9 Things You Can do Now to Prepare for the Holidays ...

You’ll see as we approach the holidays just how excited I get over the season because I have multiple ways I like to prepare for the holidays each year. I’ll be sharing many of these with you over the next few months. For starters, I’d like to introduce you to my top 9 ways I start getting ready early for the holidays every single year. I start contemplating things in September, which not only gets me excited, but also helps me feel prepared. The holidays are supposed to be joyful, and even in the midst of some of my hardest holidays I’ve had the last few years, I’ve still enjoyed the season and suffered less stress with these tips. By doing things to prepare for the holidays now, it can prevent some of the last minute errands, budget problems and emotional headaches associated with the time of year. Instead, I hope it might add a little excitement to your life! Try these prep tips this year and you’ll be looking forward to the season with each passing month instead of shaking your head with disbelief it has arrived so quickly!

1. Prepare Your Lists

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Making a few lists is the very first thing you should do to prepare for the holidays. Pull out your favorite notebook, or create a document on your computer that can be transferred to your smartphone, such as the Notes app, Lists app, or a Word document. Make a list of who you’ll need to buy gifts for and note any ideas for their gifts you already have. Another list to make is a guest list to see who will be coming to your home for the holidays, if any. Next, make a list of any coworkers at work that you might need to buy something for, or any friends too. You’ll also need to make a list of all the items you’ll need to decorate with, a list for what you might like to cook, and what items you’ll need to catch on sale. I also like making lists for any gift wrapping items I might need, and date the lists of when you’d like to have them all checked off. Don’t wait until Thanksgiving or December 1st to start doing this, but instead, do it now and you’ll be so much more prepared and save money more than likely too.

2. Start Preparing a Budget

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Next, you should start preparing your budget. How much can you spend on gifts, food, wrapping, decorating, etc.? Don’t leave anything out! Even cards should be accounted for here. By doing this now, based on your current pay, this will help you see how much you’re able to save per paycheck if any, and what you need to do to prepare to pay for the season now. It also gives you some insight into what you can spend and how much you can spend per person, event, decorating item, etc.I even start eating cheaper to save for the holidays this time of year by reducing my grocery budget and buy more frozen veggies than fresh. Not all, but some, which makes a huge difference in your overall bill each week!Also eliminate any items you truly don't have to have each week for an even bigger difference.

3. Start Comparing Prices

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You should start comparing prices now. Most people think that it is best to wait until the last minute to catch a deal, but summer is actually a great time to stock up on some Christmas items in stores before they start going into promo prices, which often increase in October and decrease again in December or on Black Friday, which can be a nightmare. Many Christmas outlet stores are actually cheaper to buy from and you can also check online. Many clothing prices are also cheaper online but not always. Considering what you’ve put on your list to buy for everyone and start comparing prices of some items that you already have ideas for. Any coupons you have for these items should be used now, or before they expire as well.Also note on your lists which items you have coupons for too so you don't forget,or make lists of which ones you'd like to find.

4. Start a Christmas Club Account

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Another tip to start preparing now for your budget during the holiday season is to start a Christmas Club account at your local bank, which is just a simple savings account that you can’t withdraw until December. If your bank doesn’t offer this, open a separate savings account, but don’t touch it until December or when you start your shopping. It is optimal to start this in January each year and save through December, but by starting now, you can still save up quite a bit of money. Normally, Christmas Club funds can be drafted out of your account each week, or deducted from your paycheck automatically into the account. Figure out how much you’d like to put into this fund each paycheck and just start! You’ll be surprised how fast it adds up and you’ll have a nice chunk of change set to the side when you start your shopping. Even $10-$20 a week can make a huge difference.

5. Consider Homemade Gifts Ahead of Time

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If you’re a little low on money this year, there is nothing wrong with homemade gifts. I’ve even made a few myself, even when I had enough money to buy gifts because they can be more meaningful. Though some homemade gifts are better than store bought, many can also take time. For instance, I made a scrapbook last year for my mom, but started working on it in October, not Decemeber, so I would be sure to get it done in time for the holidays. If you’re baking gifts, go ahead and get your recipes together so you’ll know what you need to buy, along with any containers you’ll need too. Or, if you’re making someone a quilt, go ahead and start working on it instead of waiting until the last minute.

6. Buy Your Christmas Cards Online

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One great tip you might not have thought of is to buy your Christmas cards now online. You can buy them through select store websites like Vistaprint, or through an online mall like Amazon. They’re dirt cheap right now, and you can get better varieties in bulk than if you buy at the store when they’ve all been picked over. Plus, the U.S. postal service offers an online tool where you can go ahead and start preparing your cards now, and they’ll even set up an automatic pickup or let you prepare to mail them online with stamps and all with preselected dates.

7. Pick up a Few Foods You’ll Need to Make

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Obviously you don’t want to buy your ham or turkey now unless you have a huge freezer, but what you can do is go ahead and pickup a few necessary pantry items each time you shop. Flours, nuts, spices, herbs, seasonings, oils, beans, canned veggies, frozen fruits, canned pumpkin, frozen pie crusts, dried fruits, cake mix, chocolate chips, coconut, etc. All these things aren’t cheap and often go so fast once the holidays approach. Many stores are often sold out of everyday items at the last minute. Don’t let this happen to you. Just start picking up one or two things now at the store each time you go. You’ll have a nice little stash when the holidays approach so there’s no last minute trips to the store, and all you’ll have to pick up is your fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, breads, and any meats if you’re eating those. This is a great tip to prevent having to do a big shop when the season hits, which can take a real hit on your budget. Picking up two or three things each store visit will be just a drop in the hat, and not as big of an impact on your budget at one time. If you have the cabinet space, you can even keep these items in a separate holiday pantry stash.

8. Start Saving

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Obviously, you should start saving immediately, as in your next paycheck. Don’t wait too late to start and if you aren’t able to open up a savings account at your bank, or don’t care to have a bank account and carry cash only, just start a special jar at your home to save funds for. Put a little in the pot each week and you’ll be so excited when the holidays get here and you have some funds set aside to shop with.

9. Create a Secret Pinterest Board

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I used this trick for the first time last year and loved it! I created a secret board on Pinterest, where I pinned gift ideas, homemade gift ideas, recipe ideas and savings ideas. It wasn’t only entertaining, but so helpful! I also even found many deals this way too. The benefits of making a secret board was no one else could see it in case they were on my gift list, yet I still had an easy go-to collection of everything I needed.

Do you get excited over the holidays like I do? I sure hope so! If you have any tips for me, be sure to share them with me since I’ll never turn down a good tip to prepare for the holidays early!

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