Budgets & Bargains

75 Days to Christmas! Save Money for Christmas

Holiday spending can be hard on the pocketbook--and bought on credit, "Christmas Day" can stretch into the new year for weeks or months.

Ease the Christmas cash crunch with creative ways to save money for Christmas! Financial institutions offer dedicated Christmas clubs for the disciplined, but savvy holiday planners have found other ways to accumulate cash for holiday spending.

Start now to save money for Christmas. The goal? A debt-free holiday season:

Creative Ways to Save Money for Christmas

77 Days to Christmas! Plan For Holiday Bazaars

For a super source of holiday decor items, gifts and baked goods, shop local Christmas bazaars. Often benefitting worthy causes or organizations, these informal gatherings offer food, fun and a welcome leg up on the gift list.

To find bazaars in your area, look to local newspapers or community web sites; many provide seasonal listings of holiday bazaars and harvest fairs.

Add 'em to your calendar, check 'em out ... for a good time and a quick start to holiday shopping.

83 Days to Christmas! Get Ready for Catalog and Online Shopping

They're heerrree ... online bargains and holiday catalogs!

Planning for Christmas, shopping from home has many advantages over the holiday mall scene. No long lines. No sore feet. No staggering to the car, weighed down by parcels and shopping bags. Shopping becomes a pleasure, conducted from a favorite chair. Phone in your selections, sit back, and wait for the UPS man. Ahhhhh!

Still, it's possible to have too much of a good thing! The catalog tide sweeps in at the end of August, engulfing mailboxes and tabletops with untidy stacks and piles--and disorganized catalog shopping exacts a high price for convenience.

How to shop smart and save? Try these three tips to organize catalog shopping:

Three Tips for Smart Catalog Shopping

To track catalog and Internet purchases, add an order tracker page to your Christmas planner:

Catalog/Internet Order Tracker

84 Days to Christmas! Start a Seasonal Shopping List

Warning: holiday inventories ahead! Do you know where your shopping list is?

A seasonal shopping list is the closest thing to a personal shopper, so start a seasonal shopping list today. Use it to corral all the little "gotta-buy" items that will cross your path in the weeks ahead.

You’ll subdivide the list according to your own needs, including everything from a running grocery shopping list to reminders for gift wrap, seasonal or crafts supplies. Color-coding entries can make it easier to focus on crafts or food or clothing sections; do what works for you!

Tucked into the Christmas planner, the shopping list is a faithful friend. Use it to capture fleeting “must-buy” moments and spare your brain.

Did you find a UFO crafts project that needs only a bit of ribbon to complete? Write “ribbon – green plaid” on the list. Will the children’s school hold a holiday food drive? Note “extra cranberry sauce” under the grocery section.

Second step: check the list before you leave the house—or take it with you. It’ll jog your memory and help you make good use of small bits of time. Waiting for a child to finish a tutorial session? Make a quick turn into the crafts store down the street for that self-same ribbon, and cross the project off the UFO list.

Get organized for the holiday season ... with a seasonal shopping list!

Print a Seasonal Shopping List

89 Days to Christmas! Shop For Frugal Stocking Stuffers

"Stocking stuffers" are a favorite holiday tradition in many families--but wait until December to acquire them, and you'll pay full price!

To fill stockings like Santa (but spend like Scrooge!) start now to collect on-sale gifts suitable for stocking stuffers.

Great stuffer materials are all around you, if you only look: cereal box giveaways, mail-in prizes and free samples all find a welcome home as stocking stuffers.

While we're gearing up to collect stocking stuffers early, don't miss September's best source for good, cheap stocking gifts: back-to-school clearance sales.

Last month's collection of markers, crayons and stickers are now residing on clearance tables in discount, crafts and office supply stores.

Look sharp--and "think stuffers"--to fill holiday stockings frugally!

Print A Stocking Stuffers Tracker

92 Days to Christmas! Shop At Home, First

Friend Cindy, formerly of Flylady fame and now winging it at KellyAndCindy.com, has a great frugal saying that I've claimed for my own: "Shop at home first!"

Today, we'll do exactly that: check closets and drawers and boxes for holiday supplies, overlooked gifts, and all the holiday wrap-and-mail supplies we'll be needing in the weeks to come.

If we'll need it for Christmas, and we have it somewhere, today's the day we'll rout it all out and put it into the holiday lineup!

Gift items bought at the summer crafts fair. Stocking stuffers collected during the year. Gift wrap bought during last season's post-holiday clearance sales. Holiday cards or supplies for holiday letters. Stamps, mailing boxes, bubble wrap and packaging tape. Wherever they are, wherever they live, it's time to shop for them at home, first.

Use blank lined paper to note what you already have, and only then, add any missing items to the master shopping list. Shopping at home first pays off!

93 Days to Christmas! Set Up A Gift Closet

Do you keep a gift closet? To save money and cut gift-giving stress, you should!

A gift closet is a secret stash of gifts, ready for the giving. Think of it as a pantry for presents, a place to accumulate and store gifts bought year-round (and at attractive prices).

It doesn't have to be a dedicated closet; a gift closet can live in a covered box, an underbed storage unit, or a high shelf in a bedroom or den.

A well-seasoned gift closet is a giver's best friend. Find a great bargain at a clearance sale? Snap it up and entrust it to the gift closet for safe-keeping. Need a quick gift for an unexpected event? Shop the gift closet first!

An organized touch: print a free gift closet inventory form to keep track of stored gift items ... and get organized!

Gift Closet Guide: Get Organized for Frugal Gifts and Giving

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