If you are like most people, I bet you aren't thinking about next Christmas yet!
But you know, it is NEVER too early to start planning.
Gift giving is meant to be fun and not a burden. Remember to enjoy the planning and gift giving. If the financial hardships of gift giving are hitting you year after year, maybe you need to rethink what you are doing and how you can make it enjoyable again.
I am here to tell you that it might be a good idea to start planning...not only for gift giving, but Holiday budgeting in general.
Maybe you are still thinking about the bills coming in from 2013? Or you are thinking, I have many other gift giving occasions to worry about before December. Remember Christmas always falls on Dec 25th (and any other holidays you buy for have their dates as well), so why not plan ahead and PREPAY your holidays this year! Read on to see what I am talking about...
Here are a few things to think about, starting now.
1. Christmas Cards:
- Clearance Cards: Yes, they are SUPER cheap this time of year. I spotted beautiful boxed cards this past week at Superstore for under $1 for 10. (some as low as $0.04 per card!)
- Make Cards: If you didn't get them on clearance right after Christmas, maybe look into making your own. It is not always cheaper to make cards, but it is more personalized and can be a craft project to do with the kids too. Give them some supplies, stamps, stickers, paint, and let them go...only make sure they know to keep their art to the holiday theme, you will have your cards made in no time.
- Stamps: The cost of mailing a card will increase this year (from $0.63 to $1, or $0.85 each if bought in bulk). Check your local stores NOW to find the stamps marked "P" for permanent. These stamps are at the current price of $0.65 each, and do not have a face value on them. They are to be honored as a full value stamp once the price change is made in March 2014.
- Stamp Sale: Watch for stamps on sale...yes, this happens on occasion. It's usually a % off a pack of stamps. Pick some up a few packs at a time throughout the year. Store them with your cards, or even better yet, address the envelopes and put the stamps right on them now to save TIME later.
- Lists, lists and more lists! Decide who is on your Gift giving list and stick to it. Make a list of Family, Friends, Co-Workers, Neighbors etc. Then create a list with a budget. Maybe you have a set amount for gift giving for Family, or at work there is a gift exchange every year where you give a $10 gift. Keep track of as many details as possible and start checking off those you can buy ahead for. Sometimes it is hard to buy ahead, especially for young children, but many people buy and put things aside, only to forget what they have.
BONUS TIP: Mark the location you are storing the gift on your list next to the ones you have bought for! How many times have you gone to clean out a closet in the Spring and found a random gift you "lost" or maybe even forgot about?
- PREPAY: Buy Gift Cards throughout the year. To avoid some of the stress of the holiday grocery/shopping bills, add a pre-paid card into every shopping trip to the grocery/department store ($10 per card; or more if you have a large family to shop for) and use them ONLY at holiday time! If you start right now, you will be have a lot of cards to use next Christmas! That is a pretty good stress relief solution and pretty neat savings idea too. Just one trip a week to a store can add up like this: $10 gift card X 52 = $520 saved up; $15 gift card X 52 = $780 saved up; $20 gift card X 52 = $1040; etc... Imagine having all that pre-paid plastic available to spend next holiday season without the large credit card bills to come in January! You might even get to splurge a little because YOU were so prepared.
(these ideas are for later in the year, but you can start planning now)
- Plan a cookie/baking exchange with friends or co-workers: Plan this Now for the Fall. This is a fun and easy way to get some homemade baking done in the fall. You can make multiple batches of the same item (often cheaper, and definitely faster), then you have an excuse to get together for a coffee with friends and share your baking. POOF! You have a freezer stocked with your holiday baking.
- Plant a garden: You can grow so many things in different areas of Canada. Why not pick a few things to try and when you harvest, either bottle or preserve for future use (pickles at your special dinner, or salsa with the chips for one of your parties).
- Herb Gardens are a great idea, not hard and can be grown with limited space. Make flavoured olive oils to give as a gift. Your friends and family will think you are pretty amazing when you tell them you grew the herbs!
There are many more ideas we could share, these are just a few to help you get started. Thinking ahead will help you save more money this year, and in the future.
- Gifts you will purchase
- Wrapping supplies (paper, tape, bows, etc)
- Christmas cards
- Shipping and stamps for your cards and gifts
- Traveling expenses (travel to visit family and friends near and far, and even extra gas for trips to the shopping mall or grocery store)
- Camps or activities for the kids on school break
- Food (Don't forget any potlucks, extra baking, guests to feed, etc)
More info and ideas available in my CBC Column: Hidden Costs of the Holidays