What about next year?

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Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up on Black Friday and know you have more than $2.78 to spend on each person on your holiday gift list? Barring an unexpected inheritance, a decent weekend in Atlantic City or a call from “Deal or No Deal,” odds are good that this year isn’t that year. But what about 2007? In the words of Cinderella’s fairy godmother, it’s possible (with a little self-control, that is. Eek!).

Less is more

Keep track of how much you spend on coffee during a typical week. Ditto for lunch, post-work drinks and dinners out. Multiply the total by 52. Halve that amount and you’ll probably have a pretty good gift budget. If you’re able to completely forego coffee and liquor, brown bag your lunch and cook dinner at home, you can pop for even better presents. Assuming, of course, that you can find someone else to foot the rehab bill for caffeine and alcohol withdrawal.

Bank it

Make a list of everyone you want to buy for and decide how much you want to spend on each of them. Add it up and divide by 12. Write down that number and stick it on the bathroom mirror, refrigerator and anyplace else where you’ll be forced to look at it several times a day. That’s the amount of money you need to deposit into a special account—preferably one that’ll earn you decent interest—every month. No withdrawals allowed until November 2007.

Change’ll do you good

Ever see the episode of “Oprah” where a family collects enough money to buy a car by tossing pocket change into a jar for a few years? You’ve got it easy—you’re just looking to save enough dough for Christmas presents. Here’s what you do: Find a large bowl or jar. Place it in a prominent place in your bedroom. Dump all the change in your pocket, wallet, purse or backpack into it every night before going to bed. Do not “borrow” from it, no matter how desperate you are for a double espresso. Use the time you’d normally be out drinking with friends to sort and roll all your change.

The sooner the better

Rather than cough up hundreds (thousands?) of dollars during a few weeks next December, buy a gift or two every month throughout the year. Start soon. Preferably immediately after December 25, when plenty of good stuff is 75 percent off. Sure, this sounds an awful lot like something your mother might do. But who gives better gifts than Mom? And imagine how much money you’ll save if you scoop up something at every post-holiday sale, as well as the Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day blow-outs. Plan now for all the swell things you’ll do next December instead of waiting in line at the mall.

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