Monday, December 22, 2008

Money Monday: Start Planning For Christmas Now

Ok, not this Christmas, next Christmas. Do you have people on your list that you have realized you bought an extra gift, or two, for? What do you do with the extra gifts? I am sure some of you return them, some will use the gift for another person, a few will hold onto it for the recipient's birthdayor other event, but many will just go ahead and give the extra gifts to the intended recipient anyway. The best thing (at least for your pocketbook) is to simply stash it away for next year (or their birthday at least). Then, before you start your holiday shopping next year, be sure to check your stash and cross off those people whom you already have gifts for.

Another way to build up that "stash" is to shop clearance sales and the day after Christmas is the best time to start. You will also find that many stores have toys deeply (often to 75% off) discounted in mid-January. Do your birthday shopping for the year and get a head start on your holiday shopping for next year by shopping these great sales.

Now that gifts are taken care of, let's move to decorations. The day after Christmas is also a great time to pick these up for a steal on the price. You can also get lots of red and silver decor and candies and such to use for Valentine's Day. Craft stores actually start taking deep discounts before the holiday. This week's Michael's ad says their Christmas items are already 70% (maybe 75%, the ad is in the van) off. I may not have time to pwhip up any Christmas decorations for this year, but I have a heck of a head start for next year and they were a fraction of the price.

Don't forget the holiday dresses and outfits either. These will go on clearance over the next few weeks as well. The only drawback here is that you have to try and guess what size someone will be in 12 months. The benefit is, if you are wrong, you can always gift the item or sell it on eBay or Craigslist.

I do not recommend buying food a year ahead of time, but be sure to check the deals anyway. I have often found refrigerated cookie dough with holiday themes for less than $1 (combine with a coupon and they are free or close to it), soon after Christmas ends. I buy and bake them up for the kids or even for a New Year's get together. No one ever minds the holiday theme. While on the topic of food, be sure to check your grocers for deals on meat and baked goods soon before closing time on Christmas Eve (if you can). Many will mark down meat and baked goods in preparation of being closed for 24 hours. We bought a fresh turkey at Sam's Club several Christmas Eve's ago for 19 cents a pound, an hour before the store closed.

You do not need to do all these things to save money, but the more you do, the more money you can save. Plus, it lessens the amount of stuff you need to get next year, allowing you more time to spend doing other things that are more enjoyable.

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