4 ways to be better prepared for Christmas next year

By glblguy

This article is part of an M-Network group writing project, the 12 Days of Christmas – Personal Finance Style. Last year we started this little tradition and hope to continue it for many years to come.

4 ways to be better prepared for Christmas next year

I know, I know…Christmas 2008 isn’t even here yet and I’m already talking about next Christmas. For many, Christmas is a very expensive holiday and should be treated from a financial perspective just like a large purchase. Doing so means we need to plan and save for it. While planning for next Christmas might seem a little early, it’s not really. Allow me to share 4 ways that you can be better prepared for Christmas next year. I promise you’ll be far less stressed:

Begin Saving in January

Many of you began thinking about how to pay for Christmas around October or November. Even worse, many of you might be using credit cards and plan to pay them off over the next year (or even longer). Either case can be stressful, especially when you’re financially strapped.

Instead, consider creating a Christmas fund. A Christmas fund is a savings account dedicated to Christmas. Each month starting in January you’ll contribute some money, preferably a fixed amount, into this account. Then when October/November rolls around you’ll have you’ll have your Christmas money ready to go.

I’ve been doing this for a few years now. I set-up a savings account at ING Direct and created a monthly draft from my primary checking account into my Christmas fund. Making this transfer automatic is the best option as you don’t have to think about it, it just happens.

Take advantage of after Christmas sales

The biggest money saving tip I can share for saving money on next year’s purchases is to take advantage of after Christmas sales. We actually allocate a little extra into our Christmas savings fund just so we’ll have the money available to do this.

The days and weeks after Christmas provide amble opportunity to save money on just about anything, but in particular Christmas wrapping paper, lights, boxes, decorations, etc. Deals are particularly good when retailers don’t meet their target sales goals, which given our current economic recession is highly likely to happen this year.

So don’t miss out on this great money saving opportunity.

Start shopping early

This is not a tip I’m real good at following, but my wife excels at she. She literally Christmas shops all year. She is able to maintain a mental list of things she thinks our kids, relatives and friends like/want and she watches for them to go on sale. When they do, she buys. She stashes them in a storage container for the upcoming Christmas.

Unfortunately I am more of a procrastinator and generally wait until the last minute, but she makes up for it. She is almost always done with her Christmas shopping by the 1st of December.

The big advantage of shopping early isn’t just saving money, but reducing stress as well. Shopping early helps you avoid the Christmas shopping madness and keeps you from being so stressed by shopping at the last minute (like me!).

Be organized

I’m cheating on this one a little, as it’s not really personal finance related but more of a lifehacker tip. I can’t stand getting ready to decorate the house and Christmas tree and not being able to easily find all of the stored Christmas decorations. Even worse is when I do, opening up the containers to find a tangled array of lights, garland, and decorations. Ack!

Granted, I’m a bit of a neat freak but there is a great deal to be gained from being organized. We have plastic containers dedicated for our Christmas decorations. They are clear so I can see what’s in them and labeled. We put the tree decorations in one container, house decorations together in containers, and all of the exterior lighting in another.

When we take the decorations down for the year, we are diligent about correctly wrapping up the lights, placing ornaments in boxes or containers so they don’t break and/or get tangled together, and we place everything neatly in the containers rather than just throwing them in.

While it takes more time on the front-end, when Christmas rolls around next year you’ll be thanking yourself for being a little more organized.

You can read the rest of the 12 days of Christmas – personal finance style articles over on my intro post.

What tips do you have for being better prepared for Christmas? What’s the one thing you’ve done to reduce your Christmas stress level? Add a comment!

Photo by: Lincolnian

21 Responses (including trackbacks) to “4 ways to be better prepared for Christmas next year”

  1. Kristen Says:

    This year I did a lot of Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving, so I don’t feel as stressed about buying gifts now. And I’ve done more online shopping than I usually do. For instance, I bought a lot of books for Christmas gifts this year. I took advantage of Amazon’s free shipping with purchases over $25.

    In terms of starting a Christmas fund, most credit unions still have a “Christmas Club” program

  2. Twinsmom Says:

    Being organized is definitely a frugal tip! If you can’t find something you think you have, you end up going out and buying another one instead of using what you already have. If you can’t remember where you hid the presents you bought earlier in the year, you will panic and go buy something “just in case.” If you can’t find that special, expensive ingredient for your annual holiday meal (that is actually hiding in the back of the refigerator, you will go buy another one. Like you said, if you take care of your things and organize them, they will last longer, and you won’t have to go buy new every year or two. Most definitely a frugal tip!

  3. Twinsmom Says:

    Oh, and with Christmas Club accounts – check with your local bank. My bank starts theirs in November so that they get your money back to you the following October, leaving plenty of sales-shopping time. My bank will also make the last payment for you if you use automated transfer from your checking or savings account. If you decide to use the do-it-yourself method and start in January, remember to allow for actual shopping time. You may want to split your Christmas budget into 45 weekly payments, so that you have it available a month or two before Christmas.

  4. Andy @ Retire at 40 Says:

    I think the ‘Starting a Christmas Fund’ is the most important one for me. That way, two things happen:

    1) you spread the cost out over the entire year
    2) whenever you spend anything on Christmas related items, you can take it out of that fund and see how much you have spent and how much you have left

    Knowing both of these things helps out for next year and also eases the worry and stress on the mind.

  5. jeflin Says:

    This year, Christmas will be a quiet one for me as my investment portfolio has taken a hit. There are lots of items which I need to buy for the new year as they are already worn out but I will be shopping around only after Christmas.

    By the way, the Thanksgiving accident in Walmart was terrible, hopefully it is not repeated again.