Monday, August 12, 2013

Think Christmas--No it's not too early!

Today is part one of my 2 part series on how to prepare for Christmas financially.
I know what you're thinking 'Christmas, is this woman crazy?'.  Well there's only about 4.5 months until Christmas (see a countdown clock here) and you know that those 4.5 months will fly by.  Don't get caught with your proverbial pants down this year; prepare early!
Personally I'm one of those wackos that starts shopping for the next Christmas on the 26th of December.  I like to pick up gift sets, wrapping paper, ribbon, bags, ornaments and boxes as early as the day after Christmas.  Other items go clearance the first week of the year.
But enough about that, today I want to talk about how to prep for Christmas. 
  1. Start Saving.  Estimates vary from source to source, but it seems as though the general consensus is that Christmas costs the average family approx. $800.  If you haven't started planning yet that means you should be saving approx. $44 a week in order to pay cash for Christmas.  I'm not saying you should spend $800, only that you should look at your finances, set a budget and start to save.
  2. Look for ways to offset holiday expenses.  Some ways to do this...
    1. Swagbucks earns you points for using their search engine, watching videos, answering polls, doing surveys and shopping through their affiliate links.  You can redeem your points for giftcards.
    2. Secret Shopping.  MSPA has a list of accredited secret shopping services you can sign up for.  NO real secret shopping service will ask for money upfront.  On average shops pay about $5 and you'll get to eat for free!
    3. Survey sites.  I don't belong to too many of these, but I have gotten onto a few consumer panels via Communispace that pay me $10 in Amazon gift cards every month that I'm actively giving my opinion on new products!  Mindfield is a great company to start with.  They have high pay outs and a low cash out threshold. 
    4. Unload unwanted items via eBay, consignment sales, craigslist or consignment sales.  This will get you cash and help declutter--a win-win!
  3. Make your list, check it twice.  Giving is wonderful, much better than receiving if you ask me, however do you really need to buy for your 2nd cousin twice removed, or your hairdresser or your daughter's pre-K teacher?  Probably not.  Make a primary list of people you need gifts for.  Next make a list of people you'd like to be able to give to.  Baking cookies, making fudge or even a thoughtful card are probably all you need to to for those secondary people.  Remember you don't have to give to everyone, especially if you're on a tight budget.
Hopefully this has given you a little food for thought.  Check back next week for part 2 in my 'Think Christmas!' series!

**This post does contain affiliate links.

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