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I know, it’s still October. Is it really time to start Christmas shopping?

Well, in two days it’ll be November, and you know how fast November rushes by. So, yes. If you want a composed Christmas, where you are not rushing around trying to find the perfect gift in crowded stores with empty shelves on Christmas Eve, start now. Even if you are a Black Friday or Cyber Monday Shopper, having a list of ideas ready in advance saves the scramble to get ready for all those deals in the midst of defrosting the turkey and cleaning up spilled pie filling from the oven.

Now is a great time to sit down and make your list, check it twice – not for who has been naughty or nice, but to make sure you haven’t forgotten anyone. Now is a great time to think about how much money you can afford to spend on all of Christmas (gifts, shipping, special foods, gift wrap and packaging, decorations…), so you don’t arrive in January with a newly-induced New Year’s Resolution to get out of debt.

Go ahead and include the letter carrier, trash guys, teachers, exterminator… anyone you want to give a gift to, be it small or large. And maybe you’d like to include a few small, multi-purpose gifts for last minute dinner invitations, or that person you forgot to include. It’s also a great time to start thinking about what you’ll use to fill a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. And don’t forget gift wrapping supplies. I like to buy anything I need (that I didn’t get at the after-Christmas sales the year before) on the first trip out, so I have everything ready to wrap as I go.

That's A Wrap!

Once you know who you are giving to, you can start filling in what you’d like to get them – or asking for ideas. If you need to make it, make a plan – what materials are needed? What time do you need to schedule? When do you need to have it ready? That last day before the school break always caught me by surprise when we had kids in school/mother’s day out, etc.

With a well thought list, you’ll be ready when you see sales and already have items on your list when you are at the store (for more on organizing shopping lists, see my post about Organized Spending.)

And, when you bring it in the door, don’t forget to wrap it! It won’t really take up any more space and it’ll save a HUGE amount of time when things get busier as Thanksgiving and Christmas activities abound.

We live in a small town and order a lot of our gifts online. When they arrive, we set aside the shipping boxes and re-label them for the folks to whom we will mail gifts. As we buy and wrap items that need to ship, we pop them in the appropriate box. When everything is ready, we crumple up some empty grocery bags for packing material, and go ahead and ship it. It saves us last-minute shipping rates and helps us avoid late deliveries when the USPS, UPS, and FedEx are all overwhelmed.

We set aside another couple of boxes for gifts we’ll put under our tree or will deliver locally. As soon as the tree is decorated, out come the wrapped presents! If we are still shopping after December 1, or receive gifts from others via the mail or hand delivery, we set them beneath the tree as well. We have almost a month to physically observe the growing grace of God through the people he has placed in our lives. Planning ahead gives us ample opportunity to anticipate the joy others will have as God uses us to extend his grace, too.