I know…doesn’t it seem like Christmas just passed?
You probably can hardly stand to think about lights and trees and ornaments and gifts anymore, let alone consider the coming Christmas and all its trappings.
But, if you are one of the many people who received a depressing pile of post-Christmas bills in the mail during these past 6 weeks, I’d love to encourage you to think about next Christmas, and perhaps consider doing a couple of things starting now.
(Mmmhhmmm. In February!)
1. Start Saving
My husband and I start saving for Christmas in January, and we continue that all throughout the year. We don’t go crazy at Christmas, so we don’t have to save a LOT each month. We just have $40 automatically sent to our Capital One Christmas Savings account* every month, and by the end of the year, we have a nice little pile of money saved for gifts.
For many years, we didn’t operate this way, and I can tell you that the saving-ahead-of-time route is SO much less stressful…I really can’t recommend it enough! Even if you can only save $5 a week, that’s better than nothing.
*ING (now Capital One 360) is a perfect place to stash your Christmas savings because the money is not readily available for withdrawal. To take it out, you have to request a transfer to your regular checking account, and that takes several days. This makes it much less tempting to pull the money out for something frivolous.
2. Keep Your Eyes Open For Gifts
The thing about looking for bargains at thrift stores or regular stores is that it’s sort of difficult to predict when they’ll be available (especially at thrift stores!). So, if you wait until December 15th, 2010 to start shopping, odds are good that you’ll have difficulty finding what you want, or you’ll have to pay more than you’d prefer to pay.
Obviously it’s not always good to buy things way ahead of time, but by the same token, it does work out well sometimes.
For instance, I know that Sonia is going to enjoy receiving bath products at Christmas time, so I’m already keeping a eye out to see if I can find some at Goodwill, and I’ll do that all year long. As another example, I know we’re going to let Lisey get her ears pierced this year, so I bought some fun Christmas earrings for her on clearance in January.
The little silver picture frame above is one that I found at Goodwill for my sister-in-law, who collects old silver frames. By taking a quick look through the frames each week at Goodwill, I’ve been able to find 5 different silver frames for her collection, and though these cost far less than new frames at the store, she much prefers to receive the older variety.
3. Think About What You Could Make For Christmas
If you want to learn how to make candy so that you can give it for gifts at Christmas, start practicing now so that you have a good recipe and a good skill set by December. The same goes if you want to learn how to make bread, jelly, scrapbooks, knit hats, or who knows what else.
If you start learning a skill now, your gifts will be that much better in December.
Another advantage to thinking ahead about making things for Christmas is that you can start ahead of time. This is especially handy if you are making time-consuming gifts, non-perishable gifts like knit items, or scrapbooks. As a for instance, I got the idea to make the leather album for my sister back in May, and I added a few pages to the album every time I did a photo shoot of my nephew.
This was much less stressful than starting the album for my husband’s grandma 4 days before Christmas. <cough that was stupid cough>
If you’re at a loss when it comes to homemade gift ideas, you might find the suggestions in my post on homemade Christmas gifts to be helpful.
So, that’s how I prepare ahead of time. But if you’ve got a good planning-ahead idea for Christmas that’s different than mine, do share with us in the comments. You might inspire me!
*If you need to open a 360 Capital One account, just click right here. (full disclosure: I get a small commission if you open an account using that link). I highly recommend opening an online savings account…it’s free, there’s no minimums, and the money is just slightly inconvenient to access, which means you’ll be more likely to keep it there until Christmas.