Get a Head Start on the Holidays

by Diane R. Schmidt

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Christmas is supposed to be one of the most joyous, happy times of the year. But why do so many of us find ourselves stressed out, doing too much and not finding time to spend with loved ones?

This year, decide to do something different. While you may not want to think about Christmas now, a little planning can't hurt! Here are some painless ways to start preparing now:

  • Get out your decorations and sort through them. Throw out old lights that don't work, ornaments you don't like, and take an inventory of what you have and what you need.
  • Jump in the car and go garage saling! You may find great Christmas decorations!
  • Save that cash. Even if you have to open a new bank account, making it your Christmas club account, do it. Each week, deposit your loose change, rebate checks, gift money, and any cash that you didn't expect to receive. Over time, this will add up! To increase your savings even more, consider having a small amount of your paycheck direct deposited into the account.
  • Decide what you want. Every year, we're asked what we want for Christmas and a lot of times we are clueless (except the favorite wish list item, win the lottery!). This year, avoid getting gifts you don't want by giving those you exchange with a list of items you'd like. To give the gift giver choices, keep the dollar amounts at various levels. Also, be specific with your list, including store names or web site URLs.
  • Christmas is a tasty time, filled with all kinds of great food. Instead of trying to make it all, get out your recipes now and decide on your favorites. Do an inventory of the ingredients in your cupboards and stock up on what you need when you catch a good sale.
  • Don't be afraid to scale back. If you don't like giving gifts to your cousin's sister's brother because you've always given gifts, write them a note or e-mail and explain you are cutting back this year. They may be relieved too. Be sure to send them a nice Christmas card in December.
  • Gift box it. Do you have brand new items you received as gifts, but you don't really want them? If so, put them in a sturdy box, label who gave it to you (so you don't regift back to them!), and collect items throughout the year. You may also want to watch for sales and clearance items to add to the box.
  • Spend some time brainstorming cheap alternatives to gift-wrap and tags. A cheap and clever way to label gifts is to cut up the decorated side of an old Christmas card, punch a hole and tie with ribbon. Also, create tags on your computer and print out as many as you need. Gift-wrap can be substituted with festive plastic bags, decorated boxes, etc. Just use your imagination!
  • Buy some gift cards. Once a month, buy a few gift cards to stores in which you know you'll be shopping (such as Toys R Us). By using gift cards for your shopping, the amount you can spend will be limited. However, be careful that the cards don't have expiration dates.

These are just some ideas to get you started. This year, make a commitment to spend less, do less and enjoy the holiday season.

Diane Schmidt is editor of, your one-stop savings site for printable coupons, freebies, contests, and lots more.

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