As Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s get close, we’re all running a little short on time. We have a mile-long list of things to do, and want them all completed before the holidays roll around. Unfortunately, there are far more tasks than there are hours in the day. The good news, though, is that we can outsource quite a number of our holiday projects in order to free up some of our time for the important things, like spending time with our friends and family. With a few minutes worth of phone calls or web surfing, you can get everything taken care of.
- Finding Wishlists: Everyone has some online wishlist or another these days, but with thousands of items listed on various sites, it can be difficult to find the right gift. As long as you’re connected with your friends on sites like Facebook, however, Semantic Gifts can suggest presents based on profile information.
- Gift Shopping: Many stores offer personal shoppers — specialists who will pick out gifts based on your suggestions. If you already have a good idea of the gifts you’re planning to give, personal shoppers can still be useful: they can put together an order for you to simply pick up, allowing you to avoid running all over a store looking for a particular size. You can also hire personal shoppers unaffiliated with a particular store directly by searching locally.
- Shipping: One of the benefits of ordering gifts online is that you can arrange for them to be delivered directly to the recipient — you never have to find a post office or figure out postage. Even better, some companies, like Amazon.com through its Amazon Prime system, offer free shipping. Concierge services will also handle mailing out your gifts if you bought locally.
- Gift Wrapping: Many groups wrap gifts as a holiday fundraiser. It can be as simple as calling your local mall to find out when a group is offering gift wrapping — for a small fee, you can get all your gifts wrapped. Many concierge services also offer gift wrapping.
- Trip Planning: Going to see grandma for the holidays? A virtual assistant can sort through your travel options for you, locating the best deals on flights, hotels, and rental cars and present with just a few choices to select from. (Check out AskSunday.)
- Hanging Your Lights: In addition to landscaping companies, there are businesses dedicated to hanging holiday lights. Most will also handle other outdoor decorating.
- Decorating: You don’t have to go all the way to a full-time decorator when outsourcing your holiday decorations. There are companies that specialize in bringing holiday decorations to your home or office and hanging them. During the year, they take them down and handle storage.
- Scrapbooking: Every year we take plenty of pictures of friends and family during the holidays and wind up with stacks of photos we never look at. Scrapbooking professionals can take your holiday photos and transform them into an album — some scrapbookers also work with video and create websites, making the most of your holiday memories.
- Party Planning: Whether you’re planning a small get-together or a big shindig, there are party planners galore willing to help you with every detail — or even take care of only those tasks you don’t want to do yourself.
- Inviting Guests: With sites like MyPunchbowl, sending out invitations online makes sense. MyPunchbowl will manage lists and inform you of RSVPs with no hassle.
- Making Holiday Cards: Personalized holiday cards are a nice choice. Rather than trying to come up with a design and get it printed, you’ve got quite a few options: many photographers will set up a family portrait and handle all the details of transforming your picture into a card. You can also hire a graphic designer inexpensively through sites like Elance to design a custom card.
- Writing Holiday Cards: No matter how personal you plan to make your holiday cards, you can outsource parts of the project to speed things up. You can arrange for cards with a pre-printed personal message (along with a signature), outsource just the addressing, or arrange for someone to stuff your envelopes. With companies like Overnight Prints, holiday cards are as simple as uploading an address book.
- Grocery Shopping: With services like Giant’s Peapod, you can select your groceries online and have them delivered to your home — a big relief when you’re planning a big holiday meal.
- Cooking Big Meals: While catering might seem like overkill for your family dinners, you can get help for big meals without going overboard. Many personal chefs offer a holiday deal: a chef will come to your home, prepare enough food for the whole family, and either freeze or refrigerate it — leaving you with reheating directions. All you have to do is pop the food in the oven and spend time with your family.
- Baking Holiday Treats: If you have a few traditional treats in your family, many personal chefs can also handle such tasks. Baking several batches of cookies can take a lot of time, but you can outsource your baking just by handing over the recipe card. Another option is to order holiday treats online and have them delivered directly to your door. For a list of online places to order cookies and other baked goods, check out “120+ Places To Buy Cakes, Pies, Muffins, Cookies, And Other Baked Goods Online.”
- House Cleaning: Both before and after you have people over for the holidays, you’ve got a fair amount of cleaning to worry about. You can skip the dishes (and plenty of other cleaning) by calling a local cleaning service.
- Secret Santas: Rather than trying to arrange a secret gift exchange with slips of paper and a hat, just enter the list of participants into Elfster, a free site that takes care of gift exchanges easily.
- Helping Others: During this time of year, there are so many opportunities to help others, but it’s often hard to sort through them and find the organizations and people you’re passionate about helping. Bring Light is just one website that helps you reach out.
- Santa Letters: Some families have the tradition of Santa Letters — letters from Santa for children. Free Letters From Santa Claus not only has letters you can print off, but also has writers who will put together a custom letter and mail it by way of the North Pole.
- Getting A Christmas Tree: Instead of trying to shoehorn a Christmas tree into your car, there are now a number of companies that will deliver a tree directly to your home or office, such as the Virtual Christmas Tree Lot.
- Picking Up Tickets and Making RSVPs: Depending on your holiday plans, you may need to order tickets for a performance of the Nutcracker or RSVP for dinner out on New Year’s Eve. A local concierge service can often tack care of both quickly.
- Saving for Holiday Gifts: It might be a little late for this year, but you can make it easier to save up for your holiday spending with a Christmas Club account. You’ll need to ask your bank what options they offer.
- Making Appointments: There’s a whole list of appointments you’ll need for the holiday season, like getting a haircut. A virtual assistant or other helper could sit down and get all your appointments scheduled at once.
- Care Packages: Many families send out care packages to college students, soldiers, and other family members far away from the rest of the family for the holidays. There are some online care package companies, but it’s often better to contact a group associated with your family member’s current location. Colleges and military organizations often work with specialized care package companies.
- Organizing Your Outsourcing: Want to cut your holiday projects down to an absolute minimum? Hand the planning phase over to a virtual assistant: a VA can find you a house cleaning service, select presents, and arrange for a plane ticket. Check out the Personal Outsourcing Essentials series for details. Concierge services also provide local holiday outsourcing.
Image credit: abzee / iStockphoto