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    March 2013
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    Start Thinking Christmas NOW

    Tammy Johnston

    Yes, you read that right Start thinking Christmas Now. Christmas (or whatever major gift giving holiday you celebrate) has a bad habit of sneaking up on people and destroying all the best laid budgets. So how do we save our budgets, our sanity, and still enjoy a generous and joy filled holiday? The key is to plan out as much as possible well ahead of time.

    The first step is to create a list of everyone we wish to give gifts too. This covers family, friends, neighbours, co-workers, service providers, and hostess gifts. For some people this is a short list, for others it is a long list. Putting it down on paper makes it much easier to sort and decide.

    The second step is to put a dollar amount beside each person’s name. Then total everything up. If you are okay with the number at the bottom then everything is great and you really don’t need to read any further. Most people though are more than a little surprised when they see just how much money they have going out in gift giving generosity.

    The third step is to ask yourself do you really want to give a gift to each of the people on your list? A lot of the time we give gifts out of a feeling of obligation rather than from the heart. When we are giving out of obligation or beyond our budget we are missing the whole purpose and just adding stress to our lives. Some families have moved to drawing names and putting a price range on the gifts.

    The fourth step is to decide if you need to spend money on everyone. I don’t know about you, but in my case I know I’ve been given (and have been guilty of giving) bobbles and doodads that I really didn’t need, didn’t like, and wish I hadn’t received. I understand that someone was trying to tell me that they loved me, but just didn’t quite know how to give it in a way that I would love. On the other hand I have been given some absolutely amazing gifts that cost no money but totally rocked my world. Things such as babysitting coupons, help with a household project, baking, and beautifully crafted handmade items.

    The fifth step is to start coming up with gift giving ideas for each person on the list. If we have an idea of what each person needs, wants, likes it allows us to take advantage of great deals we might come across, and saves us from spending money on something that is just a check mark on our list.

    The sixth step is to set up a gift giving budget. Some people prefer to shop all year round to even out the spending and lessen the shopping stress during the Christmas months. Other people choose to put money aside on a monthly basis to have available for when they do go shopping in November and December. No matter how you choose to do it it is still going to cost you money and that needs to be planned for. You might also want to look into using any credit card points or reward plan points. I love using my AirMiles for Movie Night Out Passes as gifts and have received much positive feedback from the people that receive them.

    Now take a bit of time now to save yourself money, time, and stress come Christmas. Then when the snow flies you can sit back sipping your eggnog and knowing you’ve done a fabulous job and stayed on budget.

    “Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.”
    Dr. Seuss

    The MONEY® Network