If you do nothing, rest assured you'll wake up on December 15th wondering where the time went. Speeding off to the mall, you'll end up bah humbugging your way through crowds to buy over-priced obligatory gifts, 90% of which won't be appreciated (because they weren't thoughtful gifts in the first place).
If this is you each year-end, stop that reactive madness now. Holiday parties and gifts are meant to be exciting and enjoyable--not rushed and expensive. Get on board with planning ahead and you'll quickly notice the financial and emotional rewards of proactive holidays.
Step 1: Declutter Your House
Spend the remainder of October and early November cutting the clutter. The last thing your living space needs is more of the same or bulging cabinets. Comb through the old toys and donate or swap via Freecycle to avoid hoarding. Your younger kids won't even notice if some of Santa's gifts don't come in a box.
Step 2: Set a Holiday Budget
Who doesn't want to be the generous aunt or fun-loving friend? Being conservative with your money just means getting more creative for your loved ones. You won't be able to splurge on that gas grill dad wants. So what? You couldn't afford it anyway. Make a list of gifts you'd like to buy for friends and family--you may want to make a B-list of options in case you run out of money. Also write a menu for the big dinner nights. Don't forget to include postage, wrapping paper, and special food items in your budget.
Step 3: Start Collecting in Cash
Unless you buy online, stick to cash only. When you shop virtually, pay off the card immediately. Christmas debt is the antithesis to the season--if you can't buy within your means, don't buy at all. If you begin in November, that will leave you at least five weeks to enjoyably shop for your loved ones. Keep in mind that the more personal (not expensive) your gift is will mean much more than innocuous China-made jewelry or fake Coach bags. If you are head chef this year, start browsing for deals on dry goods and large quantities of meat (freeze it until a couple days before cooking).
Step 4: Make All DIY Gifts
One of our family traditions includes sugar cookie decorating. I take icing very seriously and enjoy spending too much time crafting designs each year. Making a Christmas cookie basket for family friends is my thing and costs about $3.50 per bag after all ingredients, bags, and boxes. Maybe you enjoy creating crosses, pottery, or homemade soaps. Share your hobby with your friends and let them partake. If you begin collecting supplies from the end of October to the middle of November, you'll catch good sales at some point and give yourself a solid six weeks to assemble gifts.
*A note about edibles: Make sure you have a plan to deliver all those yummy gifts before they become stale. Baked goods need to be sent within 1-2 days.
Step 5: Signed, Sealed, Delivered
Use newsprint or butcher paper for classic wrapping designs. Bust out your daughter's stamps and grab some clearance ribbon to add flare. Don't skip the annual Christmas card in the name of cheap (some things are too meaningful to scrap). But don't make it boring. Write a letter to friends and family from the vantage point of your dog, or make a quarter-fold Family Gazette complete with headlines and crossword puzzle. Ship and mail everything by December 15th to allow ample time for delivery. And then relax.
Need even more help? The experts at Organized Home have incredible free downloads for staying organized during the holidays.
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