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Have You Started Your Christmas Shopping Yet?
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At the time this article is being written, summer vacations have ended for kids that spent their summer going barefoot, eating popsicles and running through the sprinkler with their friends.† (Ok, maybe that sounds too much like a commercial for lemonade.)† College students, if not already away from home, will be heading to college.† That means, we should be heading to the autumn months and preparing for Christmas!

I know what you are thinking ďIsnít it a little early to prepare for Christmas?Ē† Maybe not.† I donít want you to get the tree down from the attic and please donít wear the snowman tie just yet (if ever).† What I want you to start thinking about now is how you can really enjoy the season.

Our Christmas seasons in the past have been stressful.† Iím sure you can relate.† Family gatherings, the kidís activities, the various holiday events and traditions, plus add to that schedule, the shopping,† fighting crowds, trying to buy that perfect gift for everyone on your list, then realizing in January when the credit card bills arrive that Christmas got away from you, financially speaking, yet again this year.† Lack of planning and preparation, early on, for the holidays will have us spending more, stressing more, and overly frustrated.† Peace on Earth?† Not in my world!

Christmas is a time for family, fun, and celebration.† Letís put items in place today that will help us take away some stress and help us enjoy the holidays as they were meant to be.

Create a Christmas Budget

I think it is vital, and has helped us tremendously during the holidays, to know exactly who is on our list to buy presents for and how much we are spending on each person.† Make a list of people, put a dollar amount next to each person and stick with that amount.† Then add events or other holiday needs (such as decorations, a Christmas event you go to every year).† Whatever you plan on spending because of the holidays, put it on the list.† That is what you are spending.

Prepare

You have your Christmas budget that will help you not overspend and get all caught up in the marketing and indulgence Christmas has become.† It is now time to prepare.† Knowing the amount† you want to spend on Christmas, you start saving early by putting money aside for Christmas.† In our family, knowing what we want our Christmas budget to be, we start saving in February and end in November.† So, by mid November, we have the amount of money we need, a budget planned out, and we are ready to spend.

Buy Early

Do as much as you can early!† Except for an annual Christmas event and maybe the Christmas tree, have the gifts, decorations and everything else bought, paid, and wrapped early.† My wife gets more for her money by shopping Black Friday.† She loves the early morning rush, if that is you, take advantage.† If you are more like me, you can find many Black Friday deals online.† To reduce stress, you might try shopping on one day only.† Go out to the stores, then whatever you canít find in the stores, try to buy online.† We donít like to spend the holidays in the mall or shopping centers.† To us, that takes away the spirit of the holiday, and itís just not fun.† My wife has everything mostly completed when it comes to ďretail ChristmasĒ by the end of November.† This allows us to enjoy the month coming up.

Enjoy Christmas

Now that you are done shopping early, you can really sit back and enjoy your family, events, and your annual ďto do listĒ without adding the stress of having to go out and buy presents.† You saved for this during the year, so you didnít overspend, and you will not start another year off paying for last yearís Christmas overspending.† Sit back, relax, and enjoy the season.

When our family decided to take some of these steps (we are working on our third Christmas this way) we have had much less stress, no anxiety about having to buy the perfect present or having to fight the endless crowds and lines in order to buy last minute gifts.† We enjoy the fact that our gifts are paid for, with cash we budgeted, and we have finished early and have the month of December to enjoy the true spirit of Christmas.

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