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Ahh, hello New Year! It’s 2018 and I’m feeling refreshed and revived, after a somewhat rough second half of 2017. Between some medical things, family stresses, and other life events, I decided to take a break from the blog for awhile. Going forward, I’m hoping to bring you at least a couple of posts each month that may be longer and more thorough than what you’ve seen in the past, covering larger topics. On the near horizon, I have some emergency preparedness and meal planning information to bring you, and I’m planning on making more videos this year. I’m a visual person myself and can appreciate having something shown and explained to me, so for some topics, I think a video is best.
Today’s post is going to be all about Christmas! As we’ve just completed another holiday season (how does that sneak up so fast every year!?) I figured this would be a great time to share with you some of my favorite strategies for planning ahead for Christmas and saving your sanity, at the same time.
About six years ago, I began a Christmas slush fund to save for holiday spending over the year. It stressed me out too much when December approached and I had to try to figure out how we were going to budget for Christmas among the other monthly expenses. My husband and I decided on an even number that we’d be comfortable spending each year on Christmas cards, presents, and decorations, and divided that number by 12. That monthly figure is automatically transferred from our checking account each month into a separate savings account that earns interest all year. On December 1st each year, I transfer the balance of that account back into our checking account to go towards Christmas expenses. This system has worked out beautifully for planning ahead and knowing that, although the holidays can be an expensive time of year, we’ve saved for it all year long and have the funds ready to go.
Most years, I try to do Christmas cards in early December. But in 2017, time got away from me, and I ended up sending out some cards just a couple of days before Christmas. This was stressful for me and not something I’m likely to do again! If you like to do a family photo card and you have a Costco membership, definitely check them out. When we do a family photo card, we can get a whole stack of them, with envelopes, for $15. Don’t spend a lot on Christmas cards you guys. I definitely appreciate a beautiful card, but it’s not something that the recipients are going to be holding onto long term – most end up in the trash come January 1st! Therefore, I think the lesser quality photo paper is just fine.
Next on your Christmas agenda, sit down with your spouse or partner and discuss who you’re giving gifts to this year. We have a sheet that we write the names of all of our gift recipients on, some ideas for a nice gift for each person, and a budget we’d like to spend for each person. If you’d like to download my Christmas planner spreadsheet, CLICK HERE.
Included in that conversation with your spouse, should be a discussion on if you’re giving gifts to each other. My husband and I have been together for 17 Christmases now – and we’ve done all sorts of variations including giving gifts, not giving gifts, only doing stockings, etc. Sometimes it just depends on the year and how finances are, and that’s okay. But definitely, have that discussion and decide what your expectations are for the gift giving between the two of you. This past year, my husband and I decided to do something different all together. Instead of giving gifts to each other, we decided to buy something for ourselves that was something we’d been wanting for awhile – a new dresser and nightstands for our bedroom. We took care of that purchase in early December and that meant less stress for the rest of our gift buying — we just had family members and our son to buy for then. And, we were really happy with our decision to do that for ourselves instead of buying each other other things. I’m not sure if we’ll do that every year or not, but it worked out perfect for us this Christmas. We did however, do stocking stuffers for one another to keep up with the premise of Santa at our house, which leads me to the next item on the agenda…
Stocking Stuffers! Here are some ideas for stocking stuffers that have been a hit in our household. I’m including a guide below with some product recommendations.
Things like nice facial products (things he may not otherwise buy for himself) are a great stocking stuffer idea. I also enjoy getting my husband tool accessories, phone or tech products, such as a new charging cord or phone case, a favorite coffee, and a new travel mug.
Here’s some items I particularly like to receive! New thick warm socks, sturdy and cozy slippers, a tasty tea or coffee, and phone accessories are always fun. Some warm pajama pants or workout leggings are a great hit and can be rolled small to fit into a stocking. Round things out with some wine or coffee accessories.
I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t want to give stocking stuffers that will contribute to toy clutter around the house. Therefore I try to give things with a purpose, including a new calendar for my son’s room, some fun socks, activity books, new crayons/play dough/art supplies, and new reading material. Round things out with a fun keychain for backpacks, a cool new toothbrush or toiletry kit, and fun bath time accessories, like these color bath drops, below.
Next, my advice to you is shop online. These past few years, I find that running a bunch of errands just stresses me out more, which is not the feeling I like to have around the happiest time of year. I’ve also had a lot of bad luck running places like a busy mall during the holiday season, with an idea in mind of presents I’d like to purchase, but I can’t quite find what I’m looking for. So, my advice is stick to online purchases for a majority of your holiday shopping. If you’re an Amazon prime member, use that membership to your advantage, and have your gifts delivered to your door. Costco puts out many specials during the holiday season and often offers free shipping. They even have special products that you can order with guaranteed shipping dates as Christmas gets closer, which is pretty awesome if you’re getting down to those last few gifts and still need to order a few things in time for Christmas. Finally, check out Target. Target always has amazing items out for the holidays in addition to their normal stock, so you’re sure to always find something you’d like.
Let’s talk for a minute about the gift-giving strategy my husband and I have been using for our son, who’s now 5. We use Christmas as an opportunity to fill any gaps for things he might need – for instance, we got him a new winter coat this Christmas. However, we try hard to ensure that his Christmas gifts include a mixture of things to play, things to learn, and things to read, and typically something to wear as well, whether that’s new pajamas, slippers, or the coat example. There are so many toys out now that kids can learn while they are playing, which I’m all for. This Christmas we got our son a circuit builder set, some Legos (not only awesome, but learning to read the instructions and build something on his own is a great skill), some books, and his own alarm clock. Santa got our son a new big-boy razor scooter, in addition to some other stocking stuffers. While every family has their own philosophy on Christmas gift giving, this strategy has worked well for us.
One thing we haven’t talked about yet in all of this is FOOD! While we don’t use our Christmas budget that we’d saved throughout the year to pay for Christmas food, you will want to anticipate that your food and grocery budget will likely be higher at Christmastime. Again, discuss with your spouse what your plans are for the holiday and where you’re going, or if you’re hosting and having family and friends over to your house. If you’re coordinating and cooking a big holiday meal, plan ahead and budget for what you’ll be cooking and needing to purchase. It’s also a good time to reserve a turkey, ham, or prime rib from your grocery store once you’ve planned your holiday meals. For this, I tend to look to Costco again, where there are always turkeys and hams out in their meat section, as well as large sacks of things like potatoes, green beans, or other side dishes.
Additionally, if you like to bake during the holidays, account for some baking supplies in your food planning as well. I used to put on a huge baking production every year, making many different kinds of cookies and gifting them to friends and family, however, now that we live in the Pacific Northwest and aren’t near most of our family that we used to see at holidays, I tend to just bake one or two kinds of cookies during the holidays, and the baking supplies for that small amount of cookies doesn’t break the bank. It’s all about being realistic with what you like to do, and accounting for that.
I hope this post has given you some ideas to help plan your holidays in 2018!