Why we think about Christmas all year long

By | July 21, 2016

why we think about christmas all year long - dividends down under blogAuthor: Mrs DDU.

Almost every culture has a gift-giving season, a time to get together with family, exchange presents and maybe enjoy a meal. That time of year for Mr DDU and I is Christmas.

We all know, all too well the rush that the holiday season can bring; the stress, busy crowds, holiday parties and lots of money flying out of your bank account (ah, the magic of Christmas). If you live in Australia (or anywhere else where the school year ends in December) you’ll be hit with even more things piling onto your list – graduations, school plays and potentially juggling the kids as they start their school holidays.

A lot of people dread the holiday period, not only can the expenses be at all year highs but for some people their income dries right up at that time of year. I’m grateful that our income stays consistent over the holiday season but we do still have the Christmas expenses.

It’s no surprise to most people that the holidays comes every year, at the exact same time in fact, except quite a few people are caught completely off-guard and unprepared for how the holiday season will affect their finances.

The best way to combat uncertainty/hard times is to plan for it

Wrapping paper and cards

The very first way we plan for Christmas and save ourselves a lot of money is buying up on wrapping supplies/cards in January. It might seem like an added expense that we could put off until much later in the year but you will be paying a premium leading up to the holidays, and it’s virtually impossible to find Christmas supplies mid-year; they’re either full price leading up to Christmas or slashed prices right after. I always pick up some great priced Christmas supplies in January, you need wrapping paper and cards every single year so why not pick them up at clearance prices?

Presents

This is the biggest category for most people during the holiday season; if you nail your present buying you are a saving pro. The first thing we had to do was get organised; to plan for Christmas presents throughout the year you need a way to keep track of your planning (we use notes on our phones) and a designated place in your house for all your pre-purchased Christmas goodies, we have a large basket on a shelf in our wardrobe to neatly contain it all, by November it’s almost overflowing!

 

Write an idea down straight away. If you’re like me you’ll have your phone next to you 24/7, as soon as you get an idea for a gift, buy a gift or overhear someone mentioning something they want, write it down in your “Christmas present ideas” note. Having a note is such a simple way to organise your thoughts when you’re searching for ideas (past you has already done all the hard work). There are lots of ideas I’ve written down that I’ve never used but at least I always have them up my sleeve.

 

Train yourself to always visit the clearance section every time you go into a shop, especially at large stores. You’d be surprised at the great presents you can find on clearance at the supermarket (beauty items, pots and pans, giftware) and they are often at low prices because people don’t think to check their grocery store for presents. Browsing the clearance section has also given me many spur-of-the-moment ideas/presents for people that weren’t even on my list to buy. The clearance section at Coles, Best and Less, Kmart and Target have all proven to give me great bargains for presents.

I make sure to get to know the general layout of my local stores and learn where they keep their clearance items because each store has their own quirks and differences in how/where they display clearance and sale stock; in the beauty section in Target they will often have some clearance shelves but you will find clearance clothing/home wears somewhere else, Coles has a section of an aisle dedicated to all their clearance items. Keep in mind the differences in each store and make sure you head there first, even if you’re just popping into Coles to get some milk, make sure to walk past clearance – you never know what you might find.

 

Consider hitting up the mid-year toy/end of financial year sales. In Australia the big sales tend to happen around July, some of the biggest retailers do their annual toy sales mid-year and if you have kids this would definitely be worth hitting up – they even offer long term lay-buy options if you are making a huge purchase (like a trampoline or gaming console). Also don’t forget about Boxing Day sales! Late December/January is a fantastic time to pay closer attention to the stores; I have been known to pick up a few Christmas presents in January.

 

Start paying attention to Aldi. You don’t have to do your food shopping there if you really don’t want to (but you should, unless you don’t like saving money), at least take a squiz through their catalogue each week and decide if it’s worth going to pick up a bargain. Aldi have “special buys” every week, which could be anything from home wares to power tools, children’s toys to appliances.. A lot of their “special buys” are exclusively Aldi brands, you’ll not be able to find that exact item anywhere else (and Aldi will only have it until stocks run out/for that week!).

Aldi prices and quality are exceptional; I don’t think I can truly convey to you how good Aldi is. Every single week I’m excited to look through their catalogue to see what “special buys” are in-store – it’s always a fun experience because it’s always different! Buying any household things we need from Aldi “special buys” is also another way we save money on general household goods – if we need tea towels and they have some, I’ll buy a pack (but that has nothing to do with Christmas).

 

Go through your present list and stash in October/November, around this time of year is when I “take stock” of what we’ve got for people, doing this in October gives me plenty of time to find bargains for those last presents that need extra work. I try to get all of our Christmas shopping done by the end of November, sometimes beginning of December if I’m struggling for those last few gifts. Going through all the presents I’ve purchased during the year and allocating them out sometimes ends up with “extra” gifts for some people (I try to make the presents look even, especially for younger family members who might compare) but that’s ok! If I’ve “over bought” that means I have a great birthday gift or even next year’s Christmas sorted.

 

Final thoughts

Its lots of fun buying things for other people, I really enjoy giving gifts at Christmas time and there’s no reason why you can’t save a bit of cash on your great gifts. I find it’s much less stressful spreading it out over the year and I don’t have to go searching for “that one thing I thought of that one time” because I pick things up as I see them, ready to go. Playing the long game for Christmas always pays off for us.

I thought it was a fitting time for this article – we are exactly 6 months away from that “crazy” pre-Christmas week. It’s never too early to start planning for Christmas, you could start right now and I’d be right there with you.

How do you make the holiday season work for you? are you an early or last minute planner?

 

Thanks for reading this article about our obsession with Christmas Down Under

Onwards and upwards!

30 thoughts on “Why we think about Christmas all year long

  1. D4s

    Christmas planning in July?
    However, you are right. If you wait until November/December, that’s when they jack up the prices. Also, you get surrounded by the noise of Christmas and you end up buying cheesy sweater/socks as gifts.
    D4s

    1. Dividends Down Under Post author

      Christmas planning in January even!

      Oh the cheesy Christmas presents.. they trap you with the cheesy ones when you cannot think of a gift for that difficult person to give to – we all have one of those people..

      Mrs DDU

  2. Biglaw Investor

    In our family we definitely try to limit gift giving. I always love the Christmas-time articles from the economists about how Christmas is the most inefficient swapping of money event in the world! Those economists know how to keep up a good image in the popular press. 🙂

    Otherwise, I think the idea to write it down is the best. Until I started doing that I’d inevitably wait until November to start buying presents and couldn’t for the life of me remember what I wanted to buy. Having an ongoing gift list helps a lot!

    1. Dividends Down Under Post author

      I agree that Christmas is such a waste financially, but I’d feel really sad if we gave up Christmas presents just because they don’t serve us the best possible way financially – presents to me, is a way to give someone something little that they didn’t think they wanted, or wanted but couldn’t justify buying themselves, to put a smile on their face, enjoy the moment of surprise and receive a few things that make their life a little brighter/more fun. Adults are just oversized children – we all enjoy presents!

      I do put the most effort into presents for the children/teenagers of the family though, a great present doesn’t have to cost a lot, the best presents are when the receiver realises how much thought you put into giving them something they’d enjoy.

      Mrs DDU

  3. Ty @ Get Rich Quickish

    I love this post! Planning early makes Christmas more enjoyable and less expensive.

    We save a % of each paycheck throughout the year and have that money deposited onto a cash card. When the money on that card is gone, so is our Christmas budget, and we’re done shopping.

    I love the idea of buying year round, but we don’t do it. Realistically we will start shopping within the next 4 weeks; the goal is to be done by Thanksgiving so that we can enjoy the spirit and magic of the season.

    Like you I use my phone to manage ideas. If my wife or kids mention something they like, I’ll take a picture of it or text a message to myself. Later I’ll look up the item on amazon and will add it to a private shopping list that only I can see. This also allows me to shop for the best price and read reviews on the item to make sure it’s not a piece of junk.

    Happy Christmas!

    1. Dividends Down Under Post author

      Aw thank you! That puts a smile on my face that you loved it.

      I think starting shopping when you do and trying to be finished by thanksgiving is still a very good plan, a lot better than joining the Christmas rush in December! I agree that it’s a lot easier to enjoy the spirit/magic of the holidays when you’re nice and organised early – a very good point and a reason on it’s own to plan Christmas early.

      Mrs DDU

  4. Vicki@Make Smarter Decisions

    Agree that Christmas shopping all year is a great way to save money! We have two Aldi near us, yet we never go to them. There are a few stores closer – but it is time to “branch out” and give them a try! Thanks for all the encouragement here!

    1. Dividends Down Under Post author

      Hey Vicki, thanks for commenting 🙂

      I’m glad you’re considering giving Aldi a try! Honestly, I love Aldi. You should do a blog post on your “first aldi experience” when you do decide to go!

      Mrs DDU

  5. Stefan - The Millennial Budget

    My mom is the exact same way. She stocks up on presents all year round as you can usually find them for cheaper prices and like you said it takes the stress out of the week before shopping. We have no Aldi or major malls in Trinidad so most shopping is done when we go to the US.

    1. Dividends Down Under Post author

      That’d be even more of a challenge to plan for Christmas living in a more remote location – but arguably even more important to plan for Christmas when you can’t just pop down to a major shopping mall. I’d imagine a lot of things are more expensive too because they aren’t as easy to access.

      Mrs DDU

  6. The Green Swan

    We too try to stay organized for the holiday before Demeber hits. One thing we do is keep a list of present ideas throughout the year and when we see a sale we pounce! This past January we purchase a pair of leather winter gloves for my FIL… Because that’s what he mentioned he’d like and they were on sale! I also like the idea of snagging wrapping paper right after the season!

    1. Dividends Down Under Post author

      Thanks for commenting TGS 🙂

      Ah you are yet another one who has bought Christmas presents in January! I’m glad I’m not alone. Keeping track of the sales is definitely an integral part. Come January 2017 I expect you to come out of a store with your arms full of wrapping paper that you scored at 50% off!

      Mrs DDU

  7. Jax

    I definitely get wrapping paper and supplies in the couple of weeks after Christmas to prepare for the next year. We give my partner’s family all meals in a jar and a homemade sweet. We are able to buy the dry ingredients in bulk and have a good time assembling them together. It also makes it easy to know exactly how many gift bags and cards we need each year. Another gift we like to give is a framed family picture of us. Partner’s mom and granny really appreciate updated photos.

    My family doesn’t exchange gifts, which is nice because there is no pressure to buy just to buy.

    If we had kids to buy for I would definitely try to stockpile throughout the year so that the December budget isn’t hit so hard.

    1. Dividends Down Under Post author

      I’m glad to hear that you also stock up on wrapping supplies right after the holidays! The home-made sweets jar is an idea I’ve heard before and the layers look great in a jar, we have so many dietary requirements in our family that it’s just a “no go” for us, makes it difficult because tasty treats are such an effective gift.

      I’m sure we will also do framed photos in the future, When we have babies we will be making use of the framed photos as an easy present for sure! We did do photos as Christmas gifts the year of our wedding – the family photos from our wedding were very well received as presents.

      Mrs DDU

  8. Tawcan

    We have the tendency to get wrapping paper and decorations a few weeks after Christmas when they go on sale. These things don’t go bad and you can always use them for next year (and many years after).

    1. Dividends Down Under Post author

      Hey Tawcan, thanks for coming by.

      Exactly, wrapping supplies never go bad, the worst that could happen is that they go “out of style” – but if you have good taste and pick your wrapping sales well then that wouldn’t be a problem either!

      Mrs DDU

  9. Dollar Engineer

    Very good tips! I really need to start thinking of gifts now considering it seems like there’s always a deal around UNTIL we hit November/December. Thank you for the reminder!

    1. Dividends Down Under Post author

      Thank you, DE 🙂

      You are very welcome for the reminder – July is a fantastic time to start, you could very easily be done by November!

      Mrs DDU

  10. Jon

    Based on these comments, we are clearly very far behind in our household! In some years, we get everything done by the end of November, which is pretty good for us. Luckily, we are no longer gifting to the adults in the family, just the kids, so that makes it a little easier. I find it’s not so much the financial piece which is stressful, but figuring out what the heck everybody wants!

    1. Dividends Down Under Post author

      Hi Jon, thanks for coming by!

      Adults are usually the hardest to buy for, so that’s great that you’ve organised a system to take the stress off (although I’d be a little sad not to get any presents anymore! Big kid at heart). Figuring out what to get everyone is definitely half of the stress for me – that’s a big reason why I start early and keep organised.

      Mrs DDU

  11. Brian

    DDU, I think this can apply to many things in life.

    -Be prepared for bargains for stuff you need. Saving is a total commitment.
    -Be organized because it will save you money over the long haul. Never miss an opportunity.
    – Writing down ideas which will lead to a flood of new ideas once you get in the mindset.

    Thanks for sharing, good stuff here! Cheers

    -Brian

    1. Dividends Down Under Post author

      I agree wholeheartedly with your dot points. We live by them all the time, it’s very rewarding when the “long game” savings mentality pays off, always be aware of a good bargain. I’m completely convinced that being organised is a huge factor for any form of financial success, I’m very glad it’s a principle Mr DUU and I live by.

      Some people who are learning the “FIRE” way of life need it broken down into practical situations sometimes, even though I live by those values I love reading new articles on ways other people apply it to their lives – affirming the path you’re on always feels good.

      Mrs DDU

  12. Mr. PIE

    Mrs PIE parents rave about Aldi. We have one nearby but it is nothing like the ones in the UK, unfortunately.

    Over the years, we have cut down our Xmas budget quite a bit. With our extended family in the UK, we plan accordingly and take full advantage of wish lists on Amazon etc. That has helped a lot but on the other hand takes a bit of fun and surprise out of gifting.

    1. Dividends Down Under Post author

      Hey Mr PIE, thanks for coming by our blog!

      Australian Aldi is very similar to UK Aldi, we’re very lucky here that Aldi have focused a lot of attention on Australia and continue to give us great products. I haven’t experienced the USA Aldi but I can imagine it’s not quite as good (so much competition over there!) but I have seen Youtube grocery hauls of USA Aldi and they still have some fantastic basics, maybe just not as many “special buys” we get here.

      There is no shame in using Amazon wishlists to give gifts, especially for people overseas – the cost of posting yourself can often be more than the cost of what you’re sending!

      Mrs DDU

  13. Aaron @IncomeHoncho

    We actually like shopping for Christmas stuff AFTER Christmas since it’s so cheap and save for the next year. Not sure if anybody else does that but you can get some REALLY good stuff

    1. Dividends Down Under Post author

      We also shop for Christmas stuff right after Christmas, hence the title “all year long” :). I pick up a lot of wrapping supplies in late December/early January and have been known to buy Christmas presents then too. I also mentioned Boxing Day sales as good for Christmas present buying too.

      Good job for being a part of the organised crew.

      Mrs DDU

  14. Amanda @ centsiblyrich

    Great post! I didn’t even think about the wrapping paper, but when I did, I would stock up in January too! We don’t wrap much now – I like to reuse gift bags from year to year, so I typically only have to buy the tissue paper to go in the bags.

    I like Aldi too! I used to live closer to one, but we’ve since moved several miles away, so I don’t get there as often as I would like. Their special buys are great, plus they do occasionally mark those items down!

    1. Dividends Down Under Post author

      Hey Amanda, thanks for coming to read my Christmas article (yours was a great read by the way!)

      I tend to avoid gift bags unless I’m feeling particularly lazy or if it’s an awkward shaped present – they tend to be fairly expensive here, $2 for a gift bag vs $2 for a whole roll of wrapping paper. I also think kids enjoy the ripping open of the paper, not so bothered about wrapping paper for adults though.

      I hope you at least look through the catalog to see if it’s worth making the drive down to Aldi for a special buy or two. We do our food shopping there every week, lucky to have one very close but we did used to travel about 30 minutes when we lived at our old house.

      Mrs DDU

  15. J @ Hey It's Just Money!

    Great tips! It’s never too early to prepare for Christmas (it’s my favourite time of the year)! I try to buy wrappers (and decors) off season too, to take advantage of good deals. I used to do mid year shopping for gifts as well but we cut back significantly on gifts the last 2 years so I don’t do it anymore. With cutting back, I mean giving a gift per family instead of individuals. We started giving ham per household and found that the families we gave them to actually liked them. Doing that saved us money and time as well. We still buy gifts for thr little ones though but never expensive items.

    1. Dividends Down Under Post author

      Good to see you in the comments section J 🙂

      I also love Christmas, there’s something special/different to the rest of the world about an Aussie Christmas too – love that connotation of our Summer and Christmas together.

      Ham per household is an interesting gift – aren’t they pretty pricey anyway? I’ll admit we’ve never bought a Christmas ham because of the way our family structures Christmas and the hosts always have the ham buying responsibilities. We gave last years Christmas hosts a “ham bag” (among a few other things) – very inexpensive but useful gift for them, they’re such hard people to buy for!

      We have a pretty tight budgeting system for gifts – $25 or less per child family member and I try to find a joint gift for the parents spending no more than $40 combined on the parents too, because we shop all year and pick out the bargains it’s not too hard to stick to the budget. Sounds so stingy when I say $25 but we’re always pretty happy with what we give, if it doesn’t look like enough gifts for that person we might up the budget slightly when we reassess in October.

      Mrs DDU

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