Tuesday, July 25, 2017

3 Steps to Prep for Christmas in July

5 months until Christmas!  I know, I know, it's 85 degrees out and it feels like it's a lifetime away.  And you do have plenty of time, but tell me you don't get to November and wonder where the time went and panic about how little you have done?  The thing is, financially, Christmas is not an emergency.  It comes at the same time every year, and yet people don't plan for this and go into debt over it.  That's crazy!  If that's you, it's time to nip that in the bud.


Planning for a frugal Christmas, or Christmas at all, starts with list making.  I recommend:
  • A master gift list of everyone you'd like to give gifts to.  Try to organize it in order of importance, so you know where to allocate your money, or who might just get a nice card instead when money gets tight.
  • Gifts you plan to make.  Even if it's just ideas swirling around, put them on the list.  People always underestimate how long it takes to make homemade gifts.  If you're planning on knitting a blanket, you might very well know that it takes you exactly 3 weeks.  But imagine that same 3 weeks in November or December... suddenly, you have 40 other things on your plate.  Knowing what you plan on making gives you plenty of time to corral supplies and actually get started, so you're not knitting at 4 a.m. on December 23.
  • Supplies for the gifts you plan to make.  Flour and chocolate chips for cookies, beads for jewelry, yarn for hats, whatever it is, add it to the list. 
  • Christmas cards to send.  If you enjoy sending cards, make a list of everyone you plan to send to.  This way, you have plenty of time to confirm addresses, and even start writing them up if you're going to personalize things.  Add the supplies necessary to the list you just made for gift supplies.
  • Other supplies you plan to buy.  This would include home decor and wrapping paper for the gifts, or boxes and bags if you plan to bake things.
  • Any travel plans.  Particularly if you're flying anywhere, so you can be ready when you need to book.  But it's good to list out any sort of travel, so you can mark dates on your calendar and set reminders to pack.
  • All parties and other events.  It's likely you don't know the dates this early, but you're probably aware of recurring parties.  If your aunt always hosts a cookie exchange in early December, you always go to midnight mass, or your kid's school always has a Christmas concert, add those to the list.
  • Menus and recipes.  If you host anything during this season, I commend you.  And also, you need to get to list making!  Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, if you plan on hosting something related to any of these days, start making a menu and hunting down recipes you want to try.  Dedicate a Pinterest board to it if you need to.  Last minute menu planning is hard, and you're bound to forget something!
  • Gifts you'd like to get.  People are going to ask, so even if you're a minimalist, have a list ready.  Even if all that's on it is grocery store gift cards and candles, at least you'll get exactly what you want and need.


My favorite part, naturally.  But I think it's important to do the listing step first, and then dive into organizing.
  • Check all decorations and wrapping paper, and any other supplies you may have, from last year.  A lot of people, myself included, buy things right after the holiday when it's all on sale.  But that's a long time to remember what you have.  Anything that can be used again this year can be crossed off your shopping list!  Also take this time to get rid of anything broken or outdated, that you know you won't be using this year.
  • Organize your craft room or area.  If you plan on making a lot of gifts, organize the area where you plan to do this.  Declutter any supplies that you don't need or use anymore and clear the area so you have room to work.  Nothing like going to start a project in November and needing a week just to clean out the room to find your crochet hooks.  This goes for bakers as well.  If you plan on baking a lot of things, organize your supplies.  Make sure you have everything you need and everything is still in good shape, so you have time to replace any pans or spatulas that are worn out.
  • Purchase the supplies you need to make gifts.  Once the area is cleaned up, you know exactly what you still need.  Cross what you have off your supplies list and go purchase the rest (watch for sales since you have time now!)
  • Plan your cards.  Particularly if you put handmade touches on them yourself, or take family photos.  Schedule a time to take pictures and to decorate and address the cards.
  • Plan deadlines and organize your calendar.  Everyone's schedules get nutty in the fall and winter months, so having deadline reminders throughout your calendar prevent the last minute rush.  This includes deadlines for homemade gifts, but also for shopping, wrapping, cooking, and making travel plans.  It really is so much better to get these kinds of things out of the way early so you can actually sit back and enjoy the season with your family and friends.
  • Set up a gift storage area.  Since you'll be buying and making gifts so far ahead of time, it's essential that you have a place to store everything.  After all, there's no tree yet to put things under.  Take this time to clear out space in a closet, spare room, or even under the bed to store these things until December.  I also recommend noting this on your master gift list so you don't forget you made or bought it.  And if you wrap ahead of time - PUT A NAME ON IT.


Budgeting is essential to having a stress free season, even if you're not trying to be as frugal as possible.  This holiday is not something to go into debt over, which a lot of people do!
  • Set a budget.  Obviously the first step is looking over your finances and setting a realistic budget.  You could do this by looking at your spending in years past, and then cutting it down, or recognizing that there's only (depending on your pay periods of course) about 10 paychecks until Christmas.  Set a budget accordingly.  Don't forget to include everything outside of the presents - food, events, wrapping paper, decorations, even an increased electric bill from running Christmas lights.  It all adds up!
  • Start setting money aside.  Like I said, 10 paychecks.  Look at your regular monthly spending and see how much you're willing and able to start setting aside per paycheck.  I advise moving this money into a separate bank account that you won't touch.  Some people also buy gift cards with it, and then use the gift cards to shop closer to Christmas time when things are on sale.
  • Make extra money.  If what you can put aside each paycheck isn't quite reaching what you budgeted, think about how you could make extra money.  It's easier than you think.  Personally, I purchase gifts using money I make off Swagbucks, I've mentioned that before.  You can also leverage your blog and social media accounts to make some money or products.  And summer is a great time to easily make money outdoors - walk dogs, have a yard sale, there's a whole slew of ideas on Pinterest about how to make money at a small side job.  Now's the time to get started!
  • Research.  If something in your budget seems awfully high, start researching how to lower those numbers.  It's as easy as a Pinterest or Google search.  Look for zero cost Christmas gifts, how to lower your heat bill in winter, sending virtual Christmas cards, how to cut back on party prep supplies, etc.  There's information out there to help you scale back, and since you're starting now, you'll have plenty of time to be prepared and not stressed.
  • Talk to family and friends.  Having conversations now about Christmas spending is much less heated than trying to do it just before the holiday.  Just meet up for coffee or even send a text, and let them know you're spending less this year and getting into the holiday spirit more.  Tell them you'd rather spend time with them without any gifts at all, or, instead, do something inexpensive together that you both enjoy, like visiting a museum after the new year.  Trust me, a lot of people are relieved when you suggest not spending money on each other for Christmas.

Hopefully you gained some tips today to help you not feel so stressed out come the holiday season.  Do you prep for Christmas early?  Have you started anything yet?

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