Merry Christmas in the Merry Month of May

If reading something came with sound effects, the title of this column would be accompanied by the screeching of a phonographic needle being yanked off of a record album. I suppose we all know what that sounds like even, perhaps, if all of us no longer know what a record album or phonograph is, but I digress.

In about a week, we will only have something like 190 days to shop until Christmas. As ridiculous as that sounds, please bear with me. This year, I’m thinking we might go about our Christmas and holiday shopping in a different way than most of us are accustomed to.

I know some people are great planners and might have their Christmas shopping organized six months in advance. Something tells me, however, that’s not most of us. In fact, I can see how many of us might find ourselves in line at a Walmart during the early evening of December 24th.

Few things are more stressful than gift shopping at the last moment, especially when other people are doing the same.

But there is something even worse than the tension of last minute shopping. It is the personal economic toll that unplanned and last minute purchases cause us. By planning our Christmas shopping, and having a six months window within which we can make our purchases, we can: 1) save money, 2) decrease our stress levels and 3) increase the joy of the person we give a gift to by finding them something that’s truly meaningful to them.

Too many of us don’t plan our Christmas and Chanukah shopping. Then, at the last minute, we buy things that are too expensive because we haven’t had time to shop around for a competitive price. And, there is another downside to unplanned Christmas shopping. How many of us are still paying off our credit card purchases, in the middle of May of 2011, for gifts we bought in December of 2010? Lots of us, I believe. And that means lots of interest.

Instead of going on a December buying binge and living through a six month credit card hangover, maybe this year we might spend the six months in advance of Christmas slowly making purchases and paying for them completely, when the bill comes in.

One way or another, we are going to buy holiday gifts. The question is whether we want to have maximum control over our finances or not. More control means more savings. But having control means planning. Merry Christmas!!!

Image: Idea go /

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