Christmas can be one of the most joyous times of the year. It is a time to share with loved ones, a time to give gifts to those you care about, and a time to hopefully give back to the community as well. The financial stress, however, can take away some, if not all, of the holiday fun if we’re not careful.

You may be wondering why we’re talking about Christmas already since we just came out of the holiday season. The main reason is that January is the biggest time for post-Christmas regret, financial or otherwise. We start getting credit card bills and counting up our receipts which lead to questions like, “I spent HOW MUCH?!”

Over the course of this post and the next 4 posts, I hope to help make next Christmas different and more enjoyable than it may have been in recent years. But how?

Well, one of the best ways to not allow next Christmas to get the best of you is to start early. Now I’m not talking start your Christmas shopping now, as in a full 11 months before Christmas. But starting about halfway through the year is a great time.

We’ve all heard the saying “Christmas in July” before. Well, one of the reasons for Christmas in July is so that populations in the southern hemisphere could celebrate Christmas with some winter weather. In the southern hemisphere, July is a winter month. However, most still celebrate it in December with us northern hemisphere people.

For our intents and purposes, it’s an easy reminder that it’s time to start Christmas shopping. I always seem to get “Christmas in July” syndrome anyway regardless of it being intentional or not. Something just turns on in my when July rolls around and I start wanting to listen to Christmas music. Making it an intentional reminder, though, will help to reinforce it.

July is also the perfect time to start Christmas shopping because it is much easier to budget and set aside money for Christmas if you are hoping it up in small amounts. Think about it. If you have 10 people to buy gifts for and usually spend $30 each, that means you spend $300 every Christmas. Would you rather spend $300 in December or just $50 each month until Christmas This tip is especially valuable if you have a large family to buy for (for example, siblings with kids) and don’t do grab bags or secret Santa’s.

Another advantage to starting early is that you have a lot more time to decide to make a gift for someone instead of buying something for them. Sometimes this option can be cheaper than purchasing an item, especially if you find something for someone and can create it for them instead. You can also gather supplies here and there rather than having to buy something outright.

Starting early is going to be one of the best ways to not let the Christmas season (and aftermath) become financially stressful. Tomorrow we’ll get into where to find some extra money for the holiday season next year, including what to do with it. Also, stay tuned later in the week for some great planning tips you can use for next Christmas.