Christmas in July?

I know this post is a bit off topic for my usual real estate post, however, the date is 7/25/13, only 5 months until the most expensive holiday of the year.

Unused Gift Cards?

I am staring at a few unused gift cards leftover from Christmas.  Sadly, I have no time to go out and shop these particular stores, as they are not located 3 minutes away with a large red bulls-eye for a logo.  Shopping at these stores requires online shopping or a babysitter, neither of which I have time for.

However, these gift cards got me thinking about a friend of mine who loves Christmas so much, she starts a countdown pretty much as soon the New Year’s Eve party ends.  But she never gets herself into a stressed out debt crunch over it and after all these years, I finally asked her for her secrets to her happiness.

Budget for your all your traditional holiday expenses.
Is it your turn this year to host the big family party with all the trimmings?  If it’s a party for 10 or a party for 60, the sooner you start saving for it, the less stressful it will be.  Why pay for Christmas on credit when you could be ahead of the bills by putting a little bit aside each month now?

Plan ahead to avoid unexpected costs.
If you know this year is the big family reunion in Florida in October and you’d love to fly back to Florida in December, perhaps you can downsize gifts to save enough for roundtrip tickets.  Or plan on bunking double with the cousins to save on hotel costs.  One group I know of had one family handle food/cooking and the other family did transportation/entertainment tickets to split up the costs of the trip.

Stay on target and monitor your savings on a weekly basis.
Make a special savings jar or envelope and keep it tucked out of sight until you fill it up each week.  Knowing that you’ll have cash for the holidays will keep you smiling year round.  Try to save your holiday receipts from last year to estimate the next year’s budget.

Reuse last years’ items as often as possible.
Ornaments, decorations and lights if properly stored can last many seasons.  If you cannot skip a sale completely,  at least wait until the 80% off clearance sales before buying more holiday décor.  Don’t forget, those light up reindeer are fantastic, but they will need to be stored somewhere year-round.  Do you really want to pay a monthly storage fee for an item you use once a year?

Shop the big January clearance for next year’s accessory type gifts.
Getting fuzzy slippers and a matching bath robe might seem silly but if they’re on a clearance sale for $3.99, you won’t be able to beat that price even on Black Friday sales.  Stock up on hostess style gifts, the ones that you always need to have for unexpected extra gifts.  Buy the kids their winter coats and snow pants one or two sizes larger and you’ll be set for the following winter.

Finally, remind yourself what you enjoyed most about your holiday last year.
Was it the holiday movies with a cup of cocoa snuggled up with the family on the couch? Baking cookies?  Was it spent with friends socializing at parties?  Drinks at New Year’s Eve on the waterfront?  Whatever part comes back first is the most memorable.  Try to find a way to enjoy that part more and worry about the food, gifts or goodies less.

Gift Cards and Shopping

And as far as gift cards,  make sure the cards are for stores that are local to the recipient.  Better yet, cards with large red bulls-eye logos work great too.

Yours in the Fox Valley area,

Jennifer Kinzle, e-Pro Broker
Charles Rutenberg Realty

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