Reduce Christmas Stress by Planning and Shopping Ahead

By ERIN TURNER

Happy Halloween, everyone! I hope you enjoy a day of spooks and frights!

But once the last Snickers bar is consumed and the last cup of witches’ brew is poured, it is time to pull on the Santa hat and get serious about Christmas. I know, I know…you’re all rolling your eyes and thinking I’m the epitome of Corporate America.

If you remember from my blog in July, I talked about how being prepared for Christmas was one way of breaking the commercialism of the holiday. Planning ahead is also a great way to reduce Christmas stress. If you have ever waited until December to start your shopping, then you know how quickly a person can turn into a Grinch and how much money you end up spending. Unpreparedness ruins the spirit of the season!

Now hopefully, you took some advice in July and achieved some gift buying this summer while you traveled or attended various markets around town. I bought some great gifts this summer and have them tucked away but I still have a bulk of gifts to get between now and Christmas. I’m not too stressed yet but I do sense the clock is a-ticking. If you’re just coming on board and haven’t done any preparation yet, don’t worry, it’s still not too late to get ready for Christmas in a frugal kind of way.

The first step is to make lists. Lots and lots of lists – yup, just like Santa! I have a little book where I keep track of gift ideas, what gifts I already have, and how much I’ve spent on each person. This is a lifesaver in the midst of the busy holiday season because I can keep track of everything and have a visible way of remembering all the details. I also find it helpful to look back over last year’s list so no one gets the same gift twice in row. (Yes, Mrs. Claus’ mind gets cloudy this time ofyear!)

Setting up a budget early is critical for a frugal Christmas. Talk with your spouse about how much to spend on each person. First, make a list of all who you give gifts to and then set amounts for each of those people. If you save for Christmas all year, then use that amount as the basis for determining how much you will spend. I highly recommend pulling a certain amount of money out each month all year long which goes directly into a Christmas spending fund. It may mean one less latte each week or brown baggin’ it once a week, but come December, you will be grateful for it!

You have 55 days until Christmas, so that means you have plenty of time for price shopping and comparing prices. With so much competition out there in the retail world, you should be able to find some great deals on gifts if you take the time to shop and compare! Don’t forget about checking prices online as well. Plus, online retailers usually offer free shipping during this time of year as a bonus. By shopping early, you will also avoid the fearful “out of stock” dilemma!

Talking with your family about gift expectations is an important part of your preparation. I have a six-year-old who thinks everything he circles in a catalog is going to be delivered to him via sleigh and reindeer! So, we have to define reality for him and let him know Santa is NOT going to be delivering a drum set, a real life arcade game, a jungle gym, a butterfly house, and all those wonderful looking toys in the “wish books” that have already started arriving in themailbox.

Our family tries to put more emphasis on special family activities during the holidays which has created lots of excitement, anticipation, and takes the focus off of just gifts. Communication about holiday expectations sometimes helps alleviate unnecessary stress and centers the family on the important principles of the holiday.

Retailers will be trying to earn your business in the next couple of months by offering plenty of different promotions and deals. Take advantage of these specials, as they will save you money. You may have to spend a little more time reading the weekly ads to figure out all the various promotions but in the end it will be worth the effort.

Use your creativity to make homemade gifts. There is still plenty of time for you to tackle some gift-giving projects. Homemade gifts are much appreciated by the recipients, fun to make, and less expensive than store-bought gifts. There are endless ideas out there on different things you can make. When my middle son was six, he loved to build things out of wood. So my parents put together this huge box of wood scraps for him for Christmas. The scraps ranged in various sizes, shapes, and lengths. Logan thought it was the gift of all gifts and just this past summer, three years later, he finally used the last piece of wood! A creative, meaningful, and useful gift which cost my parents only a few precious “grandparent” moments. So, get those thinking caps on and create away!

As you sit down, hopefully very soon, to start making out all your lists—pledge to make this year a Christmas full of joy and relaxation! It truly CAN happen if you start planning and preparing now. You will save yourself lots of stress, anxiety, and guilt. Plus, you will avoid the post-Christmas influx of bills which creates even more stress, anxiety, and guilt. Plan wise and prepare now—then kick your feet up next to a crackling fire, sip a hot toddy, and savor the wonder of theseason!

Stay tuned over coming weeks for some more holiday preparation tips. And please, I’d love to hear your own tips for how to save money during the holidays and reduce Christmas stress.

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Erin’s got tons of tips for saving money, couponing, and sticking to a budget in her previous posts: Teaching Money to Kids and Teens, Cyber Couponing, or Decorating for Fall on a Frugal Budget. Be sure to check out the Missoula Save it Club – just look for the Daily Missoula Fix buttons on the homepage.

  Visit the Coupon Queen’s “Save It”archive.

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Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.