If you are or have ever been plagued by consumer debt, I can nearly guarantee that revolving expenses related to Christmas have contributed greatly to that miserable situation. The problem? Procrastination. Face it, when it comes to Christmas, the longer you wait, the more you will spend. The opposite is also true: The sooner you get started the less you will spend.

Everyone procrastinates in some area. And some people procrastinate about everything. Why do we do it?

We feel overwhelmed. The holiday expectations we place on ourselves plus those that come from our families, the community, even the church can be so great we feel paralyzed. So we do nothing until the only choice we have is to spend as much money as it takes to get by.

We overestimate how much time we have. From where we sit here in September, Christmas seems so far away. We tell ourselves we have plenty of time!

We have to do it perfectly. Experts tell us that at the root of procrastination is perfectionism. Because we feel we have to do everything perfectly--and fear that we might not--we do nothing rather than run the risk of failing.

We say we work better under pressure. Waiting until the last minute can provide quite an adrenaline rush. Procrastinators believe they cannot operate without that creative surge, so they sit back and wait for it to happen.

The way to deal with procrastination is to identify why you do it. As it relates to the topic of Christmas specifically, ask yourself: What price have I paid in the past for the delay? Do I really want to pay that price, or even more, again this year? If the answer to the last question is yes, drop everything and get to the beach. You have lots of time, you do not need be thinking about the holidays yet.

If on the other hand you are not willing to go into debt to measure up to others expectations, get started. Do something now. Once you are in motion it will be easier to keep going.

1. Family photo

Whether it is for your family Christmas card or to frame for a gift to friends and family, get that picture taken now. Then shop around for the best price on high-quality prints.

Costco. It is hard to beat Costco prices and service, but you need to be a member. However, right now it does not appear you can order holiday photo cards--if you want to go this route. You will have to check back in a few months to see if their holiday templates are available.

Snapfish.com. You can get 5x7-inch photo cards printed for as little as $.85 each when you order a package of 20--and the price goes down if you order more. Even though it is July, Snapfish has its holiday templates available for you to order and print.

VistaPrint.com. A great source for postcard with your photos, plus many other options. VistaPrint has frequent specials and sales throughout the summer, so check back to see if you can get a deal at VistaPrint.com. Caution: You will be hounded throughout the order process to buy all kinds of add-ons. Do not ,waste your money. Buy only what you came to buy.

2. Family cookbook

Compile your own personal recipe collection into a cookbook for friends and family. But do not wait. Start now on this ambitious project.

Allrecipes.com. This site allows you to upload your own pictures, photos and recipes and get them printed in a book. Soft cover books are $24.99 each.

CookbookPeople.com. This site offers cookbook software you can buy and then print yourself ($35 for the software).

Microsoft. Go to Office.Microsoft.com, search under templates and then type in cookbook. You will find a free cookbook template you can use.

3. Garden gifts

Look in your garden and see what you can make, can and freeze into gifts. Try making freezer jam as a quicker alternative to going through the whole canning process. AllRecipes.com has step-by-step instructions for freezer jam, along with tons of other how-to articles to help you pickle, can and preserve your garden bounty.

4. Schedule December

Pull out your December calendar and mark your main plans for the holiday season; you will schedule around those days when things start to get hectic come November.

5. Learn a craft

If you love making things, you will not find a more useful or personally gratifying craft than knitting. It is quite the rage now. With only a few lessons you will be knitting scarves and hats like a pro.

Decoupage is making a big comeback. Learn to dry the flowers of summer. Other useful crafting ideas include everything from scrapbooking to making homemade soaps and herbed vinegars.

Start making things like homemade wrapping paper and tags for your gifts. Make gift bags by decorating plain brown paper sacks from the craft store or even the supermarket with sponge prints, buttons, ribbons, etc.

Michaels.com, the website for the chain of craft stores, has lots of tips and tricks for craft projects, including beading, scrapbooking, knitting and painting. They provide links to patterns and how-to instructions for many of these crafts.

Search the Internet for how-to videos if you need some extra help with your craft. Sites like eHow.com and ExpertVillage.com offer videos to help you learn how to do all kinds of crafts.

6. Favorite things baskets

Chances are you have seen Oprahs annual show dedicated to showcasing her favorite things. Use that idea this year to create gift baskets for just about everyone on your holiday gift list. You will need to get started early.

These baskets can include your favorite newsletter [wink, wink], book or magazine, lotion or soap, cookies or cookie recipe, mixed CD of your favorite songs, favorite stain remover (Soilove!), favorite beverage, and so on. You will get it once you start thinking about it. The key is to stock up on all these items while they are on sale--and since they are your favorites, you probably already know how to get them cheap!

7. Give away treasures

Consider passing on an heirloom or family treasure to the next generation as a Christmas gift. Write up a paragraph or two explaining the history or significance of the heirloom to go along with the gift. You will be preserving family history and won't be spending a dime!

But here is the tricky part: Unless a person has expressed a particular love or desire for said heirlooms and special treasures, do not assume your gesture will be appreciated.

8. Tie up memories

Compile a family photo album of all the old black and white photos you have of relatives. Or pick one photo that is especially good, make several prints, and have each print nicely framed.

Interview an older relative and make a CD, DVD or even a written transcript of the interview for each member of the family. Ask about their childhood and young adult memories, family history and their perspective on historical events that occurred during their lifetime.

9. Give an experience

If you have a big extended family, you can buy movie tickets in bulk and save some money. AMC Theatres allows you to buy 50 movie tickets for the price of $6.00 each. If you go in with a few families on these bulk purchases, you could save quite a bit.

Think about fun activities you could do with different people on your list: dinner for a friend, reading night and snacks with the grandkids, and movie night with the grandparents, complete with snacks.

One DPL reader stuck to her spending plan for the holidays by giving each grandchild under 10 a certificate that promised a trip to the dollar store with Grandma. The reader got to spend time with each of her grandchildren individually and the kids had fun picking out the gifts.

In a recent survey, thousandsof school children all across the country were asked what they thought makes a happy family. The kids did not say a big house, designer jeans or video games. The most-mentioned key to happiness was doing things together.

Perhaps the experience you give is what you do best. Give a gift certificate for a night or two of babysitting. Make coupons for a promised service like cleaning or teaching something new, or other areas in which you are an expert. You could give a friend a coupon saying: I will make and deliver a dessert next time you have company or I will keep your kids for one weekend while you take a break. 

10. Back-to school sales

If you have kids on your holiday gift list, make sure you check out the back-to-school sales at your office supply and department stores. They nearly give away some school supplies--they are that cheap! And kids love receiving art supplies--anything from new crayons to markers, paper, paints and stickers.

Create craft kits or gift baskets for the kids on your list. That is something you can do in the next month or two.

Just think of all the money you will save--and the time you will give yourself in December because you did some of the holiday work early!