As you carve your jack o'lantern and decide what costume to wear to the annual Rock Star Halloween Ball, now is a good time to start preparing for Christmas. Oh yes, I did. I said it out loud. "But, I'm too busy with all the fun things you can do in Autumn," you say. "I don't have time to worry about Christmas." So, let me ask you something. Do you have time to be stressed and broke? Becaue that's exactly what's going to happen if you don't prepare.
Not to worry. It isn't painful and the earlier you start the easier it is. Whether you are fully prepared or just slightly so, either way you're going to be so glad you started early. Here's some of the ways I ease into the holiday season:
Let's Eat! Stores are already stocking the shelves for all that holiday cooking, so don't wait until you need it: start buying now. Here's some some basics that you can get now: flour, sugar, vanilla, cake mixes, frosting, frozen vegetables, cookie dough, sprinkles, wine, brownie mixes, exotic dried spices, broth, canned goods. One or two items per week won't break the bank and when the time comes, you're ready. I am stocking everything you can think of because Hubby always likes to tell me about the holiday work brunch he needs a casserole for and he needs it tomorrow morning. Or the kids bring home a note wanting cookie/brownie donations. Tomorrow. Are they conspiring with their dad? Just wondering.
Keep the Change. Yes, it's old fashioned, but set aside your change and any stray dollar bills until the holidays. You'll be surprised at how much you accumulate in the next few weeks. Use it for some stocking stuffers or perhaps give it to a bell ringer.
That's a Wrap. You should definitely make gifts look special but that doesn't mean you have to spend most of the weekend trying to win the award for Most Glitter on a Gift. We tend to choose a single color for our wrapping paper (red, green, gold, brown craft paper, whatever) and all the gifts for one side of the family has red decorations/bows, while the gifts for the other side of the family might have green. It's easy to gather them all up when we go visit. The bows and ribbons are often replaced with a special bow and ornament for the recipient. Lovely, quick, easy. As a bonus, the unified look under the tree is classic.
Dimes Make Dollars. Now is the perfect time to start cashing in those points on credit cards and websites. I let my points accumulate all year and they are perfect for shopping online. I'm also accumulating some dollars-off coupons to help pay for some little gifts like stocking stuffers. There are a great many things you can purchase early in the season. Search for online codes and any deals stores may have.
Making a List, Checking it Twice. Whether it's on your smart phone or in a little notebook, make a list of all your gift ideas. I have a small list of everyone and ideas by each name. That could include sizes, hobbies, budget. Just anything that helps make it easy for me. If I buy something, it is on the same list so I won't be rushing around trying to buy the perfect thing when I already have one. Don't laugh, it happens.
Repeat Performance. If your mom loved the exotic alpaca yarn you gave her last year, she might secretly hope to get some more this year. It's perfectly acceptable to have repeat gifts as long as the recipient doesn't mind. Another option is giving the same gift to everyone. We live in a great neighborhood with the most delightful neighbors and one of our traditions is to exchange gifts. They are usually simple things like a poinsettia or homemade jam. We give everyone the same gift because it's less complicated as well as less time consuming. Last year we took wire baskets lined with holiday tissue and filled them with organic pears, figs and a wedge of aged cheese. Wrapped in cellophane with a gigantic bow, they looked decadent. And we had great fun putting them in a wagon and delivering them door to door. Here's the thing: The baskets were purchased around October on clearance and the fruit came from a boutique grocer using some points I cashed in for a gift card that I used to pay for the purchase. The cellophane and the ribbon were clearance items too. The price for five gifts? Next to nothing. The warm fuzzy feeling? Immeasurable.
Think Ahead. Don't you just love that green bean casserole? Me neither. But I do love green beans and they will be on sale soon. Skip the casserole and stock up. Every time you're at the store just pick up one or two items for Christmas: tape, a bag of chocolate chips, some stocking stuffers. a few holiday candles. And think ahead. A lot of what you need for the holidays can be used after.
The most important thing is to start early, buy a little, buy often and keep track of it.
If you want to get even further ahead of the holiday rush, try doing what my friend Deneen does. As she crosses an item off her list, she wraps and labels it, putting it aside in a safe place (her secret place is the attic.) She even fills the stockings the same way. Little by little and whether you get it all done or not, any step you make is progress and will reduce your stress.