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Christmas in July: Start Saving Now
Kansas Ag Connection - 07/26/2016

It's summer -- the season for cookouts, gardening, going to the pool -- and a tme to begin setting aside money for the holidays, said Kansas State University's Elizabeth Brunscheen-Cartagena.

As with many things in life, preparing and planning before you begin makes things easier -- it is no different with financially preparing for the holidays. The holidays are a time to gather with family and friends and many oftentimes find ourselves getting caught up in the excitement and spending more than anticipated. Planning ahead of time can save you financial and emotional strain.

Budgeting for parties and gift giving in advance is vital, Brunscheen-Cartagena, a K-State Research and Extension Sedgwick County family life and resource management agent, said. "We want to help Kansans control their money rather than the money or the season controlling them. Summer time is the best time to start planning."

"We all expect a little present, especially our children," she said of holiday expectations. "Begin creating a budget specifically for gifts by making a list of all of the people who you want to give a present. Assign a sum of money and slowly start saving by putting money in an envelope that says the name of that person."

Observe what your children and others like. Or ask them now, "if someone gave you $30, what would you buy with it?" By asking months ahead of time, the surprise effect could still work since the holidays are so far away, said Brucheen-Cartagena. Shop throughout the year and take advantage of sales in stores or online.

"Remember that not all gifts have to be purchased," Bruncheen-Cartagena said. One of the benefits of starting now is that you can create some of your gifts. Some gift suggestions she shares are:

-- For a child who likes to cook, gradually buy a cook book with simple recipes and the dry ingredients for one recipe, put them in a mixing bowl and wrap it with cellophane;

-- For budding artists, gradually buy brushes, paint, and a canvas, and put them into a decorative bag;

-- A good gift for grandparents or a neighbor is for children to create coupons of volunteer time: shoveling snow twice, wash the car three times, yard cleanup twice or a plate of something you can cook twice are some examples;

-- If you or your kids like photography, grandparents often appreciate receiving framed photos; or

-- Use a clear jar and put the mixture of dry ingredients of a soup recipe in a decorative way. Don't forget to include the recipe and any other necessary instructions. Another idea to save money on gifts is to only purchase gifts for your children or partner and have a gift exchange with other family and friends. This way, price limits can be set for gifts and removes the stress of having to find the perfect gift for multiple people. When suggesting this to your family and friends now, explain that you're proposing exchanging names in July so everyone has time to shop or make gifts ahead of the holiday rush.

The holidays are also characterized by a lot of spending on food. Brunscheen-Cartagena suggests starting to plan in July to ask family members to bring different items to holiday dinners rather than any one person assuming all the work and cost.

"If there are five siblings, perhaps for Christmas two siblings will be responsible for the meat, one is responsible for sodas, another is responsible for dessert and another is responsible for the salad," she said. "The load is distributed and a more relaxed atmosphere is created."

"In short, do not buy at the last minute," she said. "Avoid impulse purchases. Start shopping early enough to avoid feeling pressured to buy whatever shows first. This allows you to compare similar items and take advantage of sales."

Planning for the festivities will save you time, money and energy, while at the same time, bring peace of mind, good relations and happiness to you and those around you.

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