I had a few young adults ask how I pull off great Christmases for my family year after year. So here is my steps to having a great Christmas:
1. Save all year,
Yep your read that right. Start now or even better yesterday. I have $50 taken from my bi-weekly check and deposited into a Christmas savings account. It has to be a Christmas savings account so you don't have the option to spend it early. Now to clarify, the money in this account is only what I saved. Even though our money is joint, I feel accomplished having saved my share for Christmas. My husband has money set aside with his union and receives a seperate check each year. Having money set aside really takes the stress out of how to pay for Christmas gifts. When I first started saving for Christmas I only put aside $20 each pay period, then $40, and $50. Once you start you will get used to the money being gone. Plus we all waste more than that amount each pay period. So instead save that money for a better Christmas come year end.
2. Keep a list,
I keep a list of things my husband and kids say they want or need throughout the year. Doesn't matter what the item is, no matter how big or small. Doing this keeps us from only getting gifts that are seasonal. It's easy to grab blankets, snow boots, coats, and the rest of the typical items in the store around Christmas time. Keeping a list allows me to gift things they wanted on vacation, in the summer months, other holidays, or when situations arose where they needed something they didn't have. (Tools, snorkel gear, hunting items, work items)
I also keep a list for myself. It allows me to easily ask and receive gifts I needed or wanted throughout the year. It cuts down on receiving unwanted or useless gifts. I send my list to my husband at the start of the Christmas shopping season. I would rather get something I know I will use rather than send my husband shopping to randomly buy something he thinks I would want.
3. Bargain shop
I research many sites to find the best prices. A Michael Kors $358 purse I got my daughter cost me $75 on sale from their website. I had looked at other sites for big box stores but found the best deal straight from the retailer's site. I use coupons whenever I can. Each Christmas season I always have a stack of coupons in my purse. If I find something I want to purchase I then look to see if any of retailers I have coupons sell that particular item. Nothing drives me crazier than finding out I could have gotten a cheaper price somewhere else for the exact same item.
4. One surprise gift
Each year I try to surprise my husband and two children with the gift they want but didn't know they wanted it. Now this one is where I put most of my thought process. With my personality, I try and make it a useful and practical gift. This year I bought my daughter a Michael Kors purse and my husband and son got American made hiking socks. Which I will add they both said were the best socks they have ever worn (Darn Tough socks). It adds a touch of surprise and wonder to Christmas for them. My 19 year old daughter loves it. She has gotten to where she will play twenty questions to try and figure it out before we open gifts. It's easy to stick with their lists of wanted items but adding a surprise really makes Christmas fun for all. Like I stated, this one I do the most research for. I watch them and search websites until I find that perfect gift.
5. Keep a list, yes another list
Remember I'm Type A terribly bad. I keep an excel spreadsheet that I can access on my phone or work computer. I list every gift I have gotten each person and the dollar amount. I am able to quickly see who has what, how many gifts, and total amount spent. I will have other family members ask what to get so and so, this list allows me to efficiently say what not to get, so there are no duplicates.
6. New this year
This year I have decided to try something different. I have on my phone calendar a reminder to buy a small gift each month. Come Christmas time I am going to gift my family twelve gifts. One for each month of the year. As opening the gifts, I am going to tell them what was going on in their lives at the time I bought each gift. It will be like a recap of their year. I am super excited to try this and hope to add it to our epic Christmases we already celebrate.
7. Volunteer or donate
I do go all out for my family each year but we also give of ourselves and resources. We adopted a family, rang the Salvation Army Red Kettle bells, and donated coats to an elementary school. Find something to make your heart feel good! I can share my love of the best time of the year with others many ways.