Monday, July 5, 2010

Getting a Jump Start on Christmas!

I hope all my fellow Americans had a wonderful Fourth Of July celebration! We certainly did, but as I sit here and realize it is already July, I am amazed by how quickly the months have flown by since Christmas. With age each year seems to pass more quickly than the last, so I am reminded to be mindful that the holidays will be here again in no time. Often times we become so engrossed in Summer activities that we put this reality on the shelf until it suddenly creeps up out of nowhere and catches us unprepared. This of course leads to the stress factor, that so many people associate with the holiday season. For this reason I am beginning preparations now.

Of course my preparations do not include decking the halls or any such nonsense (let's not take "Christmas in July" that far)! I am referring to my budget. This year my husband and I are planning to take a trip to New Hampshire to spend Christmas with my sister (and fellow blogger) Krisin and her family. This means I have to think about purchasing airline tickets in a timely manner, take part in the usual hometown activities here in San Diego, and of course be able to purchase gifts for everyone. Planning a trip like this around the holidays is twice the financial burden, but one that is certainly worth it when you consider all the family you will be surrounded by, not to mention that gorgeous, snowy New England landscape.

Although thinking of these things is wildly unseasonal at the moment, I somehow find joy in it. I often find myself doing a bit of Christmas dreaming every year around this time...certainly by August or September. I've come to realize that I enjoy reminiscing about Christmas almost as much as I enjoy celebrating it! Perhaps it's the fact that the holiday season is so out of reach and far removed from our collective mindsets. Those shiny decorations and cold winter nights are but a wistful memory.

Sometimes I lie in bed at night and just imagine myself planted in a festive scene that would rival any Bing Crosby has known. Last year I was consumed with the idea of taking a short trip to Big Bear Mountain. I imagined what it might be like to stay in a cozy lodge set among tall, frosty pine trees, twisting roads lined with large boulders and soaring ski lifts over snowy slopes. The imagery in my mind was quite vivid and I would drift to sleep thinking of it often. To my glorious delight, the trip lived up to my expectation and I was glad I planned for it ahead of time.

The fact is, many people are quick to push thoughts of Christmas from their consciousness and don't end up getting to do all the things they wanted. Even if they do, it usually accompanies a large amount of debt, which they end up having to pay off well into the next year. Christmas shouldn't be a time of pressure and stress, and yet somehow it has become that in our Western culture. Why not avoid this hassle by joining me in a little Christmas in July pre-planning? Here are some things we can start doing now:

  • Budgeting: Figure out your expected income for the next 6 months and decide how much you can realistically set aside each paycheck. Consider how much you will want to spend on shopping and travel. Even saving your loose change or bottle deposits can give you an extra cushion to do something special.
  • Make Lists: Start making your lists of all the people you want to buy gifts for or send cards to. Begin jotting ideas of gifts that would suit each person and begin looking for deals on those items now. One idea is to sign up to receive email notifications of sales from your favorite online stores, so you won't be forced to pay top dollar at the last minute. You can also pick up smaller items, like stocking stuffers.
  • Crafts: Holiday crafts are the most fun to me, but unfortunately I rarely have time to partake during the holidays. Also, many crafts are lengthy and cannot be completed in time. Why not start working on these now in your down time? It's also a great opportunity to keep your children busy while they are home for the summer. Check places like Michael's, Joann and Oriental Trading for kits and supplies.
  • Decorations: Summer is an excellent time to go to swap meets and yard sales. Be on the look out for exceptional deals, as many people get rid of some amazing decorations for practically nothing! When the holidays approach you will be excited to pull out those special finds, knowing you didn't have to break the bank to get them.
  • Media: Along with decorations, you can also find many holiday themed CDs, DVDs and books at swap meets and yard sales. Again, you will be happy to pull these out when the time comes and it will provide great entertainment for your family and guests! If you have a record player you can find a wealth of old vinyl, and perhaps even hunt down childhood favorites or discover something completely unique.
  • Recipes: You may have specific holiday recipes that you make every year, but perhaps you'd like to try something new to dazzle everyone. Begin planning your dinner menu or desserts by browsing recipes and collecting the ones that look most interesting and delicious. My favorite website for this is All Recipes. You can save and categorize new recipes you want to try, and even add old favorites. You can even create convenient shopping lists right from the website.


Anonymous said...

Great idea, my wife and i have already started picking up gifts for our son when we see a good sale, we also make a list of what we would like to get him so this way we know what to keep an eye on in stores. I always get hit with the Christmas bug this time of year, i start thinking about what to serve Christmas eve dinner and what events we can participate in.

Kristin said...

I'm already finding gifts here and there and it's makes a HUGE difference when Christmas actually comes. I save a TON (and my kids make out pretty well, too.) You can also start perusing Ebay for more deals -- not to mention yard sales (yes, I find brand-new things all the time.)

I hope that NH measure up for Christmas -- we can't wait! It will be extra fun to plan this year (even though the kids drive me nuts by starting to talk about it all in September!) :D