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There are only 21 weeks left until Christmas! While this is the last thing that many of us want to think about, the reality is Christmas will sneak up on us (in terms of time and finances) if we don't start preparing for it now.

Here are a few tips to help you start preparing:

1. Make Your List Early

Instead of waiting for November or December to figure out what you’re going to buy for each of your family and friends, get a list started ahead of time. Pay close attention to conversations you have with these people. If you hear them mention something that they want, write it down! When you see sales come up for those items, pick them up early and stash them away in your house until Christmas comes. Be sure to save the receipt in case you find out they bought the item already. This helps spread your costs out over time instead of all in one or two months, and saves your sanity. No more rushing to buy presents for everyone when crowds and lines at the stores are busier than ever.

2. Black Friday Sales

Although you don’t want to wait to do all your shopping on this day, it is definitely a great time to find fantastic deals on items that may normally be too pricey to purchase. Take a look at that Christmas gift list that you made and determine what can wait until Black Friday. Try to figure out a budget for how much money you’ll need for those items, roughly, and start saving up. It’s better to be able to pay cash for what you buy then run up your credit card balance.

3. Homemade Gifts

Sometimes we just know that with our bills and monthly expenses, there’s no way we’ll have enough saved to buy fancy presents for everyone. However, homemade gifts are a great alternative! This can include baking (like yummy cinnamon rolls – which I got every year from a family member and always looked forward to it), spice rubs, hot cocoa mixes, sewing crafts, etc. There are many different options out there that you can make and many are much friendlier on your wallet. Take a look at Pinterest for some fast and easy gift ideas!

4. Secret Santa Style

Buying presents for everyone can be really daunting, especially if you have a large family and circle of friends. One alternative is to change up your Christmas and suggest that everyone participate in a Secret Santa style Christmas. Put everyone’s name in a hat and each person pulls a name. That’s the person you’re responsible for buying a gift for. You can all come up with a suggested budget for a gift and even a theme if you want to get creative. After all, the spirit of Christmas isn’t really about giving, it’s about spending time with those you love. You can still do that, while each exchanging one gift for your Secret Santa. Plus, it’s fun trying to figure out who your Secret Santa was.

5. Plan ahead for next year

While this tip may not help you as much now, it will help you be completely prepared for next year’s Christmas shopping, financially. Instead of waiting for Christmas to come to figure out where the money is coming from to buy all those gifts, start planning one year ahead. Starting at the end of December, or early January, figure out how much of a budget you’ll need for the following Christmas. This can be done by adding up your receipts from the Christmas gifts you recently purchased.

Then take that budget and divide it by 12 to figure out how much money you’ll need to save each month. For example, if you want a budget of $1200 for your shopping, reserve $100 a month to reach that goal in one year. If $100 is too much, even $50 a month will give you $600 by the end of the year. Just be sure to stay within those allotted funds when you start shopping.

 

Take these next five months and start getting prepared. Remember, only 21 weeks left! If you have any more helpful tips on getting prepared for Christmas, share them with us in the comments below!

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