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It’s already December, and I say this every year but wow, this year has flown! It’s hard to believe that in less than a month it will be the year 2020! It just doesn’t seem possible. With all the holiday hustle and bustle coming up this can be the most wonderful time of the year, or one of the more stressful times of the year.

I heard on the radio this morning that 70% of people dread the holidays because of the gift giving obligations. If you feel your Christmas spirit is being squashed this year, I encourage you to do some planning and get organized ahead of time, your wallet and your sanity will thank you later.

Make a list

Make a list and check it twice! Do this before you spend anything. Write down who you’d like to buy for, what you plan to get them, and what you think you’ll spend. Spreadsheets are great for this but pen and paper work just fine. Once your list is in order total it up.  If the number is reasonable and you know you can pay it off in full after the holiday, get to shopping! If the number is more than you think you can afford, go back through and make some adjustments. I went through this exercise myself this year and my first draft was way off base, it made me wonder why I hadn’t done this in years past.

Get creative

Not everything on your list needs to be store bought. If you are the crafty type, consider making a gift instead of buying one outright. If you don’t feel like getting your hands dirty in the craft room, maybe bake or cook something instead. Inviting someone over for dinner and spending time with them may be all the gift they are looking for.  I know this especially rings true with parents and grandparents.

Get personal

Personalized gifts are truly my favorite. A personalized gift shows that someone took the time and carefully picked out a gift because it reminded them of you in some way. Personalized gifts don’t have to be expensive to be thoughtful. Last year I received two ornaments with pictures of my dogs on them, and when I put them on my tree this year it instantly made me smile and think of the person who gave them to me. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Talk about it

Reach out to your family members to see what their gift giving intentions are. In my family we exchange emails around the holidays and talk about what we are doing for each other, we have even started doing a gift exchange name draw for our larger gatherings. Combining gifts with other family members or starting a secret Santa-type exchange is a great way to keep spending in check during the holiday season.

Check your closet first

This is something I used to fall victim to every year. I’d head out to the store a few weeks before Christmas in search of the perfect dress for our big Christmas Eve party only to let it sit in the back of my closet the other 364 days of the year. It took me a while to learn this, but no one is going to remember what you wore to the party the year before. Dig through that closet and see what you already have before splurging on a new outfit. You may have more options than you think. If you absolutely must buy something new, make sure it’s something you can wear more than once.

Don’t wait until the last minute

If you’re standing in the mall on Christmas Eve, you’re probably going to do more mindless spending than if you were to have bought your gifts earlier in the month.  Believe me, I’ve been there! If you wait until the very last minute the goal is not to be efficient and mindful of your spending.  The goal becomes get it done, get it home, and get it wrapped. That kind of procrastination is something I think we’ve all experienced at least once but hopefully don’t get in the habit of doing over time.

Remember what it’s all about

Lastly, take a step back and remember what this season is all about. It’s easy to get swept up in the mass consumerism part of the season but that new TV or new set of golf clubs won’t remember you when you’re gone. Spend time with the people that mean most to you and if that time includes giving gifts, then give them. But don’t let the pressures surrounding the holiday season be the reason behind lavish gift giving, especially if it’s going to put you in a financial bind. With some creativity and some planning ahead of time, you can ensure that come January 1st you won’t be suffering from a post-holiday financial hangover.

Happy Holidays, everyone!