Ahh, the lazy days of summer are upon us. Summer breezes calm us, the lake beckons us to lap in its luxurious warm water, the aroma of barbeque teases our noses and makes our mouths water. No cares, just relaxation.
How in the world can we think about Christmas now? And why would we want to? Well, Leroy Anderson wrote “Sleigh Ride” in July, 1946 in the middle of a heat wave in New England, so if you had a good enough reason to think about Christmas now, you could put your mind to it. We all know that the holidays require extra time, energy and money, so why not take advantage of summer leisure and get a jump on the holidays?
Here are my six best ideas to save you time, money and energy during the holiday season.
1. Stocking Stuffers
Stuff as you go. Hide a small container, like a shoe box or Zip Lock Gallon bag, for each child. When
you’re out and about and find items that would be good for stocking stuffers, like movie tickets, gift cards, little toys and books, purchase and put in the hidden containers.
Come midnight on Christmas Eve, you’ll thank yourself when you think, ‘EEgad, we gotta do stockings,’ and you’ll have most of the contents ready to stuff.
Have you ever noticed how excited your children are when they find toys they haven’t seen in several months? That usually happens when you start cleaning out their closets.
When my kids were little, I'd box up some of their toys, books and games when they weren’t around. and put them up to the attic. When I’d get one of those stored boxes out, no matter what time of year it was, it felt just like Christmas. That's when I got the idea to wrap them in Christmas wrap and store them away until Christmas morning.
Kids love lots of presents under the tree and they'll love to unwrap stuff you've let hide for a few months of rest. (When items first go missing, they’ll wonder where they went for a little while, but they probably spend a lot of time looking for stuff anyway, if your family tends to be disorganized and eventually they'll get distracted and forget.)
3. “Do” your Christmas cards in July
Why not take care of Christmas cards this summer? If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a stash of Christmas cards plugging up one of your drawers. Get them out, pretend it’s Christmas, write a tender note, address, seal, stamp and hold until December 1. Think how easy it’ll be plopping them into the mail that early!
Remember Christmas is about love, joy and goodwill. Make your note to each person about them, not about you. Thank them for being in your life. Comment on how much you love them, how much they make your life better. Wish them goodness in all their days.
Note: I’ve always said, “Unless a person is a really good writer, he or she shouldn’t write a Christmas letter which usually ends up being all about the person writing it.” That's not what Christmas is all about.
4. Wrap and hide
One year, starting in January, whenever I bought a birthday present for someone in the family, I purchased a Christmas present too. Then, while I was wrapping the birthday gift in festive birthday wrap, and had the ribbon, tape and scissor’s mess out, I wrapped the other gift in Christmas wrap and hid it for Christmas. Be sure to label the gifts so you don’t have to unwrap a bunch of gifts to see what’s in them.
Note: When I buy gift wrap, I look for solid red, silver, gold and green, so I can use the paper for more than one kind of event.
5. Make extra dough
From now on, whenever you bake cookies from scratch, bake a double or quadruple (it’s too hard to think in thirds) batch and freeze the extra dough for Christmas. I figure, when you make a big mess mixing up a batch of cookies, you may as well get a bigger bang for your mess.
When the holidays hit like a category five hurricane, you’ll have saved yourself the time it takes to make the dough and clean up. All you’ll have to do is thaw, bake and fill the house with the aroma of fresh baked, homemade Christmas cookies.
6. Everybody loves money
I love to think up creative ways to give money as gifts. I put ten of my favorite ideas on a video called ELM (Everybody Loves Money).
So many people have emailed me telling me how the ideas saved them so much time. All my ideas use items you have in your cupboard or can get at your grocery store; all you add is the money. You could collect the items and add the money as you get it. Here’s just one of my ideas (not on the video).
Every year I get requests for this fun way to give a crisp bill of your desired denomination.
Say you want to give someone a hardback book as a gift (it has to be a hardback) but you want to add a little money to the gift. Write this poem to the person:
With a pen, open the book you are going to give and find and underline these words in order skipping pages forward so the reader bumps into them as he/she reads: IT IS IN THE.
The word to write in a “space” (as the poem tells) is the word, SPINE. You can write it in a margin or where ever you see fit. That’s it! Those are the clues. It is in the spine.
Then put the denomination of your choice (folded lengthwise) down the spine of the book. (Make sure the bill is brand new so it’s easy to insert and remove.)The bill will NOT come out as the person reads, but it’s easy to remove by taking off the jacket and bringing the front and back covers of the book together (sort of turning it inside out). That relaxes the spine material and the bill is easy to get, yet while the book is in its proper position, the money remains safe and undetectable until the recipient figures out the puzzle.
Thank you for reading my blog. I hope I’ve excited you to have some Christmas fun this summer! Christmas is really a feeling in your heart and you’ll be surprised how Christmassy you’ll feel even in a heat wave.
Finally, I wrote a book that makes a great gift for Christmas (or anytime)! It’s a book that celebrates the SHEs (Sidetracked Home Executives) in your life. I wrote it to help women love who they are and help them get organized, not to please anyone else, but themselves. Just click on the cover to order.
Merry Christmas in July!
P.S. I appear regularly on a television talk show in Portland, Oregon called "Afternoon Live" and one of my segments was filled with tips for giving cash for gifts. Just click on the picture of me with Tra Renee, the host of the show.