Sunday, August 21, 2011

How Do You Take Advantage of the Back-to-School Month, Christmas-wise?

High school and college students return to school this month – or at least prepare to do so. Bargains are easy to find as stores create sales to lure shoppers inside. If you have a plan, you can shop without going overboard. You should have a list of people with whom you will exchange gifts as well as your ideas for what those gifts should be. This is one way to take advantage of back-to-school month. With all the penny specials at office supply stores, you can stock up on some interesting stocking stuffers - what kid doesn't love pencils, markers, or fun erasers? If there are any artists in your family, you can create the same kind of activity kit that my mom used to make for nieces and nephews. Items like crayons, colored pencils, markers, stencils, paper, scissors, glitter glue, and construction paper can make a young artist's eyes light up on Christmas morning. Much of it is on sale now!

So, shopping the sales is one way to take advantage of August in preparation for the winter holiday season. What is the other way? It's to take advantage of your newly-free time – if you have kids and are a SAHM or a parent with a part-time job. (This is possible only if your kids go off to school. Homeschooling families won't benefit from this idea, as it is rare to get a break from the kids.) Anyway, I know some moms who heaved a big sigh of relief as the kids left for school and then wondered what they would do with their free time – beyond the usual cooking, cleaning, and errand-running, of course. Before you fall into a routine, pull out your Christmas plans and get organized! Take stock of your gift closet/cabinet/hiding place. What do you have? What do you need?

Me and My Mom having
some Christmas Fun
Kids or not, use the remainder of the month to think through your holiday plans. Where are you going to spend Christmas? Will you host a party? Are you sending Christmas greetings? Are you making a newsletter?

Remember, your goal is to be "ready" for Christmas before December arrives. That way, you can spend the season doing what you love with the people you love instead of scurrying around in a panic trying to pull it all together only to collapse in a heap on the couch at the end of each day. No more New Year's Day regrets about what didn't get done. No more sighs of "oh well, maybe next year ..."  This is the year to be prepared!

Friday, August 5, 2011

August Means Back-to-School Bargains ... and Christmas shopping!

In my state, and maybe yours, it’s a tax-free weekend for school-related merchandise. You can find a list of items online that are included and excluded from this special money-saving holiday. Such items include your usual pencils, paper, crayons, and other educational materials and also things such as clothing, clothing accessories, shoes, school supplies, computers, printers, blankets, bedspreads and linens, bath cloths, bath towels, bath rugs and mats, shower curtains, pillows and pillow cases are included (for college-bound students). See any possible Christmas gifts in that list?

Exclusions include jewelry, cosmetics, eyewear, wallets, watches, 
furniture, items for use in a business, and items placed on layaway, so 
you're out of luck if visions of these items danced tax-free in your head. However, sometimes stores vying for your dollars will offer similar discounts on non-education-related items in 
order to make sales, so you may be in luck after all!

Anyway, if you haven't already stocked your gift closet with items for December giving, you might consider shopping this weekend. Not only will you save sales tax (if you shop in a state 
that participates), but as the third largest shopping weekend of the year, you may discover 
stores competing for sales with some additional sales! (The other two big-deal shopping times are the weekend after Thanksgiving and the time before Christmas.)