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A lifetime of achievements in 4-H -11/26/2014, 7:45 AM

Fort Hays honors courses will serve as pilot courses -11/26/2014, 7:35 AM

Yoders welcome a new baby boy recently -11/25/2014, 9:34 AM

Stepfamily dynamics can be tricky to manage -11/24/2014, 9:55 AM

Clubs and meetings (Nov. 23, 2014) -11/23/2014, 3:11 PM

Business Briefcase (Nov. 23, 2014) -11/23/2014, 3:11 PM

Local Knights of Columbus announce essay winners -11/21/2014, 8:57 AM

Grocery collection for ECMA on Saturday -11/21/2014, 8:56 AM

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Birthdays (Nov. 20, 2014) -11/20/2014, 8:13 AM

HPMH partners with counties for outreach -11/19/2014, 3:49 PM

Kansas Next Step announces honors -11/19/2014, 2:09 PM

Senior volunteers honored for years of service to communities -11/19/2014, 9:09 AM

Living life by the five senses -- plus another -11/19/2014, 9:09 AM

'Big Hero 6' is slightly under-inflated -11/18/2014, 9:15 AM

KHP gives tips for safe Thanksgiving travel -11/17/2014, 1:06 PM

Latest donations move FHSU closer to goal -11/17/2014, 1:06 PM

Kansas is reading to preschoolers -11/17/2014, 12:56 PM

Great American Smokeout is Thursday -11/17/2014, 11:35 AM

Keep little helpers safe in kitchen -11/17/2014, 11:35 AM

Moran receives Legislator of Year Award from home care association -11/17/2014, 11:26 AM

Hammond named to fraternity commission -11/17/2014, 9:45 AM

No stepfamily is immune to holiday stress -11/17/2014, 9:26 AM

Community Bulletin Board (Nov. 17, 2014) -11/17/2014, 9:26 AM

Get the most from grazing crop residue -11/16/2014, 5:35 PM

Clubs and meetings (Nov. 16, 2014) -11/16/2014, 12:52 PM

Choice overload -11/14/2014, 9:05 AM

God and Ebola -11/14/2014, 9:05 AM

Birthday -11/13/2014, 8:30 AM

10 tips for stress-free Thanksgiving cooking, planning -11/13/2014, 8:30 AM

Do you need that annual mammogram? -11/12/2014, 11:52 AM

'Warcraft' preview stirs excitement; 'Interstellar' is solid -11/11/2014, 8:40 AM

Favorite coffee cake and being introduced to Sassy Sundae -11/11/2014, 8:40 AM

Many types of stressors can affect holidays -11/10/2014, 9:09 AM

Time for film's encore, German cooking at library -11/10/2014, 9:09 AM

Business Briefcase (Nov. 9, 2014) -11/9/2014, 4:30 PM

Westview hosting youth lock-in -11/7/2014, 8:22 AM

A prayer that stands the test of time still holds true today -11/7/2014, 8:22 AM

Extension program gives tech tips for parents -11/6/2014, 9:24 AM

Birthdays -11/6/2014, 9:24 AM

Foreigners must report land holdings -11/5/2014, 3:39 PM

Jana's Campaign fundraiser nets $33,000 -11/5/2014, 10:29 AM

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Waterline works will hamper traffic -11/4/2014, 4:08 PM

Email issues resolved -11/4/2014, 11:43 AM

Gloria's birthday present, followed by barbecue pizza -11/4/2014, 8:41 AM

Many live in stepfamilies in United States today -11/3/2014, 8:58 AM

Taking care in providing proper animal health -11/2/2014, 8:31 AM

Clubs and meetings (Nov. 2, 2014) -11/2/2014, 11:10 AM

After 5 gathering Nov. 10 in Hays -10/31/2014, 7:50 AM

Time for trick or treating -10/31/2014, 7:49 AM

Gella's to show Turning Points film encore -10/30/2014, 1:53 PM

State's Cold Weather Rule takes effect Saturday -10/29/2014, 9:33 AM

'John Wick' is efficient excitement for flick -10/28/2014, 9:07 AM

Serving up homemade cinnamon rolls -10/28/2014, 9:07 AM

Hansen Foundation awards grant to HaysMed Foundation -10/27/2014, 10:20 AM

HaysMed's cardiovascular-stroke team earns award -10/27/2014, 10:11 AM

Signs of suicide in teens should be dealt with quickly -10/27/2014, 8:58 AM

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Rosary rally takes place in Liebenthal -10/24/2014, 8:37 AM

Pink Impact conference coming to North Oak -10/24/2014, 8:37 AM

Living by the law of love in today's society -10/24/2014, 8:37 AM

Dominican Sisters host annual mission benefit bazaar -10/24/2014, 8:37 AM

'The Ogallala Road' author to speak at FHSU -10/23/2014, 9:40 AM

Industry support leads to welding awards for NCK Tech -10/23/2014, 9:24 AM

Birthday -10/23/2014, 9:24 AM

Natoma group elects new officers -10/23/2014, 9:24 AM

Tricks to making jams and jellies for holiday giving -10/23/2014, 9:24 AM

'Fury' is visceral and slightly shapeless -10/22/2014, 10:20 AM

Singing, making cheese and doing laundry all part of chores -10/21/2014, 8:51 AM

Parenting adolescents no easy chore for parents -10/20/2014, 9:47 AM

Breaking down using distillers grains on the ranch -10/19/2014, 1:12 PM

Business Briefcase (Oct. 19, 2014) -10/19/2014, 1:12 PM

Clubs and meetings (Oct. 19, 2014) -10/19/2014, 2:24 PM

2014 Kansas Speaks Survey finds wide dissatisfaction with politics -10/17/2014, 3:54 PM

Stamper memorial scholarship awarded at KSU -10/17/2014, 2:24 PM

Adding Christ's love to everyday situations wards off harm -10/17/2014, 9:14 AM

Producers hope to cash in on commercial -10/16/2014, 8:22 AM

Finding out you're technologically challenged -10/15/2014, 8:51 AM

Phillipsburg couple part of new Beach museum exhibit -10/15/2014, 4:25 PM

Medicare open enrollment begins Wednesday -10/14/2014, 3:21 PM

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Mother-daughter relationships can be difficult -10/13/2014, 9:04 AM

Business Briefcase (Oct. 12, 2014) -10/12/2014, 11:33 AM

History, known management available in SunSup -10/12/2014, 11:33 AM

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'Gone Girl' jump starts end-of-the-year cinema -10/7/2014, 10:04 AM

Amish PTA and fried rice -10/7/2014, 8:16 AM

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Business Briefcase (Oct. 5, 2014) -10/5/2014, 2:51 PM

BVD testing could pay off big for farmers and ranchers -10/5/2014, 2:42 PM

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Hays After 5 meeting Oct. 13 -10/3/2014, 8:49 AM

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SPOTLIGHT
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Planning ahead for Christmas will relieve stress, save money

Published on -10/17/2013, 8:02 AM

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As soon as trick-or-treaters finish their holiday haunting, Halloween candy will disappear from stores and something else will fill the shelves. Do you know what comes next? Yes, Christmas.

Unbelievably, on a business trip to Manhattan in the last week of August, I was surprised to see a large craft store already filled with Christmas decorations. It sure seems awfully early to be thinking about Christmas. Or does it?

Being early with thoughts of the holiday season isn't such a bad idea. Remember the hectic last-minute shopping, the late hours put in to finish a handmade gift, the rush to address cards and finish the holiday baking? Whew! It makes me tired just to think about it.

Maybe we all should begin to think about the holidays just a little now. I'll bet we could enjoy the season more if we didn't feel exhausted and broke during most of it.

What can be done now to prepare for Christmas? Lots of things. Think about your normal holiday activities and consider which parts might be done (or at least started) early. Here are a few ideas to help you plan ahead and spread out those holiday costs a little.

* Start the holiday season by making a list of all the things you are likely to spend money on. This will certainly include Christmas gifts, but think also about holiday extras such as gift wrap, decorations, greeting cards, postage, extra groceries for holiday meals and baking, eating out, extra child care, and gasoline for shopping trips and holiday travel. Compare your list to the amount of money you have available to spend at this time of year. The key is to create a budget -- a spending plan that will help you cover seasonal expenses -- and stick to it.

* Start putting away $1 a day from now until December 23. You'll save about $65 from your pocket change for those extra holiday expenses.

* Start thinking about gifts. Make a list of the people you need to buy for and jot down any preliminary ideas you might have. Don't forget the last minute grab-bag gifts we all seem to need, too. Make a goal to complete this list soon. Divide your list by three for the number of gifts to buy per month in October, November and December. For example, if there are 15 names on your gift list, buy five gifts per month to spread out the cost. Watch for sales on any of your gift ideas and when the price is right, buy them and cross them off your list.

* Ask the people on your gift list to begin making "wish lists" for themselves. I always like to give a gift that the recipient wants or needs. But sometimes my family and friends couldn't think of anything when I asked what they wanted. Or they would say the same thing every year. (My dad's standard reply was always "socks." He figured that was a safe bet.) Given a month or two to think about it, everyone will probably come up with a few items they'd like.

Begin a wish list for yourself, too. Then you'll also be prepared when approached with the what-do-you-want-for-Christmas questions.

* If you plan to make any gifts, now is a good time to select patterns, purchase supplies and get started. This will save money only if it is cheaper to make it yourself, so comparison-shop at local gift shops and crafts fairs. (Remember, the cost is doubled if you run out of time to finish a project and have to buy a gift also.) Be realistic about the time you have to complete the project before you invest in supplies. Starting early might save a lot of sleepy-eyed late nights in the future.

* Watch for sale prices on ingredients for holiday baking. Flour, sugar, shortening, oil, dried fruits and canned goods can be stored easily; nuts can be frozen for longer storage. Buy one or two additional baking ingredients every week to spread out the cost.

* Bake several of your favorite recipes ahead and freeze to enjoy later during the holiday season. We have a fact sheet at the Extension office that gives tips for freezing and thawing baked goods.

* Divide your Christmas card list by six for the number of cards to sign and address each week from now through the end of November. Your cards will be ready to go into the mail in early December and you'll save time the rest of the month for other things.

* Keep track of holiday expenses this year so you know the total cost of your holiday spending. Divide the total by 12 to determine the amount to set aside monthly through the coming year so your holiday funds will be saved in advance next year.

Planning and organizing holiday duties now can save time, energy and money when Christmas arrives. By completing some of the tasks ahead, you'll have more time to enjoy the season. You'll thank yourself.

Linda Beech is a Kansas State University Research & Extension agent in Ellis County specializing in family and consumer sciences. lbeech@ksu.edu

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