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Countdown to Christmas: Get organized, create a plan

As you finish your Thanksgiving leftovers, your mind likely wonders to Christmas and all the planning, decorating, gift-buying and celebrating that comes with the holiday. Before you start stressing out about how you'll get everything done, take a deep breath and a few minutes to get organized.

Set a budget: Take control of your finances and be realistic about how much money you have to spend. Be sure to factor in travel costs -- plane tickets, hotel rooms and gasoline -- and plan accordingly. Set a limit to your gift-giving budget and be sure to keep your receipts and track how much you spend.

Start a gift-buying list: I like to keep my list on my cell phone, so I always have it with me and I can quickly make a note if I think of a great gift idea when I'm not shopping.

Christmas cards: It's never been easier to create photo cards to send to your friends and family. Check out sites such as shutterfly and tinyprints to see what's available. I always get carried away with all the options and end up spending three to four hours choosing and personalizing my holiday cards. If you're trying this for the first time, give yourself a deadline and stick to it.

Update your calendar: Pour yourself a glass of wine and get the family calendar updated with community events, church activities, school performances, parties and travel dates. Now set aside a few days or evenings for your favorite family activities -- picking out a tree, decorating, baking cookies, shopping and wrapping presents. Feeling over-scheduled? Prioritize what activities are most important and don't feel guilty about declining invitations. The earlier you offer your regrets, the less guilty you'll feel, so be realistic about how many events you can attend this season.