Christmas Stocking

Let’s Celebrate Christmas in July

Recently, I bought Christmas stocking-stuffers. I did it because my brain told me I’d stumbled upon some things that were on sale and quite perfect for my kids. But I didn’t enjoy it. I’m an emotional shopper, and right now I’m all about summer. I have no desire to think about Christmas. I like to wait until about Dec. 15, then do it all in a couple days when everything is all Christmasy and I’m in the holiday mood.


Here’s the problem: I’ve done that Dec. 15 thing, and I did it for more years than I like to recall. It always started out fun but then turned quickly into shopping panic, where I needed to buy something, anything, to cross another name off the list.

Year after year, I’d say through clenched teeth and spiking blood pressure: “I’ll just use the credit cards this one last time. Then, I’ll pay them off really fast in the new year. No one will know. It’ll be OK just this one last time.” Sure. Right.

Maybe I’ve matured more than I give myself credit for. I’ve stopped shopping emotionally. I know that I just can’t take the pressure, expense and the stress of the December 15 shopping crush.

For 20 years now, I’ve tried to start early (July is my target month), and while it’s not all that much fun, it’s good for me. I’m relaxed. I can ponder and compare. I have time to think, design and create. I’ve never done it perfectly where, come August or so, I have everything wrapped and ready, but each year I do a bit better.

As for the stocking-stuffers, I wrote a note in my calendar on Dec. 1 to remind me what I got and where I put them. And I was surprised to find two other notes I’d already written to myself about gift wrap and cards left over from last year. Apparently, once I write something down, I give myself permission to forget about it.

All that to say, like it or not, now is a good time to start thinking about the coming holidays. We’ve been celebrating Christmas in July for many years at Debt-Proof Living. And I’ve shared all kinds of ideas, hints, tips and tricks over the years in this Everyday Cheapskate column.

So, do you want to join me? Do you have ideas, tips and recipes to share? Let me know in the comments section below! I want to share your holiday tips, strategies and ideas so we all can benefit by starting early—because I am convinced that the longer I wait, the more I end up spending. If that’s not a good reason to start early, I just don’t know what is.

The holidays will be here before we know it. I plan to welcome them knowing that I’m ready to enjoy, that I didn’t overspend and for sure I didn’t set myself up for a holiday stroke.

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41 replies
  1. Mercy Marcos
    Mercy Marcos says:

    Am Mercy Marcos by name.My husband left me because i was unable to conceive after 12 years of marriage due to my BARRENNESS i visited different hospitals they were unable to help me i cried all day all to no avail, i contacted so many spell caster to bring him back but i never new they were scammer they stole my money, i decided to end it all by killing myself until God intervene by sending a friend of mine who was suffering from PCOS introduce me to the DR that cured her. i never wanted to contact him because of my past experience until i decided to give him a chance and to my greatest surprise he casted a spell and in 3 days my husband return asking for forgiveness, I really want to thank DR Harrison for the great work he did for me. But through the help of great PROPHET DR HARRISON my husband came back with tears on his face pleading, not only that Dr also helped me break the yoke of barrenness in my life and now am having 2 kids. for more information contact me via email [email protected] With so much joy in my heart i want to recommend DR HARRISON to everyone that has been looking for help for a long time in there relationship to get there Ex lover back or to conceive to kindly contact DR to help you with his Love spell or pregnancy spell, contact him via his email address [email protected] or you can add him on whatsApp through his mobile number +2348079540032,

  2. Mercy Marcos
    Mercy Marcos says:

    Am Mercy Marcos by name.My husband left me because i was unable to conceive after 12 years of marriage due to my BARRENNESS i visited different hospitals they were unable to help me i cried all day all to no avail, i contacted so many spell caster to bring him back but i never new they were scammer they stole my money, i decided to end it all by killing myself until God intervene by sending a friend of mine who was suffering from PCOS introduce me to the DR that cured her. i never wanted to contact him because of my past experience until i decided to give him a chance and to my greatest surprise he casted a spell and in 3 days my husband return asking for forgiveness, I really want to thank DR Harrison for the great work he did for me. But through the help of great PROPHET DR HARRISON my husband came back with tears on his face pleading, not only that Dr also helped me break the yoke of barrenness in my life and now am having 2 kids. for more information contact me via email [email protected] With so much joy in my heart i want to recommend DR HARRISON to everyone that has been looking for help for a long time in there relationship to get there Ex lover back or to conceive to kindly contact DR to help you with his Love spell or pregnancy spell, contact him via his email address [email protected] or you can add him on whatsApp through his mobile number +2348079540032

  3. Flo Friender
    Flo Friender says:

    Knowing that most of the adults I know and care about already have everything they want and need, I make my Christmas gift giving a joy by donating money to Heifer, International in their names. The money goes to provide animals, education and training to people who really need help plus a ‘Pay it Forward’ policy so that others in need also reap the benefits.

    These gifts seem to be universally appreciated by those who receive them, and make my holidays stress-free! Heifer requests minimum of $10.00 per card, which they send to you.

  4. Karen E.
    Karen E. says:

    I use my spreadsheet program on my computer to keep track of everything regarding Christmas — Gift Ideas, gifts purchased (which I also record amount, store, and date so I can keep track of what I have spent, and I can find the receipt if the item needs to be returned or exchanged), decorations list for each member of the family (that way decorations given to, or made by each kid can be taken with them when they set up their household), holiday menus, cookies list (for that big bake-off), etc. — no losing that list!

  5. Dormie
    Dormie says:

    I give up giving presents because it was too expensive and I didn’t know what everyone wanted. So now I make stockings for everyone in the family, around 20, using womens pantyhose. Starting the day after Christmas is a wonderful time to get seasonal things on sale like coloring books. Then throughout the year I keep my eyes out for things on sale or just right for a particular person. I end up needing to buy almost nothing to make the stockings just before Christmas.

  6. pplanet
    pplanet says:

    I have a friend who occasionally pays me to clean her house. She does a lot of online shopping and complains about having too much clutter. Once I offered to do a barter – instead of paying me with a check, she could pay me with “stuff” that I could use myself or for gifts. She was delighted and gave me many more dollars’ worth of merchandise than I would earn in a paycheck. I am now well stocked with stocking stuffers and gifts for this Christmas – and since I hate to shop, this was win-win for both of us!

  7. Nene
    Nene says:

    Thank you Mary. For the last years I do all my Christmas shopping until August 30. Reason? I travel to festivals, and sometimes overseas to my home country and I buy small gifts for my girl friends and daugthers-in-law. I have small bags of “tokens” for each one. The only shopping I do in December are for my two grandkids. Reason: they are 13 and 14 and they always answere me “I don’t know”…. by the tinme “the know something”: it is mid-Decembr. Those are the only two presents I do in December and when I buy I I do it early in the morning to avoid rush and stress. Christmas stress is over for me and my bank account also. Thank you, Elena

  8. Gretchen
    Gretchen says:

    I make a calendar on Shutterfly each year. It includes pictures from our vacation & celebrations the previous year. My d-in-l is so grateful to have all of the family birthdays/anniversaries pre-written on the calendar. Also, when we were on our vacation in July, we bought each of our kids (& their spouse) a 1 night gift certificate to our favorite hotel. One is still saving it, the other is using it soon for their 5th anniversary trip. 🙂

  9. Darby
    Darby says:

    I have always loved Christmas. As a parent our children limited their Santa wishes to three gifts. They usually got their first choice. One year it snowed and they got money. They loved seeing how far their money went with the after Christmas sales. Now that they are grown, they get a fun selection of goodies to use during the holidays–kitchen towels, decorative soap containers, and other themed items. They get this right after Thanksgiving. Of course, everything was purchased during clearance the year before!! Our focus for the grandchildren is the time before Christmas, during Advent. They get an advent calendar and fun items to make, read or color during this time of anticipation. All of them purchased at clearance price or in thrift shops. I call it the thrill of the hunt! On occasion I have done the twelve days after Christmas. On the first day after Christmas Santa left for you…a toothbrush to remind you to take care of your teeth. Think of twelve things and have fun with it. Open one a day. This is especially fun for the child who might feel a letdown after the Big Day. Like I said, I love Christmas. Especially because it is a season, not a single day!!

  10. Elaine Morris
    Elaine Morris says:

    To remember from year to year what’s been purchased, served, celebrated, etc., I have a “Christmas Traditions” document which lists all the details of the familiy’s activities, gifts purchased, chariatable donations and food prepared. At the end of the season, I go back and note what was enjoyed and what was too expensive or time-consuming. The next year, I pull out my previous traditions lists to repeat the ones that were meaningful, choose new activities if desired and to be sure not repeat the “not so pleasant” ones again. It also helps to remember what you purchased and not get the same inspiration again. If I buy gifts or supplies, I write them in the back of my daytimer and where I have them stored.

  11. Ruth
    Ruth says:

    I finally solved my Christmas shopping dilemma, and my family loves what I’ve done. I live a long way from my children and grandchildren, and don’t always spend Christmas with them, so sending gifts was difficult and expensive, as is knowing what each of them needs/wants/likes. Two years ago, I tripped over an ad by the children’s aid group “Plan”, and discovered I could send a gift on behalf of my loved ones. I expect all these charitable agencies provide the same service. So my gifts consisted of a donation to provide goats or piglets or books or you-name-it helpful aids to children and families in third world countries. The amazing part of it is that even the young grandchildren absolutely loved it! Heaven knows they all get enough “stuff” at Christmas, and this is a novelty to them, being made part of the larger picture. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. I spent approx. $25 each on the younger children, and $50 on the adults and older kids. It doesn’t have to be a third world charity; it could be any local charity that you care about. But the Plan gifts have the advantage that even young children can identify with giving animals or books or mosquito nets that will benefit other children and families. And it can be done Online, well ahead of Christmas, when the dollars are available. Just a thought. Best regards, Ruth

  12. marge
    marge says:

    definitely check out xmas tree stores; they have amazing good things for putting together in stocking stuffers; i got the best little ceramic loaf pans last year and filled them w/spices and candy; everyone loved them. and so inexpensive! enjoy.

  13. Mary Keil
    Mary Keil says:

    I like to buy in July or summer months thing you cannot find in December, such as swimsuits,beach balls,flip flops,etc. But I do not do all shopping in summer months. same goes for winter. I buy for the spring birthdays if they want a sled or mittens or something you can not find in spring or summer. works out great!!!!

  14. Janet
    Janet says:

    My Father-in-law married a wonderful woman whom we love dearly. It was a blessing to welcome her to our big family. For Rita’s first Christmas I found a calendar that has 12 monthly pages and the dates just go down the side with no boxes for Sunday-Saturday so it is never out of date. I added all our family members birthdates and anniversaries. I even contacted some of her kids to get their special dates. Now Rita has a calendar that keeps her up to date and she isn’t embarassed by missing a birthday. I think thoughtful gifts are the best.

  15. Jane W
    Jane W says:

    This may sound crazy, but many times I will start buying little items and putting them away for the next Christmas when they go on sale for this years Christmas.
    Also, stores run sales on various items at different times of the year i.e. just this evening I noticed that school items are on sale. If you have children who love to get new coloring or activity books and you buy boxes of new colors to go along with these for stocking stuffers, now is the time to buy the boxes of colors when they are on sale in many stores. If you have a spare storage tub, pack them away and you will have your supply of items when Christmas arrives. Also, as stocking stuffers for school children, some of their items may need replenishing by Christmas for the remainder of the school year, so here again, take advantage of the sales now.

  16. Mary Howald
    Mary Howald says:

    I start shopping for Christmas in the Spring!! I started doing this after my divorce out of necessity and my stores were garage sales!! Here in Missouri our real estate/personal property taxes are due at the end of the year too, so it does take some budgeting. I usually break down the gifts in different categories for the kids: clothes, books, movies, toys and games. I usually have to plan ahead for clothes sizes to make sure they fit come Christmas and after. My kids like the classic Disney movies and simple games to play as a family, but I usually try to buy the toys or video games closer to Christmas to see what they want on their list. It is amazing what you can find still sealed or new with tags second hand!! I am usually finishing my shopping on Black Friday to get the last of the wish lists for the best deals, especially the electronic type stuff!!

  17. Lucy J
    Lucy J says:

    Three of my four children (2 are twins) are born in December as well as my now ex-husband but when I was married and to this day when I see something I think someone would like I buy it and put it away for Christmas. I have a special closet which is my gift closet and I have 1/2 price frames (Kohl’s is always good for that) , T-shirts from Vacation as well as regional cookbooks, etc. I keep a list of what I have bought for who so I know and gifts won’t be unequally distributed. My elderly gift recipients I usually give home baked goods as they have everything anyway.
    Buying all year round (especially after Christmas sales) doesn’t hurt so much in December knowing taxes are coming in January!!

  18. Eva
    Eva says:

    Eva: I have a friend that buys a Christmas gift at the same time as a Birthday gift. she is lucky enough to have family spread out all year. but you could just put Money aside instead…

  19. mommyloon
    mommyloon says:

    My kids love to read, and they love to get books as gifts. All year, I shop at resale shops for like-new books, and I save them in boxes in my bedroom closet (as of July this year, I have three boxes full). This year, I’m shopping as a proxy for my mother as well; she plans to give books for Christmas to her grandchildren this year.

  20. Redhatmomma
    Redhatmomma says:

    You can make cute little boxes and gift card holders from the used Christmas cards from last year. Just check online for patterns. It’s surprising what you can do with used cards. Now is a good time to start to have enough by Christmas

  21. Shirley Summers
    Shirley Summers says:

    I have for decades purchased a Christmas gift while buying a birthday gift for everyone. That way the cost is spread out throughout the year. Now it’s time to start wrapping to see what other little incidentals I need to pick up. 🙂

  22. Sandy
    Sandy says:

    I begin my Christmas shopping for the next year during the after Christmas sales. Find some great bargains and I can just hold them over. Saved lots of money doing this.

  23. Pidgie
    Pidgie says:

    I work all year round on gifts for birthdays, cards for special events and Christmas. In the back of my day planner I have devoted 1/2 page to each person I will be buying a gift for. When I hear a “I want” or “Isn’t that gorgeous” or “I’d love to take that class” I jot it under the person’s name that said it. That stops the endless search for that special gift. With 5 kids and 11 grandkids I have to shop smart. I also hit the dollar stores and pick up greeting cards that I can have on hand. Cards are so expensive and the dollar store has some very nice ones if you take the time to look. I also raise a large garden and can jams, veggies, pickles pasta sauces etc… I also bake from the garden. Zucchini bread is a fave and people love home made food as gifts and I enjoy doing it.

  24. Marie
    Marie says:

    Everyone has great ideas about shopping early in the year for bargains so I won’t repeat that. But…for decades now my husband and I have money automatically withdrawn every month from our checking account that goes into our Christmas savings account and pays for everything Christmas: gifts, tree, decorations, food, etc. Then I never have a credit card bill coming that I dread. As our family is expanding (our kids getting married and having kids), this year I increased the amount of the automatic transfer to cover our growing family. The “stash” gives great peace of mind.

  25. Maureen Smith
    Maureen Smith says:

    I happened to be shopping in JoAnn’s the other day for yarn and as I was going to check-out, they had these beautiful dragons and my grandson loves dragons. I had a coupon for half off and I bought his entire Christmas present that day. With 25 grandchildren, I shop for Christmas all year long. Maureen Smith

  26. Jaylene Martin
    Jaylene Martin says:

    As well as beginning in June or July to shop for the adults on my list I have a special way to celebrate for my 30 grandchildren. I create handmade “gift cards” and attach them to an inexpensive or handmade toy or pc of jewelry. Then when the children get them they get to schedule an appt with Gramma for a personal “shopping trip” so they can have some personal time and pick out something they want. Several of them have already learned the value of second hand stores, etc. The fact that these trips are spread out for months is great because they appreciate what they recieve more when it is not lumped with a pile of other things. The best part for me is that the money comes from all the change my husband and I toss in a jar at night and the few “extra” dollars I throw in when I have more than five ones in my wallet.

  27. Wendy Wentzel
    Wendy Wentzel says:

    Make friends with people at local stores so that you can be “aware” of the special sales that are coming up as well as any clearance that gets marked down. These people can be invaluable resources when you are shopping on a budget.

  28. Chirp
    Chirp says:

    I have for years; purchased gifts throughout the year and keep them in a speial box (so I always know where they are) in my closet. This allows me to take advantage of sale items; one of a kind craft items; and I can also spare a couple of extra bucks on items because I’m not purchasing out of a single pay check. I always have a great gift for those birthdays and other occassions so I’m not caught short on times when my car insurance (or other payment) is due. I even have a cash cookie jar that I throw in a twenty from time to time; so I have some cash to stuff in an envelope for benevolent special giving such as funerals and love offerings at my church. I enjoy being generous as the Lord has lavished his grace on me many many times.

  29. suezq
    suezq says:

    I never send Christmas cards out until the first of December. I also forget where the cards went, that I bought on sale in January. I also can’t remember where the stuffers or gifts are hiding. And a note to myself is always lost untill after Christmas, when it suddenly appears. So, I put all my notes to myself in my address book. It comes out Dec. 1st, and there is my reminders where everything is stashed. Saves me from the ‘Last Minute Dash’, for gifts. And money too.

  30. Helen
    Helen says:

    I’ve always shopped throughout the year, but I am also an emotional shopper and the pull of the stores at Christmas is strong. I deliberately “save” a few presents (usually small) to buy in December so that I can have the Christmas experience that I need. The other presents are bought throughout the year when I find them on sale or on clearance. The other thing I do is keep a spiral notebook with everything I’ve bought listed in it. This way I have a record of what I’ve bought so I don’t duplicate ideas from year to year. It really helps me a lot.

  31. azchix
    azchix says:

    I start my holiday shopping for the next year right after the current holiday season. ALWAYS!!! when the stores are just about giving away leftover merchandise is the best time to get small things like bubble bath sets. if you have the room to store it why buy at full price during the holidays?

  32. Erika
    Erika says:

    And here I thought I was doing something when I started my shopping in April, but another reader’s got me beat by a few months!!! I agree, though. I began making my gifts some years back. I’m not that great with hand-made crafts, but am a whiz on the computer. One year, I wrote personalized poems and framed them. Another year was personalized bookmarks. What can I do this year? I’d better start thinking about it now! Have fun, everyone!

  33. finalefive
    finalefive says:

    I hade five sons who were growing constantly. They all HAD to have Levi jeans. So when I found them on sale (January, April, June…didn’t matter), I would always buy them for Christmas. If there were the wrong size by Christmas (which was usually the case), they could be exchanged for the current size and I had saved a bundle. All stores will let you exchange for size after Christmas. I usually wrapped things as I bought them and made a list so I would know what I had on hand.

  34. CarolynS
    CarolynS says:

    I also belong to My Points. I save up my points throughout the year and redeem for gift cards to give as Christmas gifts for my daughter and Mom. For the past couple of years I purchased small individual-sized loaf pans at my HEB which were Christmas-themed ($1.50 each). I purchase quick bread mixes throughout the year and bake individual bread loafs for my co-workers and other family members. Everyone has loved them plus they have a loaf pan which can be reused.

  35. Irishmisstery
    Irishmisstery says:

    I have been shopping in July for several years now. We are snowbirds and have homes in New York state and Florida. We fly back to New York for two weeks at Christmas to spend the holidays with our family. I have most presents wrapped and all my shopping done so that I can spend every moment enjoying !!!

  36. HLS
    HLS says:

    Don’t forget garage sales for stocking stuffers. Lots of good things for adults and kids — and the price is right!

    Also, homemade jam makes a great gift for teachers, neighbors, etc. and now is the time when fruit is at its peak.

  37. Donna Pheneger
    Donna Pheneger says:

    I also buy through the year, especially clothes for the grandchildren. I wait for the winter sales and buy for the following year. Dh and I belong to my points and together, we are able to get gift cards for our children with the points we’ve accumulated throughout the year. I also go to the local craft store with coupons in hand and buy from their dollar section for the stockings – note pads, stickers for the kids, thank you cards [a hint to send out thank you notes after Christmas and birthdays ;-)] and things like that. As for actual gifts for my kids, I also buy through out the year – there are just some things that never go out of style. On Christmas Day, I like to do something special for my guests/family – every year I have place cards in different forms for them plus a gift of goodies to take home with them. The gift cards could be ornaments with their names on it or little candles – all I’ve made. I start in September with those. The goodies I start cooking and freezing after Thanksgiving.

  38. Susan814
    Susan814 says:

    I start in July or earlier and spend CASH only! Even if it is a gift card for someone, spend what you can afford at the time. It breaks it up into little expenses and you will not have to use charge cards. I am usually done by October and proud of my accomplishment.

  39. nikky365
    nikky365 says:

    I started my Christmas shopping in January when things went on clearance. I have a large rubber made tote to help keep things together. I also make a list in a small notebook I use every year. I keep a list of who we buy for and what I have purchased for them. These two have helped me not to over spend by forgetting what I have stashed around the house (that I can’t find when it’s time to wrap). I also make a ornament for our friends and family every year. I make around 20 (more when my son was younger for teachers at school and daycare). This is an inexpensive way for me to be able to give to everyone we would like to, but can’t afford to add so many to our list. I have spent at the most $50 on all supplies for these. I started about 13 years ago and everyone looks forward to seeing “what did you make this year?” I also as mentioned below do the same for Christmas cards, bags, wrap, tags, etc. I buy the day after Christmas on clearance and have holders to store them for the next year. I use so much and would rather add the money to other things at that time of the year.

  40. Tee
    Tee says:

    I stock up on Christmas cards, bags, wrap’n & tissue paper, tags, ribbon etc when they are on clearance. A few years ago I bought wrap’n paper holder, I load all the stuff into it, store it in the attic until it’s time for wrap’n. I also look for a plain colored wrap’n paper which can be use for reg gifts too. Keep an eye out some stores even clearance out scotch tape!! I have save a lot of $ through out the yrs by doning this.

  41. LindaBabe
    LindaBabe says:

    Thanks for all you do, Mary!
    I make my own holiday greeting cards. Last week, I designed my card, checked my stash to see what materials were available, This week, I’ll put in an order for the cardstock, ink pad, and ink refills I need. I’ve attacked a scrap of the cardstock (for matching to ribbon) to my shopping list for the next trip to the craft shop. All supplies should be in hand and I’ll be creating by the 3rd week in August. Goal is to be done with them by the first week in October.


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