You Need To Start Tomorrow.

Yes, I know there is still a wad of crumpled wrapping paper under the tree and there are 14 containers of leftovers in the fridge. Your in-laws are snoozing, and the children are playing in the boxes from their gifts. Want to skip the last minute brouhaha next year?

Get Ahead 

Plan today.

Planning ahead is the key to avoiding financial holiday stress and the New Year’s credit card hangover. If travel is in your holiday plan, conquer the shopping early. With three months left over, you will be able to leisurely plan a trip without going into debt or stressing the details.

Be done shopping by August.

Perfectly doable with this strategy.

Do the math.

Plan to spend 1% of your annual income on holiday spending. This money will not be spent totally on gifts. Decorations, cards, food, fuel expenses traveling to parties and incidentals will fall into this 1% as well.

Day One

On December 26, do not stand in line to return anything. If it does not fit, will it fit someone on your list? If it doesn’t match, will it fit in one of your recipient’s homes? If you don’t like it, will someone on your list? Hold on to it.

“What list?” you ask.

Each year, impulse buying for last minute additions to recipient lists account for nearly 15% of all holiday spending. Eliminate this spending, by knowing ahead of time for whom you will purchase.

Parents, children, grandchildren, partners and best friends make the list every year. If possible, pare the list to the bare minimum. Your boss’ secretary’s husband does not need a gift.

Who gets what?

Group your recipients into these categories: Gift, food, craft and card. Cards, wrapping and craft supplies should be purchased at after holiday sales. Crafts should be completed by June, wrapped and put away.

One Down

By wrapping the present and applying a tag with a name, you have officially crossed the name off of the list. Beside the name, you should place a the total cost of the gift, wrapping included.

The Cards

Buy the cards marked down after Christmas.

Sign holiday cards while watching a Little League game or cheer leading practice. Sign only as many cards as you have names on your list for which you do not have an email address. Remaining cards should be boxed for another year. On average, cards need only be purchased three out of every four years.

The Holiday Newsletter

November 28-30, make a personalized holiday newsletter on your computer to impart the year’s accomplishments/joys and to send best wishes for theNew Year. This should be added to the cards the first week of December and mailed.

Save postage by sending your newsletter via email to as many recipients as possible. Make note on your list as to the postage paid on your list, along with the cost of the cards and stationery stock/ink to print your newsletters. Cross off those names.


Divide your gift recipients into seven groups. Shop for one group per month in sales, consignment shops, on line bargain houses and antique shops. You can find unique and new items in all of these places. Be frugal as often as possible. Once gifts are bought, wrap them and transfer the cost onto your list.

August has arrived.

Total your expenses. Budget half of your remaining money for the food items you will purchase or the ingredients, if you will cook the food yourself. Include the cost of packaging the food.


Saving now means more after the holidays.

Not the turkey! The remaining money is free to be spent on decorations, fuel, lodging or saving for next year. Remember: Money left over from this year can purchase after-holiday trappings and decorations to be used next year, further reducing your out-of-pocket expense.

September is here.

Where do you want to be in December? Decision time. Consider the feasibility of travel given weather conditions, the balances of your credit cards and your history of inflated last quarter spending.

Double Check the Math

While most people can accurately blame gift-giving as the increase to their end of year spending, remember you will be buying more incidentals: Gas/cab fare to go to parties, feasts with extra groceries, a bottle of champagne for New Year’s Eve. All of these expenses need to be calculated.

Let’s Go!

If you can still afford a trip, decide where, for how long and with whom. Research inclusive packages. In most cases you save more by paying up front for the vacation than you will if you eat out and pay for all of your entertainment. Purchase travel tickets with insurance for changes. You can not plan for holiday accidents which commonly prevent travel.

You have three months to save money for all of the extras, like souvenirs and sight-seeing.

You have a plan. Stick to it. You can have a stress free holiday when you plan ahead.


Did you go over budget this holiday? Can you use any of these tips to save money?


(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2011
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  1. That is really a great idea. Although, I tend to be very stingy about who I give presents to. It is not that I don’t like people, it is just that I can’t buy everyone a gift. So, instead we do things for people or send cards etc. The kids make cookies for neighbors and little crafts for other people.
    Derek Mansker recently posted..What He Could Have Said vs. What He Actually SaidMy Profile

  2. I used to start preparing for Christmas quite early but now I find it hard to get into the mood. A month or two early is all I can muster these days.
    Binky recently posted..After School SnackMy Profile

    • When I finalized this plan, I was as well. If I know I am not facing the disaster area of filling beneath the tree, (all I have to do it get it from hiding) I can relax and enjoy it. Oh, and laugh at everyone else who is rushing around spending a fortune 😉

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