As I’m writing this, I’m eating some of my son’s Halloween candy (shhh….he’ll never know!) and that only means one thing: Halloween is over and it’s November.
52 days until Christmas.
If that sends you into a bit of a panic, or if you’re celebrating because it seems it’s practically around the corner and now you’ve got more time than you thought, now is the time to get organized. Yes, some of you are not organized by nature. And we all can’t start buying stocking stuffers in June (ahem), so here’s a bit of a plan to get you in shape for gift giving with hopefully some time leftover to actually experience the holidays!
1. Set a Budget
Determine what you will spend on gifts and other holiday expenses, including travel, entertainment, food, etc. Make a list of everyone you intend to give gifts and then categorize them into three areas:
- will receive a gift and what amount
- will receive a homemade gift or a gift of time or service
- will receive a card
Sometimes when you make a list and actually see the number of names on it, you realize that you can’t give a $50 gift to everyone on your list or you’re going to go into debt. Perhaps too late for this year, but consider opening a Christmas savings account where you can add funds each week throughout the year to plan for your December spending. In addition, consider not giving gifts to some people on your list, but opt to just send a card or give a gift of an experience. Say no when you cannot afford to give a gift or pool funds to give gifts for teachers or co-workers.
2. Get Creative
How many times have you given your dad a tie for Christmas or sent pajamas to your grandmother? Many times, people appreciate a gift you’ve made or a gift of service. Friends recently gifted me with a salon gift certificate and a coupon to babysit my kids while I’m being pampered. Offer to wash a car, babysit children or cook meals. By pairing a small gift with a gift of your time, you spend less cash and still are giving a wonderful gift.
Package Christmas candy in pretty wrapping. Consider putting together a gift baskets for people on your list, such as a movie night for your brother the film buff – popcorn, movie tickets, candy. Take a look at this list of similar and fantastic ideas.
Another advantage to inviting many people to go in on a gift is that even small contributions add up, and you can get a memorable larger gift for that teacher or boss than perhaps the standard bottle of wine or tree ornament.
3. Schedule Something Fun
Many times during November and December we don’t find ourselves getting into the holiday spirit in the midst of so much stress and chaos. I like to plan an outing or two in advance (preferably requiring RSVP or tickets so I won’t back out!) that will be relaxing and meaningful, getting me into the spirit of the holidays. Then, despite all the loose ends or holiday cards that have yet to be sent, there is a designated time to enjoy the season!
Last December we took what was to be a serene trek to the woods to cut down a Christmas tree. My husband was in a bad mood, my son threw up from getting car sick on the windy roads, the hot apple cider they promised was watered down from a mix, and the tree was over $70. So.not.relaxing. This year: local tree lot, cocoa and carols while decorating the tree, and hopefully not a vomiting toddler in sight.
So, plan some sanity. Attend a local music concert, plan an outing to your favorite museum or cafe, watch a Christmas movie, bake cookies. Plan ways to give to others – contribute toys for needy children, or plan an outing at a local nursing home. You’ll be glad you carved out some time!
4. Shop Early & Online
Well, duh. But every year I find myself running to the mall for that one gift I forgot to pick up, only to find it’s not in stock, I have to visit 5 more stores, and I feel a wreck. Many sites are offering free shipping and incentives for holiday shopping this year (and all year, as you know!). Check the coupons on Bonus.com before you shop to ensure you’re not missing out on an additional discount. Compare prices at Bonus.com to make sure you’ve found the best deal out there.
Many stores, such as REI, Toys R Us, Walmart.com, Best Buy, and Payless Shoes, offer free shipping from site to store, so look for these types of conveniences and savings, too. Also, if you took our past advice and started a gift reserve, now is a great time to dip in for last minute or unexpected gifts.
So, take a deep breath. It’s really four easy steps: Determine your budget, plan some fun, think outside the box, and then click away!
Have any tips to add here? We’d love to hear them so share in the comments!