EVERYDAY CHEAPSKATE: Why you need to start planning for Christmas now

It’s hot; you’re sweaty and longing for some relief from the heat. Kinda makes you think about cooler days ahead, right? And while thinking, you may also be dreaming of brisk mornings, fall colors, back-to-school time and … Christmas! Summer is the perfect time to think ahead to the holiday season. Start planning now and you’ll benefit in so many ways come December.

Before I find myself dealing with angry responses from readers who are offended by the phenomenon of “Christmas creep” — when merchants and retailers exploit the commercialized status of Christmas by introducing Christmas-themed merchandise and decorations earlier and earlier each year — that’s not what I’m talking about. In fact, I find that quite objectionable myself! I want the Christmas season to start as soon as we finish the last of the Thanksgiving turkey.

What I’m talking about is planning and getting organized without the pressure and panic that can be overwhelming when we’ve waited too long and the only option is to rack up a pile of debt just to get through the season. I hate that feeling of being under the gun to just mark names off a list by buying something — anything! — to get through the season.

So, why should we get started now? Time. It’s the best gift you can give yourself for Christmas. You’ll have time to make it an all-cash Christmas, time to establish or rekindle family traditions, time to separate the chores from the celebrations and, perhaps best of all, time to embrace the idea of a handmade holiday. Yes! Even if you are not crafty, if you have any desire to be, there are so many ways you can make highly desirable gifts this year.

Even if it’s just making gift lists, studying the calendar, renegotiating the way you’ve exchanged gifts in the past, exploring new ideas for workplace celebrations or exploring ideas for giving handcrafted gifts, starting holiday preparations now is going to relieve so much stress and pressure down the road. And should you want to make this a homemade Christmas, you’ll have plenty of time to start (and finish) those holiday gifts and crafts.

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but not when it hits us with guilt-induced stress, financial pressure and no time to counter that kind of attack.

A long lead-in to the holiday season is the way to break down the work into small, easy-to-achieve steps. Do a few chores each week and you’ll be ready to celebrate the season more fully, more joyously — and without the stress that comes from too much to do, too little time and too little money to do it.

Start planning for Christmas now. I promise that you’ll do less and enjoy it more!

Mary invites questions, comments and tips at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of “Debt-Proof Living,” released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.