Happy Thursday all! It's been a week since Thanksgiving and hopefully you're still riding the high of all the joyous things in your life. It's been pretty non-stop for us and I imagine the same goes for all of you. Now, it's December and hopefully most of you have already purchased your gifts over the last year. If you took the tips from January I gave you and stuck to your budget, you should be in good shape.
That didn't happen? It's ok, we're all human. Life can complicate things and starting new purchasing habits can be a challenge. So, here's my two cents for this month:
1. Make a budget - RIGHT NOW - of what you can realistically spend for Christmas (or Hannukah or Kwanzaa or whatever you are going to celebrate). Don't think about all the people you'd like to get gifts or what the kids have asked for, just look at the real numbers and the bottom line. If the budget is literally 0, that's ok. If it's 100 bucks, that's still ok.
2. Once you have your budget, make your list of people you MUST give gifts to this year. Not the ones you feel obligated to gift because they get you something or your mother insisted or it's become an annual "thing". Truly look at the people in your life that you want to give a gift.
3. Look at your calendar and between now and December 24 (that's just under 3 weeks folks) figure out how many hours you have to dedicate to preparing for the holidays. One hour a night? Only on the weekends? Put it on paper (or the digital calendar). Take into account time you need to spend cleaning and cooking for the holidays as well!
4. Decide, based on your budget and gift list, what gifts you will make and which you will buy. Go back to your calendar and schedule time to make the gifts (assign the gift and recipient name to that time slot). Allot time to shop if necessary for wrapping paper, supplies, or specific gifts you plan to purchase.
This will take you all day - I'm not kidding. The planning takes time and if you don't apply yourself to doing it right, you'll forget something or be rushing at the last minute. That's how people bankrupt themselves at the holidays trying to "make up" gifts at the last minute. You still have time to take advantage of sales, time to bake or sew or knit or craft, and time to decide to gift some people after the holidays end.
WHAT?! What was that last part? Yeah, let's be honest. Unless everyone is going to be with you Christmas Day, some people won't get their gifts right away. (Some may get theirs BEFORE the holiday!) You should take all of this into account as you plan your calendar and gifting plans.
Now, within the next 48 hours, get to work. Procrastination leads to wasteful time and spending. It's easy to get overwhelmed. It's just another day in the big scheme of things, but it's a memory making day. Whether the memory will be relaxed and joyful or stressed and painful is completely up to you.
The holidays are NOT about how much you spend on others, how many gifts you receive (or give), and who is impressed with your decorations. They are about acknowledging the people you love, appreciating the good things in your life, and remembering the reason we celebrate.
You'll learn that choosing to physically spend time with the people you care about will be the best gift you can give many people on your list. A Skype session or handwritten letter will thrill those people you can't see very often. Pictures and handmade keepsakes can be more precious to friends and family than anything you could purchase in a store. Most people are trying to have less stuff in their lives and more life in their hearts.
So there's my advice for today. I hope it helps.
PS: Already been shopping and spent too much or charged your card to the max? Find the receipts and don't be afraid to RETURN items that are unnecessary. Even if it was on sale. Sales happen every year, throughout the year, so it's not like you won't find another great deal if you need to one day in the future.
PPS: Also, stop worrying about what people may say if your tree doesn't have a million gaily wrapped presents beneath it. Your child will likely only focus on one or two key items, so why bother with the stocking stuffers and small stuff (they add up quickly!)? If you keep the focus of the holiday on what's important, I find that everyone around you will do the same.