Undoubtedly, Christmas is one of the most expensive times of the year. All though, we know it's coming every December 25th, budgeting for it sometime manages to escape our attention until it's too late. Here are some tips if you're a few months late and a few dollars short.
Start now. Don't wait until the after Thanksgiving sales to start shopping or saving. Remember, thinking Christmas earlier in the year saves you stress and money. Designate an amount to pull out of each pay check between now and Christmas. If your bank offers a Christmas club account, I highly recommend it. They will automatically deduct an amount of your choosing and place it in your Christmas club. This money is not accessible until generally the end of October, so you don't have to worry about it getting spent. It's probably too late for this to work to your advantage this year, but start one as soon as you can for next year. If you don't have the luxury of a Christmas club account, hit your ATM on pay day. Do not wait, or that money will inevitably get spent. Even if you just pull out $20, you'll feel good knowing that you are saving for the holidays. Every little bit helps. Keep it in a safe place until you are ready to do your shopping.
Make one holiday gift purchase each payday. Start browsing through catalogs and websites and begin making a list of gift ideas for family and friends. That list will give you direction and you'll be thrilled as you start to see things get crossed off. Remember, it's not too early to start purchasing gift cards either. Throw a $20 gift card into your grocery cart next time you're at the supermarket and you can cross one gift off your list.
Utilize online shopping. Take advantage of sales, clearance, and free shipping deals to start your gift shopping, without having to leave your house!
Clean out your closets and have a Fall garage sale. The cooler morning temperatures are perfect for weekend bargain hunters. You already know you'll be filling up the house with extra toys and gadgets at Christmastime. Make room for them now and use the money you make to help offset the cost of the holidays.
Join a site like Swap.com and trade for gifts. You can get items like new (or even brand-new in some cases) just by swapping movies, DVDs, books, and video games that you don't want any more. Swap.com is a great resource for holiday books, movies, and music even if only for your family's own enjoyment.
Consider making some gifts. The Internet provides a plethora of gift ideas through craft websites and because you're planning ahead, you have time to knock out a few. Try this French memory board, courtesy of our friends at Organized Christmas, for example. I made one for my teen aged niece last year and it was a HUGE hit.
Shop Ebay. Another advantage of giving yourself adequate prep time is the ability to "shop" around until you find the best deal. Ebay is a fantastic source for anything and everything. These days, sellers are listing more and more "brand new" items for sale. Given enough time, you can search for the right deal and bid away. Someone on my list this year is getting a Kindle cover. Retailing normally for $40-$50, I was able to find one of the same quality for...(drum roll, please) $7.95. And what's more, I didn't have to leave my house or fight angry, last minute shoppers. It will be on my doorstep in 5-7 business days. :-)
Any other creative saving ideas? I'd love to hear them. Please share!