Christmas can be the most wonderful time of year while it’s happening. And yet, the shopping element can also cause real stress in the weeks leading up to the big day—and the weeks waiting for bills thereafter. If that was the case for you this year, consider this: reflecting and debriefing with yourself now, while the financial realities of your holiday are front and center, is sure to pay off later.

I know, I know—how can you possibly start thinking about next Christmas now? What we’re inviting you to do is not to start choosing gifts for your loved ones, but rather, to thoughtfully process the season you just experienced from a financial point of view. The best time to plan for next Christmas is right now, while the successes and struggles of gift-giving are still fresh in your mind.

So grab some paper, a pen, and those last few cookies, and let’s get to work.

What went well? What didn’t go so well?

Every shopping season is different—there are different people to include; different resources of time, money, and energy at your disposal; and so on. Not every question on the list below is going to apply to your situation this year. For those that do, be assured that the more honest with yourself you are, the better you can celebrate your wins and learn from your mistakes.

That said, the goal of this exercise is not to find reasons to beat yourself up if you didn’t make the best decisions for your situation. Instead, use this list as an encouraging learning tool for next year—and for any other gift-giving you’re planning to do between now and then.

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