This can certainly wreak havoc on an otherwise tight budget but it's not too late to learn some terrific habits from holiday savvy shoppers. Many savvy spenders budget for Christmas over all twelve months of the year, not just the last one. And you can start the pattern now to avoid holiday crunch time next year.
Here are some top-notch ideas to get you started:
Open a Christmas Club savings account. Although this term isn’t really "popular" anymore the concept still works. Set aside a small amount each pay period into a separate savings account and withdraw it just in time for a holiday gift shopping spree.
Wait a second... aren't you in the middle of a shopping spree already? Likely yes, but this shouldn't stop you from starting to put aside funds for next year. Even if it's just a few pennies in a jar for now, it's a start and it will get you in the habit of continuing your goal after the holiday dust settles.
Make Christmas shopping a monthly affair. If shopping all at once isn’t your idea of fun, you can set up your budget to allow for the purchase of a gift a month and just save each item until Christmas. In fact, this also gives you the opportunity to take advantage of end of the season sales, essentially stretching your budget a little farther.
This may also allow you to buy things you normally wouldn’t be able to afford. For example, you can scoop up warm winter blankets and coats for just a few dollars each in February and March. Retailers need to move seasonal merchandise out of the store to make room for spring clothing. Save the blankets until fall and then make a welcome donation to your local homeless shelter.
Set aside a storage space. Maybe you can't afford to grab and extra gift right now, but you can set up a designated area or tote for storing gifts later. Storing extra gifts throughout the year usually necessitates having a gift closet. It can be anywhere, just as long as it is away from prying eyes. Be sure to include a stash of wrapping supplies as well.
Stock up the week after Christmas. Wrapping paper, ribbon, cards, tape and gift bags all go on sale for next to nothing after Christmas and you can stock up for next year for cheap. Target lets everyone know that they sell items at 50% off the day after a holiday, 75% off after three days and 90% off after seven days. In fact, many shoppers are making purchases for next year when they shop the day after Christmas.
If you normally have a busy party schedule, this plan-ahead method can work, too. Use your gift closet to keep token, generic gifts for all those people that stop by with a “you-shouldn’t-have” gift. Candles, vases and fine stationary products all go on sale and all appeal to a wide variety of guests. You can also stop by the Godiva Chocolatier on December 26th (early in the day) to purchase boxed chocolates with holiday wrappings and decorations. They sell for half off and, if you are planning on visiting anyone between Christmas and New Year’s, make a perfect hostess gift.
Recycle NOW! Every gift you open, every event you attend, look for items to recyle for current and future holiday use. If you just received a beautiful gift bag, reuse to gift someone on your list. If you can gently open your wrapped gifts, flatten out the paper and slip it in with your holiday gifts. Did you receive a nice container or plate with goodies but you really don't need the extra kitchenware- scrub them up. save them, and use them to gift your goodies or to bring treats to parties, leaving the gift for the hostess.
There's absolutely no shame in re-using and re-gifting items that will not go to good use or will be otherwise tossed in the trash. The recipient would be more pleased to know that the item was well used and appreciated.
Ask others to help you in your quest, too. If you are at a large gathering, ask the host to set up a box and declare that it is for recycling ribbons, gift bags, and so forth. Most people will be glad to contribute and know they are being more eco-friendly.
Planning for Christmas throughout the year is easy of you have a flexible list and a sharp eye. Watch for sales and plan accordingly.