step under my mistletoe: why you need to start thinking about christmas in the fall

 Photo Credit:  Marcus Spiske

Photo Credit:  Marcus Spiske

I grew up about 15 miles from a small town called Santa Claus, Indiana.  Set in the middle of nowhere (just like my hometown), life there is like a Christmas fanatic’s wonderland, with the town sprinkled with festive names like Christmas Lake Village (filled with streets like Candy Cane Lane and Mistletoe Drive), Santa’s Lodge (also home to St. Nick’s Restaurant), and Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari (a fairly well known amusement park once named “Santa Claus Land” that, yes, does include a Christmas section).  I spent many childhood days visiting Santa there and touring the Village to see the Christmas lights.  I also worked at said amusement park and restaurant for 5 summers over the course of my high school and college days, so you can forgive me if I got bit by the Christmas bug, right?

 HoWo 2015 with my PIC, Lizzie

HoWo 2015 with my PIC, Lizzie

Well, no need.  Because I didn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas – watching “It’s A Wonderful Life,” decorating cookies, getting together with family you maybe see once a year, midnight mass…it’s magical for sure.  But I also think the other holidays should get their due respect.  I mean, I was in Lowe’s the other night looking for roasting sticks to toast some marshmallows over my fire pit and the place was littered with Christmas decorations already.  And when I asked where I could find said sticks, the associate looked at me in awe and irritatingly said, “Well, those are going to be hard to track down this time of year.”  Um, pardon me, SIR.  This is prime fire pit/s’more making season, not the month to be stocking huge inflatable lawn reindeers.  We shouldn’t even hear that catchy Mariah Carey tune or see ornaments on the shelves until the day after Thanksgiving.  It’s rude, America.  Rude.  Give Halloween and Thanksgiving the respect they deserve.

So why am I throwing it in your face now?  I know, it seems hypocritical of me; however, I do have a good reason (actually three) why Christmas should be on your brain, and the overlying theme of all of them is this:  it’s so damn expensive.  Alas, in true American form, we’ve taken a day meant to celebrate a religious figure (shout out to Jesus Christ) and commercialized the heck out of it.  I get it. I like all of the “fluff,” too.  But because of this, we’ve made it one of the most financially damaging holidays as well.  Decorations, presents, work pitch-ins, charity food drives…if we don’t start thinking about all of that and the impact on our wallet now, it’s sure to bite us in the butt.  Again.  So here’s why Christmas (and all the green and red goodness that ensues) should be on your mind now.

1)      He’s Making a List…

Planning (and implementing that plan) takes time.  You can’t wait until Black Friday to get Christmas on your brain because then people are going to take all the good stuff and you’ll be stuck surfing eBay for hours trying to find one of those new sold out game consoles your husband wants.  And probably pay a lot more for it, too.

By thinking ahead, you will have enough time to find the best deals and gifts that will keep you within your budget.  So grab a piece of paper (yes, I mean right now), give yourself a minute or two (I’ll wait for you to finish), and come up with your holiday gift-giving plan by answering these 3 questions:

a)      Who is on my Xmas list?

b)      How much do I want to spend on them?

c)       What exactly do they want or what do I want to give them?

Easy as Christmas cookies, right?  Now, if the total of all those gifts is an amount that makes your eyes pop out of their sockets, go back through and edit where necessary.  No one wants you to break the bank just so that they can have a vintage Easy Bake Oven, so bring it back down to something you’re more comfortable with.  Still feeling the burn?  Now’s the time to suggest to your family that maybe you draw names this year, go all DIY, or skip the presents all together and schedule a family outing instead.  Christmas doesn’t have to be a budget-breaker as long as you plan ahead and are honest with how much you can spend.

2)      And Checking His Bank Account Twice…

Even after all those gift-cutting measures, I’m sure you’ll find that your list is a tad bit longer than you’d like it.  Before you know it, you’re shelling out half your paycheck just to make sure your niece gets an Elsa doll and your dad has tickets to his first ever Indy 500 (it’s the 100th annual running this year so you all better be there).  However, by thinking about it a few months ahead of time (and the earlier, the better), you can start saving so that you aren’t eating red beans and rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner all throughout December.   Figure how much you have to put back each week to afford all those lovely presents and start chucking that into your savings account.  And don’t touch it!

3)      Going to Find Out What Saving $$$ Looks Like

Tell me you haven’t been here:  It’s December 23rd, you have nothing for your mom but found a great KitchenAid mixer on sale at Macy’s.  Unfortunately, it’s all out of stock in the Midwest, but they still have them available online.  “Woohoo!” you think, “A bona fide Christmas miracle!”  Not so fast, mister.  Yes, you’ll be able to get the mixer and your mom will bake her little heart out all year long, but you’ll also spend an arm and a leg on expedited shipping alone.  I don’t know about you, but I’d have rather picked it up in store back in early December and kept that extra $40 in shipping costs in my back pocket. 

By not only thinking about who is on your list and how much you want to spend, you also have the time to:

a)      Do a little research and find the best deals on those wish list items

b)      Scour the internet for the perfect present within your price range that doesn’t leave you looking cheap, and/or

c)       Get creative with your gift (homemade hot chocolate mix, anyone?)

And by doing all of these, you’ll not only come up with better gifts (and have bragging rights for a full year), but you’ll save money in the process.  Win-win ;)

So if you were a rebel and didn’t make your list like I told you to earlier (the shame!), go ahead and do it now.  Even if you think you’ll be fine money-wise come December, it’s best to have an idea of how much you’ll be spending so that shock doesn’t send you spiraling straight into a gallon of eggnog.  Now get Christmas off your brain, go put on your Minions costume (why are they still popular??), and drink your little heart out – Happy Halloween! 

**Join the convo! Let me know what's #1 on your Xmas list this year - it brings me so much joy :)

 Photo Credit: Pengsheng Guo

Photo Credit: Pengsheng Guo