Monday, June 27, 2011

Preparing for Christmas

I know, it's the end of June.  Why am I talking about Christmas?  Well, if you read my post about Saving for Christmas you'll know I'm trying to be better prepared this year.  While last week's post focused on putting money aside, this week I want to talk about ways to prepare all year long.

Some years I find that I have more time so I think a little bit more about what to get people all year long.  The trouble is sometimes I forget what I've bought, how much I've spent or where I put it.  Here are some suggestions for how to prepare all year long.

Keep your lists from year to year
I keep my Christmas lists in Excel and copy each sheet every year so that I can 1) remember what I gave the following year 2)start jotting down ideas as they come up.  Why do you ask is it important that you remember what you gave last year?  That's so you don't give you sister-in-law the exact same thing because you thought of her when you saw it.  Yes - I have done that before.  I try to do special presents (like the White House ornaments) for any of the kids where I'm their godmother.  I sometimes forget who get what so this helps keep me on track.  In addition to the gift ideas I write down the cost, this helps me to stay in my allotted budget for each person.

Add immediately to next year's list
It never fails, when I'm done with someone I find 'the perfect item' for them.  If I have the money I may pick it up and set it aside for next year (and add it to the list) or else I'll jot it down on my list for the following Christmas.

Periodically pull out the list to see if something can be bought ahead
As I stated there are some items I buy from year to year (like the White House ornaments).  By periodically looking at my list I'll remind myself if there is something I could order early or that is seasonal.  This has helped me avoid the 'ugh - I don't have enough saved for Christmas' crisis in previous years.

Shop off-season
My mother-in-law is a Master Gardener and my sister-in-law loves pigs.  I'm always on the look out during the summer/fall craft sales for unusual pig items or I shop the end of year clearance center at the garden stores.  I have picked up some really cool items at 75% which I would not have otherwise been able to afford. 

Wrap your purchases when you buy them
Who wants to think about gift wrapping in July?  Someone who doesn't want to spend hours upon hours doing it at Christmas!  If you can buy wrapping paper and bows at the end of Christmas sale you should be all ready to go.  Wrapping the presents ahead of time saves me MUCH aggravation during the holiday season.  As long as you put a name tag on it and have written down on the list what you bought the person you should be fine.

Put your gifts where you can find them
One Christmas I stuck my White House ornaments aside (because I bought them so early!) and couldn't remember where I put them.  During present opening I had to tell the girls that they were getting them but that I couldn't find them.  Luckily I found them in February in the drawer I had stuck them in for safe keeping.  Pick a spot to put all your presents and use it! 

Make your own gifts
Brandy at The Prudent Homemaker commented on my Christmas post that she makes a lot of her gifts.  I think that is fantastic as I love getting home made gifts.  Last year my mom made scarves for all of us, this year she's making blankets.  If you have a skill, use it!  I think that a gift that has been hand made is very special and tends to be cherished more than a lot of the plastic toys we give.  Preparing all year for what gifts you'd like to make can make the holiday season a little less stressful and will help stretch your dollar (maybe -  depending on what you make) quite a bit further.

As I have gotten older I've really gotten disenchanted by the commercialism of Christmas.  Later this week I'll be writing about some gift giving ideas to make Christmas a little more meaningful.

How do you prepare for Christmas all year long?

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