In time past many of us would laugh off the thought of thinking ahead to Christmas in July. In July it is easy to be proud procrastinators.
Today’s economy has changed that privilege for many families. Nowadays everything we can do in advance serves not only to save money but our time too. Taking time this month to think ahead will pave the way for a more peaceful and rewarding holiday with family and friends.
Special Occasions Binder.
In 2005 Anita Cramer shared the idea of creating a binder to keep up with all the lists and ideas associated with Christmas. Taking her idea a step further, my binder includes all the events my family celebrates throughout the year. I can now quickly pinpoint family holiday recipes, card lists, gift lists, or party menus without tearing the house apart. Better yet, I have a place to put ideas for family gatherings that I compile during the year from magazines and online reading. My binder is a simple $4 binder from Wal-Mart. Sections are divided with tabs and include: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Gift List, Christmas Card List, Homemade Goodie Ideas, Christmas Recipes, Christmas Parties, New Years, Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, Birthdays, and Mother’s/Father’s Day. I use page protectors to house pages torn from magazines, recipes, and gift receipts. If you do not have a binder, set one up this month. Just putting copies of your family’s favorite Christmas recipes in one spot will save you time come December.
Right on Schedule.
Take a look at your calendar now in July. Odds are you have few events scheduled presently for November and December. Guard as many of those free days for your family as possible. Be intentional during the months ahead and use your time–and your binder–to stay ahead of the holiday rush. Pencil in events you know will be happening during December in the margin of the calendar. Only list events that are essential and feel free to set a boundary now around your December time.
Sit down and write your gift list for 2009 and assign a monetary amount to each person. Be realistic–do not forget Christmas stockings gifts too! The beauty of planning Christmas in July is that you have plenty of time to find a $25 gift for $5. Do not put down a $25 gift amount when you know that your budget is realistically $5.
Make the hard decisions this month. If you cannot afford to give gifts to extended family this year, have the discussion now. Choosing to draw names or set a spending limit are alternatives too. You may be surprised to find everyone else just as relieved about the change.
Having a list along with a budget will help to avoid the burden of over spending in December. Keep a master list in your binder and a small copy in your purse. I keep my list on a folded piece of paper in my wallet.
Eyes Wide Open.
The key to Christmas in July is keeping our eyes alert for deep discounted summer sales. Around July 4th I visit the Disney store for 75% off beach towels and toys. During the same time period Target begins clearing out to make room for Christmas toys. By the first of August, Christian bookstores such as Lifeway mark selected home decor, books, jewelry, and CDs anywhere from 75% to 90% off. With the economy in its current state, do not be surprised to find deeper discounts than usual at the mall from clothing retailers. There are great fall and weather clothing sales to be had now at name brand stores. Just last weekend, I bought two fall blouses and a pair of jeans for $16. Finally, don’t rule out yard sales. I once bought four American Girl dolls in mint condition for $25 each at a yard sale. Never underestimate the power of the Lord to provide just what you are looking for within the budget you have.
Every Little Bit Counts
Do you have craft projects that would make perfect Christmas gifts? July is the perfect time to pull them together. If you like making homemade goodies, right now is time for gathering jars for blueberry jam or maybe fig preserves. Are you a scrapbooker? Use extra supplies to create some gifts for teen scrapbookers in your family or even make an album for someone special. Make a photo CD set to music of last Christmas to give as gifts this year to family. Pick up a $5 Sonic gift card or maybe $10 iTunes cards. (Yes, $10 iTunes cards exist. They come in packs of three at Wal-Mart.)
Taking the time in July to develop a plan for Christmas will pave the way for a more peaceful and less stress-filled December.
If you are interested in more Christmas in July ideas, visit Kellie’s blog this month at Oasis.