Monday, August 15, 2011

Christmas is coming!

Yes it is!  And you can't hide!  But you can be prepared if you start thinking about it now (or even earlier if you are a lot more organised than me).

I LOVE Christmas.  I love the happiness in the air, I love the food (oh my goodness, the food!!), I love spoiling people, I love the family time, I love how my kidlets love it.  I look forward to it every year.  I've learnt over the years that to enjoy it even more, you need to be organised.  It doesn't need to be a huge stressful, out of pocket time.  Not if you plan ahead, and that's why I'm bringing Christmas to your attention now.

I know I'm a bit late to remind you of the toy sales in July, but if you haven't used them to your advantage before, remember it for next year.  If you have children to buy for then these mid year sales are a great way to get organised.  You can layby and they will hold your layby until Christmas Eve, it gives you a bit over five months to pay it off (so you can budget), and it means half your shopping is already done!  I admit it's not for everyone, and it gets harder as kids get older and their tastes change, but read your catalogues carefully, I've managed to layby some bedroom decorations and furniture for the Princess this year.  They are also great if you are expecting a baby - all the pushers, car seats, cots, etc are at great prices too - and all available to layby.

Another thing to think about it a Christmas Club account with your bank.  Try to start one in January each year and have some of your income directly deposited into it.  It doesn't need to be much, even $10 a week will give you close to $500 by Christmas.  That's got to come in handy.  And because it's an account you can't touch until December, you won't be tempted to dip into it in the same way as a jar on the fridge might tempt you.  If you are disciplined enough, then a jar or tin is also another great option, especially for collecting loose coin, those gold ones add up quickly!

Think about what gifts you would like to give.  I usually give family a big basket of home made goodies.  This also requires planning.  I'll start browsing all my favourite sites soon for Christmas ideas and start a list of what I want to make.  Then I'll write a list of ingredients and work out what can be bought in advance and stored.  Some things, such as fruit cake, puddings or mince pie filling can be made well in advance and is actually better for being let sit for a few months.  That way, I can purchase small bits at a time with my normal shop and it won't add up to a huge amount right before Christmas.  I also like to look in cheap shops for packaging ideas from here on in, boxes, baskets, cellophane, it all gets more expensive the closer you get to the big day.

If you are planning to host Christmas for your family then you can start planning this now too.  Decide what you want to serve.  Ask your butcher or seafood supplier if they have a scheme where you can order and pay off for a few weeks before.  Look into what veggies or salad will be in season (and therefore more tasty and also cheaper).  Maybe even start a small garden to grow some of what you want to eat.  Talk to friends or family and see if they would be interested in buying items in bulk with you to share out (this makes it a LOT cheaper). 

So, even though it seems like a long way off, it's time to start planning today.

NOW is the time to start compiling your present list, whether it is purchased presents or home made, start your list now.  From that list you can work out your approximate budget.  Even if you are doing home made gifts, you still need to factor in the costs of ingredients or materials.  If you can buy in advance, or lay by, then do so!  This will mean that you can pay it off over a number of weeks, rather than get to a couple of weeks before Christmas and freak out (we've all been there and it's not pretty).  If you are baking, then you can buy non perishable ingredients a few at a time with your normal shop and store them in the pantry until you need them.  Doing this now will help you keep your costs down, you will be super organised and avoid that last minute panic buying, and I'll even let you feel a bit smug about it and pat yourself on the back!

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