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Don’t wait to plan for Christmas

There are 27 Fridays left until Christmas.

Well, technically, there are 26. Christmas Day falls on a Friday this year.

I know it’s probably the last thing you want to think about, considering today is just the second day of summer. But if you’re the type who gets caught up in presents, I’ve found the only way to stay sane at the holidays is to get a running head start.

I’ll spare you my usual spiel against the commercialization of Christmas, and how our focus on giving the perfect gift unavoidably turns into a stressful, time-crunched crusade that tangles our nerves tighter than a knotted string of Griswold Christmas lights. I know that no matter what I say, most people are going to spend a fortune come December. The least I can do is try to help you play Santa without turning into the Grinch Who Flipped Out on Christmas Eve.

Hit the art fairs and craft shows. Western New York is filled with artists and artisans who create beautiful, high-quality work and sell it for a song. There has been a really great recurring “Makers Market” from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the former Ascension Church, 168 Robinson St. in North Tonawanda. The last one is July 11.

Rather than mass-produced, cookie-cutter junk, you’ll can find some really beautiful, rare treasures. Plus, you get to shop at a leisurely pace in a really nice setting.

Bulk up your savings account. Stash away $10 a week and you’ll have $260 by then. Increase it to $15 and you’ll have nearly $400. Credit unions still offer Christmas savings club accounts, or you can do it on your own.

Seize seasonal cash. Now is the time to have a garage sale, mow your neighbor’s lawn, baby-sit. The best-paying summer gigs are mover (typically earning $12.90 per hour), office clerk ($11.50), and waiter or barista ($9.90), according to Fortune magazine.

Get a jump on regifting. I’ve got a little nook in my basement (right near my gift wrapping supplies) where I keep all kinds of lovely, new items we receive but won’t use. It comes in very handy.

If you want to get really crazy, wrap and label each one before you put it away. Just don’t tell anyone – they’ll either get jealous or think you’re crazy.

Shop the sales. There isn’t as much hype as there is on Black Friday, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find great deals. And at least you can shop with a clear head. I shop clearance sales year round and stock up. I always, always, always find stocking stuffers at Walgreens for pennies. Hit the end caps in the back of the store near the beauty section.

The hard part is sitting on all those goodies until it’s time to give them away. I confess there are times I can’t bear to wait and end up giving some gifts early.

Start getting crafty. I pulled an all-nighter one Dec. 23 trying to finish crocheting an afghan for my baby niece in time to put it under the tree for Christmas Eve. My eyes kept closing involuntarily despite the buckets of gingerbread coffee I was drinking. Another year, I waited until Christmas Eve morning to frost the hundreds of cookies I gave away. They looked so bad I told people my toddler made them.

If you plan to make gifts for Christmas, get started now. Creating is half the fun – give yourself time to enjoy it.

Got consumer tips or questions? Email:schristmann@buffnews.com, tweet @discountdivasam or “like” Facebook.com/DiscountDiva.