You've pre-ordered the ham, the gifts are wrapped under the tree and you have a Christmas playlist sure to relax even the most uptight family member — right?

If not, take a deep breath, make a list, check it twice and don't stress. There are still 16 days left until Christmas.

The Herald on Sunday has gathered seasoned advice on how to get through the next two weeks and the big day with your sanity in check.

The gift guide

No time?

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If time pressures are high (or for the minimalist) buy experience vouchers online from websites such as Grabone.co.nz.

It could be a dance class, beauty treatments or stunt driving courses.

No money?

Set a budget per gift or buy for children only.

Or, make an arrangement with friends and family to have an IOU system and hit the sales for bargains on Boxing Day.

Homemade gifts like fudge or homemade cookies split into stacks and wrapped in pretty paper also make inexpensive and heartwarming gifts.

No waste?

Buy "World Vision smiles" where you gift a chicken, fresh water or a vege garden for a community in need overseas.

Help! I've run out of wrapping paper

Use the kids' artwork and some string — it looks cute, is environmentally friendly and you get to declutter.

Hitting the mall

Pick one of the super late nights and go alone to avoid crowds — check hours but some are open until midnight in the week leading up to Christmas.

To avoid parking issues, arrange to be dropped off and collected — with the promise of a coffee for the driver.

Don't leave your shopping needs until the last minute on Christmas Eve; major Auckland malls Sylvia Park and Lynn Mall close at 7pm and 6pm respectively. Neither Albany nor St Lukes malls specify their Christmas Eve opening hours online, but websites for both confirm they have late opening hours — until 11.59pm — to at least December 22.

Sending away

NZ Post have employed extra staff to deal with the record number of parcels winging their way around New Zealand. Photo / NZPA
NZ Post have employed extra staff to deal with the record number of parcels winging their way around New Zealand. Photo / NZPA

Shop online where you can for presents.

Or, if you are sending overseas you have until Wednesday to do so to ensure they arrive before the big day. International express courier will buy a bit of extra time with the deadline of Friday.

Domestically, you have until December 18 to post. Or, if you are sending by courier, you have until December 21.

NZ Post have employed extra staff to deal with the record number of parcels winging their way around New Zealand.

What if I'm not home to receive Christmas packages?

Give NZ Post authority to leave items at your house (if it is safe to do so) via a form online. It takes five days to process. Or risk having to collect items from the mail depot later.

Christmas meal cheats

Pre-order a Christmas meal package from one of the many companies delivering food or shopping to your door.

If you want to have more time to relax on the day, pick meals or desserts that can be prepared earlier.

"Some dishes like Israeli couscous can be prepared Christmas Eve and because flavours develop overnight they taste a lot better, so it makes Christmas Day more relaxed," said owner of Farro Fresh Janene Draper.

Don't expect your perfect ham to be waiting for you on Christmas Eve - unless you have pre-ordered it.
Don't expect your perfect ham to be waiting for you on Christmas Eve - unless you have pre-ordered it.

Prepare your pavlova early and add the fresh fruit in the morning.

Stray from tradition and talk to family members about bringing their favourite dish which is unlikely to go wrong.

"Rather than leaving it to one person to prepare everything, arrange in advance, so each guest brings something they enjoy making and are confident with."

Or, go out for Christmas lunch or dinner. Just make sure you book soon.

The last-minute mad dash

You can plan as much as you want and then realise you don't have as much sugar for the pav as you thought. Or you didn't buy the pesky cloves you need for the ham.

Many supermarkets open until midnight on Christmas Eve — but not all. Make sure you check your local store's opening hours.

Don't forget the ham

Don't expect your perfect ham to be waiting for you on Christmas Eve — unless you have pre-ordered it.

All the big supermarkets allow customers to pre-order on their websites, or go into your local branch to do so.

There are also plenty of last-minute options such as ready glazed hams in disposable roasting dishes.

Store it correctly

Make sure you put it inside a ham bag in the fridge and it can last for weeks.

Emily Blumenthal from Foodstuffs said leftover ham can be used for things like a pizza topping, frittata and croissants.

"Whip up a frittata with ham and other leftover vegetables like fresh Jersey benne potatoes and asparagus — that's Boxing Day brekkie sorted.

"Talking to more than 600 Kiwis we found 93 per cent of New Zealanders' Christmas hams don't get finished on the day, with more than half of those taking around a week or even longer to get through their ham."

The tree debate

Putting it up

A beautiful tree printed on fabric and hung on the wall is a perfect option for environmentalists.
A beautiful tree printed on fabric and hung on the wall is a perfect option for environmentalists.

Don't stress if you haven't done it yet. There is no right or wrong time to put it up - different traditions around the world stipulate different dates.

Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, is widely heralded as bringing the tree tradition to Britain from his native Germany. He didn't put it up until Christmas Eve.

What if I've got a mischievous pet?

If fluffy is likely to take a shine to the sparkly dangly things hanging offthe big green foreign object in the lounge, a tree printed on fabric and hung on the wall is an alternative. The same solution works well if you're out to minimise environmental harm.

It can be pulled down, folded and chucked in the linen cupboard as soon as the planning for the New Year party begins.

Taking it down

Some take it down by January 6 — or the Epiphany (the showing of Christ to the world).
If you don't, goblins are not likely to wreck your house for the year. Although a fresh tree only lasts about four weeks so it will start to look a little sad.

How will I get rid of it?

Roadside pop-up companies that sell trees often offer a kerb-side collection service in the new year.

You can often get companies to chop it up into wood chips for you.

And now breathe ...

Auckland clinical psychologist Dr Mieke Garrett said the holiday season was expected to be one of the most joyful times of the year — which also made it one of the most stressful.

The challenge of bringing different personalities together with potential for issues to arise, plus increased financial pressure are just a couple of things to deal with.
Garrett said the festive time was especially difficult for people who were struggling and lonely or had lost a family member during the year when everyone else appeared to be happy and surrounded by loved ones.

Don't get sucked in by what people portray on social media.

If there are family members you clash with, Garrett suggested not bringing up old issues and be prepared to compromise and negotiate. Planning for triggers such as limiting time sitting with certain family members or taking a break for some fresh air could make the difference.

"It can also involve simply reminding yourself you just need to get through the next few hours or days."

If you have no one to celebrate with, make sure to check out what community events are on in your region. There are often Christmas lunches planned.
Lastly, remember that the things that don't always go according to plan often make the best stories to tell later.