5 Mistakes You're Probably Making With Your Christmas Lights

We don't mean to be a Grinch.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. While the pros have been stringing lights around the neighborhood since mid-September, those of us who DIY are just gearing up now that we’ve tucked away the Halloween costumes and devoured two pounds of candy. Whether this is your first time working with Christmas lights or you’re an unofficial pro yourself, it’s never a bad idea to brush up on your Christmas light know-how. From risky safety practices to installation strategies that never pan out, these are the mistakes you just don’t want to make when it comes to stringing your holiday lights this year.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

Mistake #1: Skipping the Pre-check

It’s certainly always recommended to check each of your light strands before getting started, but somehow many of us forget to grant the same courtesy to our outlets and extension cords. This task might take you all of 10 minutes to complete but will save you in droves when it comes to maintaining your sanity as you start stringing.

While electronics are typically the place where the issues tend to present themselves after they’ve sat in storage for the better part of a year, the equipment you plan to use for installation also needs to be up for the task. Check step stools and ladders, drills, clips, and more to ensure all your materials are in good working order. If anything, you can rest assured of the likelihood that you’ll only need one trip to the hardware store. Yeah, memories of last year’s three (not to mention the additional Amazon Prime delivery), are dancing in our heads, too.

Mistake #2: Ignoring Extension Cord Safety

Once you’re sure your extension cords, power strips, and the like are up for the holiday task at hand, be sure you’re using them appropriately. Any type of electronic equipment you’re using outdoors should be outdoor grade. It’s also important not to overload them. Check the wattage your outlets can handle and make sure you don’t exceed that amount. Also, stick to a maximum of three strands of light per extension cord. Let’s make sure this holiday is a safe one.

Mistake #3: Forgetting the Timer

Christmas lights are living on borrowed time. Most options won’t last for years and years (especially if you went a more budget-friendly route) so maximizing their lifespan is key. To do just that, invest in a timer that will automatically switch your lights on and off at a designated time each evening. You won’t have to worry about messing with cords, plugs, and switches every day, and your lights will benefit from some much-needed time off.

Mistake #4: Not Having a Strategy Ahead of Time

Now is not the time to wing it. Even if you’re just stringing lights around your Christmas tree, having a strategy (i.e. working from the inside out, planning for ornament placement, ensuring white lights are all the same shade of white, etc.) will help keep the process a manageable one. In addition, it can also ensure you maximize your materials and don’t find yourself three strands short with company already knocking at the door.

When it comes to the outside displays, having a well-thought-out strategy might be even more important. You’ll want to make sure you’ll be able to pull off your vision, that you have the right tools, expertise, and time for the job, and—finally—that this will be a labor of love rather than a task you come to dread. After all, it’s all about getting in the Christmas spirit. No Scrooges allowed.

Mistake #5: Channeling Clark Griswold

Speaking of holiday characters, let’s go ahead and make this a Clark Griswold-free Christmas. If you think we’re talking about over-the-top light displays, we’re all for it if that’s what your holiday heart desires. Just make sure you don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make everyone’s Christmas the most magical. If you feel yourself leaning toward this mentality, consider how you can start small and keep it simple. There’s beauty in a pared-down Christmas, after all, and there’s no denying your full presence will be the greatest gift. So instead of standing outside for hours trying to make everyone else’s Christmas perfect, maybe settle for good enough and join the family for a cozy night around the fire instead.

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