of one, you have options like FlyCleaners, which operates from 6 am to midnight seven days a week and can turn your laundry (and dry cleaning) around in under 24 hours, and Cleanly, which offers an annual or monthly membership that includes free delivery.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.