Faithful readers know that we pull out all the stops around here to celebrate Christmas in July. Or at least start thinking about the holidays, just five months down the road. If you are or have ever been plagued by credit-card debt, I can nearly guarantee that revolving expenses related to Christmas have contributed greatly to that miserable situation. The problem? Procrastination.
Face it, when it comes to Christmas, the longer you wait, the more you’ll spend. The opposite is also true: The sooner you get started the less you’ll spend.
Everyone procrastinates in some area. And some people procrastinate about everything. Why do we do it?
We feel overwhelmed
The holiday expectations we place on ourselves plus those that come from our families, the community, even the church can be so great we feel paralyzed. So we do nothing until the only choice we have is to spend as much money as it takes to get by.
We overestimate how much time we have
From where we sit here in July, Christmas seems so far away. We tell ourselves we have “plenty of time!”
We have to do it perfectly
Experts tell us that at the root of procrastination is perfectionism. Because we feel we have to do everything perfectly—and fear that we might not—we do nothing rather than run the risk of failing.
We say we work better under pressure
Waiting until the last minute can provide quite an adrenaline rush. Procrastinators believe they cannot operate without that creative surge, so they sit back and wait for it to happen.
The way to deal with procrastination is to identify why you do it. Ask yourself: What price have I paid in the past for the delay? Do I really want to pay that price, or even more, again this year?
If the answer to the last question is yes, you have lots of time; you don’t need to be thinking about the holidays yet.
If on the other hand, you are not willing to go into debt to measure up to others’ expectations, get started. Do something now.
1. Start saving
I get it that not all of us are into Christmas shopping any time other than December. It just doesn’t feel right. What you can do starting now is get diligent with creating a healthy cash stash so you have the money to do that come December.
Stash $50 a week starting now, for Christmas shopping in December. Once you are in motion it will be easier to keep going. Even if that’s all you do, you’ll be way ahead.
2. Book travel
We’re learning that the ongoing Boeing 737 Max grounding is going to affect holiday travel and not in a good way. Southwest Airlines opened its calendar for booking flights for December much earlier than usual. And by the looks things, lots of flights are already sold out. Now’s the time to book any holiday travel you have in mind.
Southwest, which doesn’t charge travelers fees to change or cancel their flights, will waive fare differences for customers who need to change their trips because of the extended schedule disruption.
3. Family photo
Whether it’s for your family Christmas card or to frame for a gift to friends and family, now’s a great time to take that photo. You’ll have plenty of time to shop around for the best price on high-quality prints.
It’s hard to beat Costco’s prices and service, but you need to be a member. However, right now it doesn’t appear you can order holiday photo cards—if you want to go this route. You’ll have to check back in a few months to see if their holiday templates are available.
You can get 5×7-inch photo cards printed for as little as $1 each when you order a package of 20—and the price goes down if you order more. Even though it’s July, Snapfish has its holiday templates available for you to order and print.
A great source for a postcard with your photos, plus many other options. VistaPrint has frequent specials and sales throughout the summer, so check back to see if you can get a deal at VistaPrint.com. Caution: You will be hounded throughout the order process to buy all kinds of “add-ons.” Don’t waste your money. Buy only what you came to buy.
4. Family Cookbook
Compile your own personal recipe collection into a cookbook for friends and family. But don’t wait. Start now on this ambitious project.
This site allows you to upload your own pictures, photos, and recipes and get them printed in a book.
This site offers cookbook software you can buy and then print yourself.
Go to Office.Microsoft.com., search under “templates” and then type in “cookbook.” Or just click HERE to find a free cookbook template with complete instructions for how to make a table of contents, recipes, and how to make an index.
5. Garden gifts
Look in your garden and see what you can make, can and freeze into gifts. Try making freezer jam as a quicker alternative to going through the whole canning process. AllRecipes offers free step-by-step instructions for How to Make Freezer Jam, along with tons of other how-to articles to help you pickle, can and preserve your garden’s bounty.
6. Schedule December
Pull out your December calendar and mark your main plans for the holiday season—you’ll schedule around those days when things start to get hectic come November.
7. Learn a craft
You’ll never have more spare time than you have now during these lazy days of summer, so take advantage by learning a learn a new craft or polish up those you know but could use some fresh inspiration.
If you love making things, you won’t find a more useful or personally gratifying craft than knitting. It’s quite the rage now. With only a few free lessons at a local knit shop or KnittingHelp.com, you’ll be knitting scarves and hats like a pro. Or search YouTube.com for “beginning knitting.” That’s how I taught myself to knit. Right now, I’m (still!) knitting a coat!
Decoupage is making a big comeback. Learn to dry the flowers of summer then use them to make beautiful gifts. Check out this free decoupage how-to.
Other useful crafting ideas include everything from scrapbooking to making homemade soaps and herbed vinegars. And homemade wrapping paper and tags for your gifts.
Search the Internet for how-to videos if you need some extra help with your craft. Sites like eHow.com offer endless videos to help you learn how to do make all kinds of crafts. You’ve got time!
8. Favorite Things basket
Chances are you’re familiar with Oprah’s annual show dedicated to showcasing her favorite things. Use that idea this year to create gift baskets for just about everyone on your holiday gift list. You’ll need to get started early.
These baskets can include a favorite book, (wink, wink) or magazine; lotion or soap; cookies or cookie recipe; a mixed CD of your favorite songs; favorite stain remover (Soilove!), favorite beverage, and so on. You’ll come up with all kinds of ideas once you start thinking about it.
The key is to stock up on all these items while they are on sale—and since they are your favorites, you probably already know how to get them cheap.
9. Give away treasures
Consider passing on an heirloom or family treasure to the next generation as a Christmas gift. Write up a paragraph or two explaining the history or significance of the heirloom to go along with the gift.
You’ll be preserving family history and won’t be spending a dime. But here’s the tricky part: Unless a person has expressed a particular love or desire for said heirlooms and special treasures, don’t assume your gesture will be appreciated.
10. Tie up memories
Compile a family photo album of all the old photos you have of relatives. Or pick one photo that is especially good, make several color prints (even if the original is black and white, printing it in color will give you the truest duplicate), and have each print nicely framed.
Interview an older relative and make a CD, DVD or even a written transcript of the interview for each member of the family. Ask about his or her childhood and young adult memories, family history and their perspective on historical events that occurred during their lifetime.
11. Give an experience
In a recent survey, thousands of school children all across the country were asked what they thought makes a happy family. The kids didn’t say a big house, designer jeans or video games. The most-mentioned key to happiness was doing things together.
Or perhaps the experience you give is what you do best. Give a gift certificate for a night or two of babysitting. Make coupons for a promised service like cleaning or teaching something new, or other areas in which you are an “expert.”
You could give a friend a coupon saying: I’ll make and deliver a dessert next time you have company or I’ll keep your kids for one weekend while you take a break.
You’ve got time to think and plan for how you can give experiences this year.
12. Back to school sales
If you have kids on your holiday gift list, make sure you check out the back-to-school sales at your office supply and department stores. They nearly give away some school supplies this time of year—they’re that cheap! And kids love receiving art supplies—anything from new crayons to markers, paper, paints, and stickers.
Create craft kits or gift baskets for the kids on your list. That’s something you can do in the next month or two. Just think of all the money you’ll save—and the time you’ll give yourself in December because you did some of the holiday work early.
Merry Christmas in July, everyone!