Early Preparation for Christmas is the key to Savings

By ERIN TURNER

Prepare yourself. Did you know there are only EIGHT Saturdays left before Christmas?  I know, right? But take a deep breath and relax because if you start your planning now, you’ll be the most relaxed, calm person come December!

Now, let me preface this whole blog with the fact that I’m not one who fancies seeing Christmas items in the stores during October or swimwear in January…especially when I’m in desperate need of winter gear for boys who have had an unexpected growth spurt and all I can find are tropical print swim trunks! GRRR!  No, I don’t like the commercialism of the seasons so that is why I try to be as prepared as possible BEFORE the season begins.  My goal every year is to be at least 75% ready for Christmas by the first week of December.  This way, I can really relax and enjoy my family and all the fun traditions we have during Advent and the days leading up to the actual day.  I’m not caught into the frantic fervor of chaos and frustration.  The year I experienced that feeling and actually thought to myself, “I can’t wait until Christmas is over” was the year I realized things needed to change.  Preparation and planning were my solution to the problem.

Not only was my sanity at stake but our budget was as well.  Many of you may know that feeling of helplessness when you are shopping around the 20th of December and you just need to get the gifts regardless of price.  You feel guilty but then how guilty would you feel if you didn’t get a gift for friends or family?  It’s a no win situation so let’s vow right now to avoid that feeling this year!!

Here are some suggestions to help you in your planning:

1)  Make your list. This week sit down and write out a list of items (not gifts) that you buy for Christmas. Things like: entertaining items (alcohol, invitations, napkins, disposable cups, serving trays, etc), specialty food (baked goods, traditional foods, foods for entertaining or as hostess gifts, food for classroom parties, etc), Christmas cards, postage and packaging, wrapping paper, cleaning house for guests, etc.

Picture2 (2)2) Check out sales and Clearance items now. Many of these items can be bought or planned for over the next few weeks.  Maybe make a run to the dollar store and stock up on entertaining supplies. Or check out any sales or clearance items at various grocery or discount stores.  Get this stuff taken care of now, because it’s these little incidentals which sometimes cause us great stress and can take a chunk out of the budget if you have to run and buy at full price an hour before your partystarts.

3) Budget for Christmas Now! Sit down and talk with your spouse/family about a budget for Christmas.  Break it down on how much you can spend on each person.  Write it out in a notebook where you can track every time you buy something for each person.  In our family, this is a helpful thing for the kids to understand that they all get the same amount of money spent on them but it may look different in wrapped packages.

4) Start putting out feelers for Christmas gift ideas. Ask your kids for ideas.  If you have your lists all ready by mid-November, you are almost done. Start looking at stores or online for sales on those gift ideas.  If you start now, you also have plenty of time to get some homemade gifts made!  People truly appreciate the effort which goes into homemade gifts!

5) Wrap your gifts as you get them.  This is where I fail miserably!  I always wait until the last couple of days before Christmas to wrap and then I’m hating life!  My mom is the queen of wrapping when she buys and then she just labels each gift with a sticky note and pops it in her cedar chest.  She is always ready and her gifts look beautiful vs. my midnight, blurry-eyed, torn corner wrapping jobs!

6) Schedule your parties now.  Look at the calendar and plot out any parties you’ll be hosting or attending (if you know dates).  Write on the calendar when to mail or email out the invites and plan what you will serve.

7) Christmas cards.  Start now!  I swear I always plan on getting mine in the mail around the 20th of December but it rarely happens!  Many people want to save the hassle and money of cards so they have opted for virtual cards online.  I still like sending them out…mostly because I still love receiving them in the mail from others!  But this tradition can cost you quite a bit of money if you don’t plan ahead.

8) Write out a couple of goals you have for this upcoming holiday season.  Whether it’s to spend more time with family, attend more community seasonal events, incorporate more spirituality into the season or just have a better and more relaxed attitude.  Jot them down on paper and beside each one write two things you can do to accomplish that goal.  Put this paper in an area you’ll see frequently.

I hope this helps motivate you to do a little pre-planning and preparation during the next week or two.  I promise it may feel weird at first to be thinking about Christmas when the leaves are still barely hanging on to the trees, but you will be grateful come December that you took some time to think ahead.  Why not plan to make Christmas 2014 your most relaxed, most organized and budget-minded holiday yet?  What a great gift to give to your loved ones.  Happy planning!

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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.

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