By Trina Boice
What? We’re counting down how many shopping days are left until Christmas already?! Nooooo!
Actually, this is all about what you can do now to prepare for Christmas so that you DON’T have to go shopping, scramble for gifts at the last minute and spend a fortune on impulse purchases during the holidays!
A little bit of gift preparation and planning ahead now will allow you to relax and enjoy your family and loved ones during the festivities. Imagine having time to actually reflect on the reason for the season rather than be rushed and stressed as you frantically watch the clock tic towards your gift deadline! Santa has to make a list and check it twice, so starting now will allow you to really enjoy the spirit of giving, take advantage of sales and be more organized than ever.
Begin by creating a Christmas To-Do list and a budget. Need a little more direction? Check out the following guide: http://lifeasmom.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Holiday-Planning-To-Do-List.pdf. You’ll also find some great ideas there for recipes, memorable activities, and crafts.
Christmas doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive. Some stores, such as Sears, Kmart, Old Navy, Target, J.C. Penney, and Toys R Us offer “Christmas Lane” sections on their websites in July to reduce some of their stock and attract summer shoppers. You can find even more Christmas in July sales at:
Start stocking up now on free samples for stocking stuffers. You can also start stocking up on points that can be redeemed for gift cards when you do searches at www.Swagbucks.com or www.Mypoints.com. It’s amazing how fast the points and gift cards can add up.
You’ll earn cash back when you make purchases at www.Ebates.com or www.ShopAtHome.com. If you want to purchase something specific for someone, start saving those pretty pennies in a special jar, and don’t be tempted to spend them on something else. Watch for the item you want to go on sale by registering for price drop alerts and following deal trackers such as:
You’ve got plenty of time to make homemade gifts if you start now. People recognize the time and love you’ve invested in them when your gift comes from your heart and your hands. Etsy is a terrific site where anyone can sell their handicrafts. You can get ideas or even make early purchases now with their Christmas in July sale at: http://www.etsy.com/search?includes=tags&q=christmas+in+july.
Here are some great homemade gift ideas to get your creative juices started:
- http://frugalliving.about.com/od/specialoccasions/tp/Free_Low_Cost_Christmas_Gifts.htm?nl=1 (Denim Pocket Quilt, rag wreath, sweater bag, wine cork wreath, jar candles, bundt cake candle, popsicle soap, chocolate spoons, sweater mittens, button magnets)
- http://frugalliving.about.com/od/christmas/tp/Homemade_Gifts_for_Kids.htm?nl=1 (Crayons, playdough, sidewalk chalk, denim pocket purse, felt board, treasure soap, bubble bath, soap scrubbies)
- http://frugalliving.about.com/od/gifts/tp/Homemade-Gifts-For-Men.htm?nl=1 (Cell phone case, fire starters, homemade beer or wine, knit socks, jerky, grill cover, personalized calendar, soap)
- http://frugalliving.about.com/od/gifts/tp/Homemade-Gifts-For-Girls.htm?nl=1 (Lip gloss, jean skirt, body butter, Easy-Bake mixes, jewelry, purse, bandana backpack)
- http://frugalliving.about.com/od/craftsgifts/tp/Homemade-Gifts-For-Boys.htm?nl=1 (Marshmallow gun, slime, duct tape wallet, slipper socks, snow pants)
Babies & Toddlers:
- http://frugalliving.about.com/od/gifts/tp/Homemade-Gifts-For-Toddlers.htm?nl=1 (Toys, blankets, bath towel, hat, scrapbook, finger puppets, bubbles, paint)
- Whip up a big batch of lotion, lip balm, or soap to divide and give as gifts. Here are a bunch of recipes to pull from: http://frugalliving.about.com/od/beautyrecipes/tp/Make-Your-Own-Beauty-Products.htm?nl=1
If you don’t have a green thumb or a crafty finger but appreciate those who do, you might get a kick out of attending a “Christmas in July” festival where artisans focus on gifts for the holidays. Do an Internet search for one in your area or check out some of these:
Throw a “Christmas in July” party! You can find all kinds of tips and fun ideas for your shindig at: http://www.theholidayspot.com/christmas_in_july. One kind of “Christmas in July” party I love is a “Swap” where people bring new or gently-used items they have sitting around their house and exchange it with other people’s stuff. I call it a “New to You” event that makes for perfect, FREE gifts. You could also have a “Busy Hands” party where everyone brings crafting supplies, extra fabric, and cute ideas that everyone can use to make gifts.
Would you believe there is actually a movie entitled “Christmas in July’? You can learn more about it at:
If you really love Christmas and can’t get enough, you’ll love these websites which are dedicated to spreading Christmas cheer year ‘round:
Finally, take some time to reconsider what you spend your time and money on during the holidays. For example, most people stress out over Christmas cards, the family photo that goes on them, as well as the stamps that rack up your Christmas expense. Would the world end if you sent a FREE Christmas letter email with photos?
What if, instead of buying gifts for every single person in your extended family, you bought one gift for each family like a favorite DVD and snack pack for them to enjoy? My sister-in-law always sends us a basket each Christmas filled with all of the yummy treats her family has discovered during that year. How about having a neighborhood potluck dinner where you can spend time together, rather than dropping off purchased gifts for everyone on your street?
The truth is, we all have more than enough “stuff” in our homes…we really don’t need more gifts. What we DO want is more time with our loved ones, so think about what kinds of “experiences” you can give at Christmas time. For example, you could give an invitation to a special dinner in your home, a specially-wrapped fingernail polish with a card that explains you’ll join the receiver on a “Girls Day Out” to get a pedicure, a season membership pass to a local museum, or a box of Frisbee golf discs with maps to all of the local parks where you could play together.
Christmas should be a magical time, but if you’re racing around like a stressed out crazy person the entire month of December, then it won’t be! Take a breath and make a plan now to create marvelous memories for your loved ones.
Trina Boice (the “fru”gal)