My parents lived paycheck to paycheck. But, they always made sure we had a big Christmas. Our tree was never bare, though we might not get alot of stuff the rest of the year.
Giving us Christmas took some finagling. My parents were never really into Christmas shopping, which seemed like one more hassle in their harried lives, so procrastination was a factor. More importantly, they each had to wait for the Christmas bonus check from work in order to swing things. My parents never had credit cards when we were growing up and often depending on layaway to get by.
Once the checks came in sometime around the first week of December they were off. Shopping for 5 kids plus relatives wasn’t easy nor quickly done. I still remember my parents shopping into the days before Christmas trying to find a special doll or the jacket someone just had to have. Though they never started early, somehow they always had it done on time. No one was ever disappointed (or they got so much they didn’t realize what was missing).
As for me, I start sometime around the end of October. Then I do a mad dash which usually gets me done around the week after Thanksgiving. I do almost all my shopping online, so it’s important that I get an early head start. I just can’t handle the pressure of the malls as the days get nearer to Christmas.