A friend of mine has been battling with her kidneys for the past two and a half months. She’s been in immense pain, had at least three trips to the ER, had two out patient procedures, one of which was unplanned, and is now recovering from surgery. She’s also hosting Christmas this year. When I checked on her this week she was starting her Christmas shopping using the internet, which is all she can handle right now, and is thinking there won’t be any decorations up this year.
This situation made me so thankful that a couple of years ago I started planning ahead for Christmas and my children’s birthdays. For many years I had made sure to purchase wrapping paper and Christmas cards when they were on clearance, then a few years ago I began watching the clearance racks/shelves for things my kids would like in a year round Christmas shop. I keep pantry staples in decent supply as well. It hit me that a situation like my friend’s would still be rough, but not as overwhelming to me because of the planning ahead.
So what would I tell someone who wanted to start planning ahead more for Christmas?
1. Write down each item you purchase – and keep all purchases on one or two sheets together.
2. Write down what you paid for each item. Since you’re not spending all of your money in a short amount of time, it would be easy to go way over budget.
3. Write down the original cost of each item so you can add up the savings at the end. This has proven to be quite motivational to me.
4. Store the items in one consistent location. Find the ideal hiding spot and stick to it. You want to be able to find everything when it’s time to wrap.
5. Write down ideas for your kids and others as they are mentioned. This way you will remember the things they are interested in and not be tied to the list they produce in November or December.
6. Don’t buy everything ahead. Leave a little room to purchase something near Christmas for those last minute wishes or brilliant ideas.
7. Yes, you can even buy candy ahead (for stockings). Experience has taught me that things with nougat or caramel will not store well for more than a few months, but those could be purchased the day after Halloween and be fine. Plain chocolate and things such as M&M’s will be fine for several months. After about a year, chocolate can start to turn a bit white. It is still fine to eat, but may not look so wonderful.
8. Baked goods can be put in the freezer up to 6 months ahead and be fine. Sugar cookies freeze well too.
Nothing will prepare you for every possible rough spot, but planning ahead can reduce the width and depth of those rough spots.