I can hear the groaning.
But yes, it is coming, and if you face it now your December will be much better. The years when all my shopping and prep work happens before December first have been my favorite Christmases. So this is a heads up that I'm going to be posting holiday suggestions in the days ahead.
The first thing to do is to get a feel for the big picture - what needs to be done to make your holidays (whichever ones you celebrate) special. Pull together some paper and pens, your calendars, holiday planning guides and so on and start jotting down ideas.
You'll want lists for:
Special dates/celebrations/parties: use your calendar to figure out what events you'll host, what activities you attend every year, your travel plans and so on.
Gift lists: who will you buy or make gifts for? When do packages need to be sent by? Assign a budget to each person and brainstorm gifts within this budget so you are not tempted to overspend when you hit the stores. If you're making gifts, get going! Pick reasonable projects and make sure that if you're making gifts to save money, that you're actually saving money! Some homemade items are more expensive than store bought.
Your own gift list: don't wait until the last minute! No one likes to buy things for others they know won't be appreciated or used. Let people know what you really want!
Decorations: a list to buy and a list to make. It's easy to go out and blow a ton of money on pretty decorations. I view accumulating holiday decorations as a lifetime endeavor. I will probably have enough when I'm a grandmother. Each year look through your old decorations and maybe pictures from last year and decide on a few things that will really make a difference. Go to the store with your list in hand and don't deviate!
Food: if you start buying staples this month you know you'll need in December you won't feel so short of cash next month. Extra flour and sugar, canned goods, and so forth are all good bets. Better yet, start making a menu plan for all the "regular" days next month. Hit up frugal menu planning sites to make these meals as cheap and easy as possible. That frees up cash for the important meals and the times you'll be entertaining.
Other Lists: your greeting card list, ideas for what to do over vacation with the kids, what needs to be cleaned, fixed or bought before company comes and so on.
Next I'll post about the most important list of all.