Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Christmas ~ Ready, Set, Go!

Yes. It's six months away. So why the heck am I posting about getting ready for it now? Well, it's all Zaven's fault. Zaven's birthday is right at the end of June. When he was little and I was only shopping for one (slightly spoiled) toddler, I would shop for his birthday during the first half of the year and his Christmas presents during the second half. And it's still a handy way for me to keep myself organized.

I know what you're thinking. No. I am not a nut and I'm not Martha Stewart. But I do have to make some kind of shopping plan for Christmas because I have 6 people in my family. If we wait until November or December to shop then I would HAVE to put it all on a credit card. That means paying interest and fines and fees and suddenly I'd be spending a lot more money than I can afford. So I kind of spread the shopping out a bit. More importantly, if I have months to look for a great deal or to get creative about gifts I can save myself a small fortune. And I think I can help you save a small fortune, too.

First, a caveat. There are some great deals to be had just before Christmas. I'm not asking you to give those up. Ideally, you'd have the majority of your shopping done early but still have lots of wiggle room in your budget for last minute shopping. The difference is that if you do it my way, you'll be shopping those sales for fun and/or to buy gifts for a future birthday or anniversary, not because you're frantic to get a gift that you need right then.

Sooo.... here's the plan. Step one, make a plan. Pick one sunny Saturday and spend an hour thinking about Christmas like it's right around the corner. What if it were November? What would you be freaking out about? We're all freaking out about something during Novemeber aren't we? So imagine it's a Thanksgiving weekend and you've just finished eating (and cleaning) and you're about to make your to-do list. What exactly do you need to get done? Who are you buying gifts for? And what would they like? And how much money will you be spending? And what about food? Drinks? What about decorations? Lights? The tree stand?

Are you freaking out yet? Don't. Think about it for a minute. The food and drinks? Well, what do you normally serve? I just bought a whole sirloin for $1.99 a pound a few weeks ago and it's in my freezer waiting to be turned into a roast beast that the grinch would gladly serve. I'm not much into baking cookies and yeast rolls in this hot weather, but if I mix up the cookie dough and freeze it, it'll be ready to slice and bake this winter. Same goes for the yeast rolls. Frozen doughs last a long time. Farm fresh green beans would be awfully nice to just defrost come December. Get the idea?

And what about the decorations? Those lights and tree stand? It's yard sale season folks. You can pick them up for a few bucks if you need. In fact you can pick up a lot of your presents at yard sales, too. No, I'm not talking about giving folks used junk. But honestly, don't most kids outgrow their toys and clothes before they wear them out? Yard sales are filled with worn out junk... and with really nice toys that your kids might love. And they're filled with stocking stuffers, pretty flower pots and baskets that you can fill with all those free toiletries you've been getting at Rite Aid, and even a few kids clothes that still have the tags on them.

No, the toys will not be in their original boxes. But here's how I deal with that. Santa's presents don't come with the packaging. What kid likes those twist ties and hermetically sealed plastic anyway? Even when the elves buy from the stores, they remove all the packaging. In fact, Santa doesn't even wrap the presents he leaves at our house. They're just set under the tree on Christmas eve. How do the kids know which present belongs to which kid? Santa very kindly sets a child's full stocking on top of their gifts from him. He's so nice.

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