Aw crap, only three more months until Christmas

Yeah, give or take a day, the holiday season is around the corner. Sure, we have not even finished summer and Halloween and Thanksgiving are way before Christmas. But Halloween and Thanksgiving do not require spending money we do not have to impress people we don’t necessarily care about because they happened to work their way on our gift giving list. Let me rephrase that, Christmas shopping is not as far off as you think and crap, crap, crap.

I just spent more than $800 on recent dental work and $375 to snake a clogged drain. Pretty much the last vestiges of my emergency fund and a big chunk of my travel one. My emergency fund took a few hits earlier in the year thanks to my teeth grinding and subsequent cracked tooth. So I’ll be spending the next couple of months rebuilding my lovely just in case account. Thankfully I have my gift pantry.

I know I mentioned the gift pantry last March, and I have been remiss in espousing its necessity to one’s peace of mind. But now might be a good time to start looking at the gift pantry seriously. So the first step is to sit down and really think about who makes your lists: gift lists, baking lists, card list and shit list. Now the more people you can put on the later, the less you will have to spend. See? When coming in on budget for the  holiday season, alienating an acquaintance or two works wonders. Okay, I kid. But if I hear the word crown come out of my dentist’s voice at my next checkup, I may have to rethink this whole having friends thing this Christmas.

So where do you start? Pretty easy. There are so many items that we use come the holidays that we can purchase way ahead of time. And by beginning now, you won’t be holding your breath when your credit card is swiped on December 24th.  Or at least, as much. I know the idea of starting now seems ridiculous. But trust me. If you even do what I suggest in a half-assed manner you will be in good shape come December. Here are a few items you can start stocking up on that have myriad uses at Christmas and year round. Today we will concentrate on the dollar store. A favorite of mine is Dollar Tree. This is one store where everything really is $1. It is a national chain and actually has an online presence. Not all dollar stores keep the price to $1 so make sure you know the pricing policy first.

Now, I know many items in a dollar store look like they cost only a dollar. But there are few items from these establishments that I always stock up on and that really give you a lot of bang for that buck.

Candles. White is the go-to color and available year round. Also, red, blue and green are good basics for year round entertaining, hostess gifts and gift baskets. I try to keep a good stock of votive candles on hand. Any and all colors are good but if you are really tight on funds, stick to white.

Gift bags. Not every dollar store has sturdy gift bags, but this is where Dollar Tree shines. Walk into anyone and you will see an entire wall of gift bags, all for $1. I stock up on wine bags especially. I look for wine and gift bags in silver and gold when there are no holiday-themed ones available.

Tissue paper. Seriously, do you need to spend a lot of money on tissue paper? Really? It’s tissue paper. And if your friends comment on the caliber of your gift bag’s tissue paper, you need to make new friends. Spend $5 and have tissue paper for a year, maybe three packages of white and two of multiple colors. In a stationery store, spend $5 and you get about five sheets.

So for now, pick up a bag or two, a couple of candles and some tissue paper if you can. We’ll be adding to the pantry weekly until Christmas and New Years and those items are a must in any respectable gift pantry.

Oh, and I mean it when I say sit down now and start making lists. Lists of family and friends, lists of people you work with, lists of you think you might want to acknowledge in some way. How many parties did you attend last year? Write them down. Hostess gifts can be simple, unforgettable and inexpensive, if you are prepared with a gift pantry. Are you going to send Christmas cards? Make a list. If you don’t end up sending any this year what is the worst thing that happens? You have a list of people who mean enough to you (both personally and/or professionally) that you would like to wish a happy holiday too. Don’t feel like you have the time? It’s August, so do it at work. No one really works in August, and the typing and look of concentration on your face will single you out as a real go-getter, wanting to climb that corporate ladder.

So this week the most important task is to make lists. If you hit the dollar store on the way home from work great, but the lists are the most important and you will see why shortly.

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