The Halloween pumpkins have been composted and the Remembrance Day poppies are off the lapels, so it is obviously time to commence Christmas! My husband believes that he is able to hold off the madness for a little longer by banning the singing of carols until at least December 1st. I humour him, but even as I hum top-40 radio ditties, my mind creates lists and I begin stockpiling candy canes. This is important because if you don’t get your peppermint canes when they first hit the shelves, you will find yourself stuck with tier-2 flavours like cherry or the dreaded eggnog. (Question: Who came up with the idea of a children’s treat that tastes like a rum-infused drink and is the colour of dog pee in the snow?)
As a working mother of three, I approach Christmas with a military precision but as anyone with army experience will tell you, no matter how much time is invested in strategic planning, things are bound to get messy and chaotic once you have boots on the ground and are in the throngs of battle. Already I am facing a ‘back order’ situation on one front and have had to re-adjust my initial budget to cover last-minute tickets to a Christmas play (Yes… November 12th is considered ‘last minute’ in the world of Christmas productions… guess the local thespians have not gotten my husband’s memo about the pre-mature launching of festive cheer!)
I have also had to adjust scheduling to avoid a potential time-management crisis. This year, my youngest has decided that she would like to ‘make’ gifts for her friends, which will erase at least one mall-shopping day from the two I had originally designated (a dramatic 50% loss). The result has been a need to remove certain comforts from the remaining day, including food court dining (30 minutes), Starbucks coffees (15 minutes x 2) and bathroom stops (15 minutes x 3). I will also need to refrain from engaging in any conversations with friends or family I may encounter, limiting myself to hand-waving and shouting ‘Merry Christmas’, while steadfastly remaining on task.
Homemade gifts will also add to the bottom line of the Christmas budget since these delightfully non-commercial items will require $50+ in materials, packaging, etc., plus the cost of having the carpet professionally cleaned (since the dog will inevitably eat half of the crafting materials and choke them up in the living room), plus the cost of having the kitchen table re-sanded (because there will be at least one glue gun ‘incident’ and a series of knife gouges made by the mysterious house guest known only as “wasn’t me”).
There have already been a few casualties: three rolls of wrapping paper I bought on sale last January were crushed under a box of Halloween decorations, the dog chewed up a Santa hat, and I ticked the wrong box on an online order, so my niece and nephew will be getting gifts wrapped in baby shower paper. Despite these minor incidents, I am declaring myself the victor of week one. I have a few gifts hidden away in the attic, my office chair is piled high with candy canes (peppermint!) and I was able to get my hands on the “good” advent calendars (The Laura Secord Shop ones with the chocolates that DO NOT taste slightly soapy). My children and I have not-the absolute-worst seats to a live theatre production of “A Christmas Story” and I have found a website that offers “child-friendly” instructions for creating scented bath salts. (I wonder if this will also be “dog-friendly” or if I can expect Buster to be pooping peppermint for most of the holiday season).
I am feeling pretty good at this point… staying strong, staying focused, and staying on budget. Of course, much of my budgeting success can be credited to my willingness to adjust the bottom line as required. For example, at the beginning of week one, I had a “breakeven” goal in mind, while I am now aiming more for “get it paid off before next Christmas”. Ho! Ho! Ho!