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Avoid the Christmas Budgeting Blues

Living a Better Life® (from the editor's desk)
by Michelle Jones

Are you just now getting December's Christmas bills paid off? If you're like most people it probably takes you several months to get your bills paid off after the joyous gift-giving season. Try my shopping tip instead and ease those gift purchases into your budget painlessly.

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Don't wait until December to do your Christmas shopping!

"You've finished Christmas shopping, in October!" Well yes, I'm proud to say, I did. It wasn't easy but the shocked look on people's faces when I told them I'd finished my Christmas shopping so early made it even more glorious. Especially when I am usually the one being shocked by someone else bragging about his or her own such accomplishment. Maybe that's why I did it. I just wanted to see if I could. It's not like I have a small shopping list. We have a large extended family and four children of our own.

You're probably wondering how I got it all done so early, or maybe you've already decided I'm one of those crazy and completely over-organized women who gets everything done ahead of schedule. Let me assure you that is not the case. At least not the crazy part.

Aside from just seeing if I could do it I had another more important reason for getting my shopping finished early. I wanted to be able to enjoy the holidays with my family more. Without having to organize our gift list. Three of our children are in school now and we're busier than ever. The holidays also tend to be a bit stressful with preparing for company and visiting relatives. School programs, church programs, picking out Christmas cards (which can take several shopping trips just to find the right ones), hand addressing the cards, trying to put together a family photo of the kids (to enclose inside the cards), planning menus and grocery lists, office parties, school parties, etc… It's exhausting just thinking about it.

With all the preparations for Christmas, not to mention Thanksgiving just 4-5 weeks prior to that, how in the world do we manage to choose wonderful, meaningful, gifts for our loved ones? Maybe this is only a problem for busy moms but I think most people can still benefit from my plan. It's never too late to get started though I do recommend starting in January if you can. As the months go by, keep a list of who you've found that perfect gift for and who's is still yet to be found.

This is especially great for people who enjoy shopping but really don't have the extra money to buy anything. You can actually save money by purchasing your gifts early and often find these wonderful gifts on sale. And I highly recommend waiting for the best sale. For a frugal shopper there are few things in life that are worse than paying full price for something only to see it go on a big sale the following month. I try my best to avoid this and for the most part I do pretty well.

Sometimes, once I decide what the perfect gift for someone is, I will postpone the purchase if I suspect a future sale. With the exception of those "hopefully perfect" gifts that are not on sale and may never go on sale. As well as those one of a kind items that if you pass up for another day might be gone forever. Sometimes you just have to go ahead and make the purchase as long as it's within your budget for the month. And this brings to light another reason for shopping so early. By purchasing just a few gifts at a time we've paid for them a little each month instead of all at once in December. And, interest free because we didn't need to put them on plastic.

I hope this holiday shopping tip has been helpful. Giving gifts is not what Christmas is all about, however, it is a very special part of our tradition. It's wonderful to give those special gifts that you've put some time and thought into.

I wish you a wonderful Christmas shopping season, all year long, and may all of your gifts be well received!

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