Buckle Up! The Holidays are Nearly Here!

holidays planning

Yep. I said it. As I type this, Christmas is 25 weeks away, and Hanukah about 11 weeks away. Holy flaming fir trees, Batman! I don’t know about you, but my income typically goes down in November and December—fewer working days, and my income is tightly tied to the mortgage business, and nobody refinances their home during the holidays. (“Please pass the turkey, and how ‘bout those interest rates?”)

Additionally, costs go up.

Extra entertainment events, more opportunities to visit with family and friends who are passing through town during the holidays, plays, theatre and those fantastic holiday movies. And gifts.

Time to make a plan!

I envy my in-laws planning ability.  After seven years of marriage I know that in the 2nd week of October, I will receive a phone call saying “Veterans day is coming up, so we need to know what you want for Christmas.”  The first few years I was baffled by this, and now I’m prepared. My in-laws always shop on Veteran’s day. And they’re pretty money-savvy. 

Alternate years we ask for either sheets or towels.  My husband and I have already coordinated: “we’re due for sheets this year, right, hun?” he asked me tonight while pouring coffee. Without other words, we both knew two things: A: Mom and dad’s annual Veteran’s Day shopping spree is near and  B: Neither one of us wants to buy sheets.  (Alternating years we ask for sheets or towels because we both hate shopping for linens). So here’s your holiday planning guide.

Step 1. Evaluate Expectations

Shout out to Newlyweds here (DK, are you listening?) are you expected to give gifts to everyone in the family? Your great grandmother’s only surviving grand-niece on the other side of her family? At my house, one side of the family does a name exchange, the other side does small gifts for everyone. In our immediate family we have a pretty low-key Christmas celebration in favor of more family activities. (See my post from last year)

Step 2. Make a list!

Last year, I made a list and included everything I could think of and budgeted accordingly. At the end of all of it, I realized that I’d forgotten to budget for Christmas cards, and ended up sending out the dregs and leftover ones from the previous six years (ooops!).  Entertainment, gifts, cards, travel and some wiggle room just in case you forgot something.

Step 3. Budget!

Use an envelope, or a savings account, or whatever you want, but make a plan to have the money you need. The sooner the start, the less it hurts!  I’m a big fan of using SmartyPig.com to automatically save.

Step 4. Avoid the stores

By hand-making or online ordering you’ll avoid impulse purchases, “extras” like lattes and lunches in the mall food court, and blisters on your feet. I’ll be canning peaches and blackberry jam, which will be a welcome surprise to loved ones this winter and allow us to enjoy another stress-free, mall-free holiday season!

What’s your plan?

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