Have any of you started your Christmas shopping yet? What? No?!?! Well, don’t feel too bad, most people haven’t. Being a teacher, and one that works for the State, we have to make every dollar go as far as it can, and waiting until Black Friday to start prepping for the big day gets really expensive really quickly! In our extended family, in November and December, there are 6 birthdays – 5 of which are before Christmas! Between birthdays and Christmas, it puts a crimp in our budget if we don’t plan ahead. This year, I am going to try to have a debt free holiday – my goal for this year is to not put anything – you heard me, ANYTHING on the credit cards to pay off in January. I’m a woman on a mission!
I started getting ready in earnest this month, and here is my plan in a nut shell.
Make A List
That’s right there is a method to the big guy’s madness! I make a list of every person that I want to get something for, including anticipating work (custodial staff, administrative assistants, etc.) and service personnel (mail man, salon, etc.), family, friends and birthdays. Once I have charted out my list and segmented it by holiday / birthday – then by Santa vs. regular gifts for the kids, I start to think about the budget. Looking at all of those names is a little overwhelming in a family the size of mine. I am the youngest of 5 kids, all of which have at least two children of their own – many of those have families too. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t buy for every single person – I would have to start in January to do that. I get for the immediate family, and a few others, but it can still be overwhelming.
First and foremost, make a budget and stick to it! That doesn’t mean you have to cheap out, it just means that you are being realistic about what you can afford to give. Starting this early in the year, you can begin to think about the person, their interests and when you catch a good sale, go ahead and put the item aside for the holidays. With Toys R Us closing, I was able to score over $120.00 in toys the kids are going to love for under $30.00. Woo hoo!!! Assign a reasonable amount to each person / occasion. For example, if I know I am going to contribute $20.00 to each custodian and admin, I put that down. If I know I am going to get a $15.00 gift card for the nieces, I put that down. If I don’t know what I am going to get that person yet, I simply assign a value rather than a value and planned purchase.
This is a great time of year to starting thinking about Christmas. Why? Because of the back to school and end of summer sales going on right now. There are ton of deals to be had for camping and outdoor enthusiasts, tech lovers, clothes hounds, and more. Be sure to breeze by the clearance isle when you are in your local shop or box store just to see if they have anything that sparks inspiration – you will be surprised when and where you will find it! I make my list in the back of my journal. I don’t use this journal to write my deepest, darkest secrets – good grief, I figured out that wasn’t a good idea in middle school! I use it to keep my lists – it isn’t a bullet journal, but a To Do / Blog Planning / Christmas Gift Planning / anything I need it to be. It stays in my purse at all times, and I jot down ideas, thoughts, and things I want to be sure to remember. I learned a long time ago that post it notes are great if they stay where you put them, but they are easy to lose when you are on the go as much as I am. My journal is a bit harder to lose and lets me make notes that are important to keep or remember. With my list always on me, I can jot down what I got and for whom at any point so that I keep track of my stash. Could you imagine putting in all that effort and forgetting what you got for whom? I could easily see it happening to me.
I love a homemade gift. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what it is. I love that someone thought about me and took the time to create something especially for me. I also think it is a resourceful way to capture the spirit of the holiday season when we focus on the person and our time together rather than commercialization of a special time of year. Making gifts is one reason I like to start thinking about the holidays now is that I like to make some presents. I like to have at least one hand made gift under the tree from Mommy to the kids. I also like to make little gifts for others on the list. The materials are usually inexpensive, it is the time investment that can be the biggest obstacle, depending on what you are making. If I am crocheting something, each stitch takes time, and you want it done right if it is a gift. The other think I have been thinking about this year, is having the kids make presents for the family rather than buy them. I have already let them make some photo frames for one person, and I will print a special photo of them and that person to put in the frame. We have also been saving Oui brand yogurt jars for a while now. They are glass, and the cutest little pots you have ever seen. We may try our hand at crock pot candles this year and let the kids add scents, colors and natural objects to each jar candle as they melt.
As I have traveled this year with the family, with my Mother, with anyone on our list, I have done my best to take a great group photo for use at Christmas. At the location, I picked up a photo frame and Christmas ornament for the kids to give. My Mother took us to Great Wolf Lodge (see that review here) last month and it was amazing. The kids go to play with and interact with her in ways they have not before – it was a really great memory for the kids. I let them pick out an ornament and frame to put the group photo in for her November birthday. She is going to love it. A little thought in advance can really make the difference between a token and a true gift from the heart. I am also going to do a bit of shopping while I am abroad this year. I have a few family members that would love table linens from France (they are a whole different quality and I absolutely LOVE them – they will too!), Moroccan Aragan Oil, or Mexican vanilla. I do my best to think about these folks when I am in the locations of the things they love so that I can bring them a little something that they will likely treasure.
The Gift of Time
I learned a while ago that my love language is task sharing. When someone does something for me that saves me some time, lightens my load, helps me with my daily routine, it really means a lot to me. Figure out what the love languages of those who matter to you are and use that knowledge to personalize an experience for them. If they are someone who feels loved when they are complimented, get them a new nail polish that compliments their skin tone, then paint their nails – that is especially nice if it is Mommy / Daddy time. Make coupons that they can cash in when they feel stressed and overloaded – wash and put away one load of dishes, cook and clean up for one dinner, wash and fold laundry, coffee break – you watch the kids and let a busy Mom or Dad go have a leisurely cup of coffee and some quite time. You get the picture. Gifts don’t have to be big and expensive to make a person feel loved and appreciated. Some of the best gifts have been drawings from children I love – and I still have them.
The holidays are important to my family – it is usually hectic leading up to the holiday itself, but on Christmas Day, we spend time together, we eat, we snuggle and watch movies. It is a time to share, not focus on things. We celebrate the birth of Christ (we are protestant Christian) and we talk about the symbolism behind the giving of gifts, the baby in the manger, the magi. It is a day of play and family time, and hopefully a nap in the afternoon!
What strategies do you have for managing the holidays?