A box of ornaments here, a pile of unwrapped presents there, a half-dozen holiday recipes waiting to be made. Oh yeah, and a houseful of guests arriving at 3.
Add it all up, and it’s no wonder holiday stress is as ubiquitous as Elf on a Shelf.
This being the age of the Internet, you could turn to your computer or phone, and within a few clicks, have a troop of helpers arrive at your door ready to help you deck your halls, calligraphy your cards and find the perfect gift for your persnickety in-laws.
All that service comes with a cost, of course. And in a season where your budget is already looking pinched, it probably doesn’t make sense to add on an enormous amount of outsourcing expense.
Plus, you likely have holiday tasks that you wouldn’t want to outsource at any price—maybe because they require a personal touch, or because you take pride in the ownership of the end result.
But when your to-do list gets out of control, it’s worth considering which of your tasks create the greatest amount of stress—and taking a look at some apps and websites that allow you to offload them at a reasonable cost.
Oh, how lovely your home looks adorned with strings of lights! Oh, how annoying it is to spend hours on a ladder!
And that’s before you’ve even started wrestling with garlands, fighting with knots in ribbons, and draping (and dropping) the tinsel.
Outdoor holiday lighting services—often run by professional painters moonlighting during the holidays—are available in most cities, though you’ll easily pay hundreds of dollars to line your roof with perfectly-placed bulbs.
As an alternative, try booking a few hours of help on Taskrabbit.com (also available as an app). Just enter your job, and you’ll see a list of people eager to help, along with reviews from previous clients and pay rate (generally $15 to $25 an hour, depending where you live).
Live near a design school? You might be able to find a student who wants to lend a hand decorating your house, in return for little more than a bunch of photos showcasing her skills on Pinterest or Instagram.
You don’t have to forgo the traditional holiday cookie spread, even if baking isn’t your jam.
You might think of Etsy as a marketplace for crafts, but it offers an enormous assortment of traditional and artisan-oriented sweets shops, too: you can find anything from basic peanut butter balls to gingerbread men and adorable hand-decorated confections depicting anything from snowflakes to Santas, for prices ranging from $0.50 to $3 each.
As an alternative, cookie exchanges are a great way to fill the cookie platter with little effort on your part. Bake your favorite (and easiest) kind in bulk to swap for different ones from your friends.
When it comes to the eve-of dinner, there may be no substitute for your own special homemade goods. But there’s nothing wrong with getting a little help on the meals pre- and post-the big event.
Consider buying a weeks’ worth of meal kits from HelloFresh or Plated (about $60 per week). HelloFresh also recently started selling meal kits for under $20 at Costco.
Just about everyone uses online card sites these days, but the pre-made designs have, well, a bit of a pre-made look.
Plus, once the cards arrive, you still have to stuff, address and mail the things.
For a custom-made design, scout out a freelance designer on Fiverr. You can browse freelancers’ work samples and rates (originally all jobs cost $5, but Fiverrs are now able to set their own pricing), then contact the one that suits you best.
Once you’ve got your design, you can upload it (and/or a family photo), plus a spreadsheet of addresses to Postable, which will create and mail the cards for you (Cost: $1.49 to $2.99 each, with postage).
Don’t have everyone’s address? No problem. If you upload your friends’ emails, Postable will generate an email (shown as coming from your email) asking people to fill in their address, and then mail the cards for you.
Cyber Tuesday notwithstanding, the holiday season inevitably involves hours of trips to various stores and the post office, as well as plenty of time standing in line.
To cut down on that time sink, it might be worth hiring a Taskrabbit for a few hours, to hit up a bunch of stores. Or if you live in a big city, you can arrange for a delivery from virtually anywhere via the app Postmates (cost: $2 to $10 per delivery).
It may seem extravagant to pay to have an item delivered that you could easily go out and buy yourself. But sometimes, the gift of time is simply worth it.