Today is Midsummer Nativity (the Birth of John the Baptist). That means that Christmas Eve is just six months from today.
Now is the perfect time to finalize your holiday budget. I like to plan everything from Halloween on (since I spend a lot on Halloween candy). If you host Thanksgiving, that should be in the mix. Same if you host a New Year’s Open House or an Epiphany party. The budget should include everything: gifts, cards, postage, special clothes, wrapping paper, decorations, party costs, holiday meals, travel, etc. It’s not a bad idea to add a 10% contingency, just in case.
After you have established the budget, make sure it’s realistic. Can you actually save that much money? Spreading the saving over several months certainly helps, but your first plan may not be feasible or wise. So, look at ways to economize. Talk with family and friends about setting limits on gifts. Perhaps you can give a family gift rather than separate gifts to each family member (family memberships to museums and zoos are great for this!) A group of friends can substitute a shared experience for a batch of gifts. You can agree to make gifts or even (you’d better sit down for this) not give gifts at all. If you struggle every year to buy a gift for someone, that person might be happy to agree to a joint cessation of gift-giving. You can send fewer cards. You can decorate or entertain less elaborately. The one thing you must not do is rely on credit for your holiday budget. If you don’t have it, you don’t spend it. Simple as that.
If you can decide your travel now, you can buy your tickets with maximum choice of seats and at the best available prices. Some sites offer price assurance, so if someone else gets the same flight cheaper, they’ll refund the difference to you. If the costs are high, consider travel insurance — just in case. It’s very likely that we’ll have peak travel this holiday season, so expect higher prices and crowded planes, trains, and roads.
If you plan to make some gifts (apart from baking), start planning now. The lazy days of summer may be the best time to knit that sweater, make the jewelry, or compile the scrapbook. Some things can only be done in the summer. Take advantage of seasonal produce to make jam and pickles or can peaches and tomatoes. A basket filled with your home preserves makes a lovely gift and brings the summer alive in the depths of winter.