So, this weekend I called my sister to tell her that I’d found my mom’s Christmas present. I haven’t bought it yet, but I know what it is unless Mom drops some hints that she’d like something else. To be fair, it was something I almost got her last year and then opted for something else, so it wasn’t a new idea. Nevertheless, my sister was a bit startled that I’d already started thinking about Christmas. Now I know what you’re thinking, but I am going to insist that it’s time to start thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Planning for Thanksgiving
For Thanksgiving, figure out if you’re cooking or traveling. If you’re traveling, I hope you already bought your plane tickets. If not, BUY NOW! If you’re driving, well, then, you’re planning is done. If you’re cooking, set a budget now and start watching the grocery store sales to match with coupons and stock up. I’m already seeing sales on baking items.

Planning for Christmas
Christmas is more involved, so your planning will have to be more involved, but not quite yet. For now, I want you to do four things:

1. Decide if you’re having an artificial tree or a real one. If it’s artificial and you need to buy one, now is the time to start shopping online for early deals. If it’s not, plan to pull it out soon just to test it and make sure it still works.

2. Decide if you’re traveling. If you are, start pricing tickets, reserving days off, booking rooms, now.

3. Decide who is getting gifts.

4. Decide on a budget for everything – gifts, decorations, travel. Start saving now.

Once that is done, just keep your eyes open for potential gifts as you’re out and about. If you see something perfect at a good price, snap it up. Then stop shopping for that person. Once the gift is bought, you’re done. Do not decide to find something better and give an extra gift if you want your budget to remain under control.

Consider Giving to Charity
If at all possible this year, donate money to a holiday charity or plan to contribute to several toy collections/food drives. Although the economy is starting to turn around, many are still suffering. I started to receive requests for aid two weeks ago. Please, please put needy families in your budget. A great way to help is to organize a family gift where your family pools their money to create a great Christmas for a needy family. My family does it with my relatives and with a group of good friends to help spread the cheer. If you can, please do this, too.

Unfortunately, I can’t personally help the people who write to me. If you need help, visit this page to learn how to sign up for a program.

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