Friday, September 3, 2021

Perfect Gifts with a Budget-Friendly Plan: Christmas in September

You’ve probably heard of Christmas in July, but if you’ve never heard of Christmas in September, today’s your lucky day.  Get ready for a mind-blowing, life-changing approach to completely annihilate the stress and expense of gift-giving in December while giving impressive and amazing gifts which I promise you will be the best gifts ever.

I’ll give you a month-by-month guide (use it as a checklist, if you like) along with memorable, personal, and unique gift options to choose from.  You’ll have everything completed by Thanksgiving, your expenses will be spread out, you won’t be scrambling for gift ideas, and you will have very happy recipients.  Christmas in September is basically the best thing ever.

All these gifts are created digitally with a drag-and-drop system (sort of like or Photoshop) and then submitted for professional publishing by a company called Heritage Makers.  A basic Heritage Makers account is free (with an optional upgrade), the software is free to use, and all the "cute" (the backgrounds, bows, flowers, etc.) are also free to use.  You just need an internet connection and don't have to download anything to your computer.   You can use a wide variety of fully-editable templates, or you can create from scratch.  It's fantastic.

2022 UPDATE:  You can now find three alternative platforms to create fun gifts like these, plus others like mugs and magnets.  Get all the details at the how to get started tab!  All the options for creating shown at that tab are high-quality, so your gifts are designed to be amazing.

So let's jump right into the plan.  


The first steps happen in September.  This gives you time to choose the gifts and budget for them.  These particular gifts will be personal (and delightful, I happen to know from experience), and I’ll include a lot of details here to help you make them that way, such as video tutorials.  The links will have more pictures, too.  This month, you’ll only need to set aside a portion of the cost.

DIY conversation cards made from a playing card deck from Heritage Makers

In September, you’ll just need to do these 4 things: 

1.      Make your recipient gift list:  Grandparents, parents, friends, siblings, spouse, children, neighbors, grandchildren, everyone.

DIY calendar from Heritage Makers

2.      Explore these personal and unique gift ideas, listed below, which can fit a variety of ages and interests (and price ranges for you).  Make a budget first if you like.  Click the links to get the prices and details.  Don’t worry about not knowing yet how to actually get/create these items—that’s another step later.  This part is just having fun and picking gifts for loved ones.  Keep in mind, too, that these are just items I’ve made before—if you have another idea, you can switch it up!

·       personalized playing card decks (scroll down to idea #2 – I don’t have a lot of pictures of these because I’ve given so many away!)

·      personalized board books for kids (These are amazing!)

·      Quick Cakes recipe cards from a playing card deck (great as neighbor/friend gifts)—I gave these with a box cake mix, and my girlfriends loved them!

·       personalized family calendars (step-by-step tutorial video also at that link)

·      personalized books for teenagers and grown-ups such as “10 reasons I love you” or favorite memories together (video tutorial at this link)

·      dinner conversation starter cards (video tutorial for playing cards here)

·      personalized chocolate wraps, with a video tutorial included (really simple and inexpensive!)

·      personalized cork-backed coasters (set of 4; scroll down to idea #2)

·      Chocolate Countdown to Christmas made from labels (fun for kids)

·      tiny tri-fold Nativity Christmas décor (great as neighbor/friend gifts)

·      recipe books or recipe cards (great for sharing family favorites)

There are many more amazing, personal, and sweet gift ideas than what I'm showing you here, so be sure to check out the website itself to see the possibilities.  Check out mugs, magnets, ornaments, and more.  Read the details here.

Quick Cakes recipe cards made from a DIY playing card deck from Heritage Makers

3.      Make a price list of how much these sweet items cost, but keep in mind that by following this Christmas in September approach, you’ll hit some sales as well as have a chance to get some freebies.  (I’ll detail this in a minute, but here’s the basic rundown:  Although holiday sales vary each year, almost every product is 15% off when published in November.  Plus, you can get $30 free if you’re in the free-to-join Club HM program from September-November, and if you upgrade to a Preferred Account, you save an additional 10%.  More under #4.)  Tally up the total number of dollars.  (If the all the links I listed don’t mention prices, you can check prices at by clicking “products” at the upper right, or if you've chosen Forever as your platform, go to and click "Create & Print" near the top at the center in blue. You’ll see product specs and prices.  UPDATE:  If you choose to publish your gifts with Forever, you can accrue publishing dollars in a similar manner to what's described here, only you'll get a 5% discount instead of the free publishing points.  See the Club comparisons hereKeep in mind that full prices on Heritage Makers and Forever products may seem pretty different.  Forever discounts are usually 20%-50% and vary by month, while Heritage Makers discounts are always 15%.  Taking that into consideration, prices are most often quite comparable.

Board Book from Heritage Makers

4.      Once you’ve determined how much your amazing gifts will cost, I suggest (if they total at least $50), you join Club HM.  It’s free to join.  It’s a way of pre-paying for your items, and as a bonus you get $10 in free publishing each month that you’re on it.  If you have enough gifts to publish that you’ll be spending $150 or more, you can join Club HM in September (paying $50 for $60 worth of products), stay on it in October, stay on it in November, and quit it before December (if you want) and get $30 worth of your gifts for free.  (If your total gifts are around $100, I suggest waiting to join until October, then staying on for November so you have the Premier perks while you’re creating these items digitally.)  UPDATE:  Forever Club is also free to join.  Get the details here.  It's also a way of pre-paying for your items by essentially "storing" away some money in your Forever account, to spread out the cost.  Forever Club levels are $25, $50, $100, and $250.  Any Forever Club level will save you 5% at checkout on all your items.

examples of chocolate wraps made from Heritage Makers address labels

I know I’ve used a lot of unfamiliar terminology here, so you’ll definitely want to visit this link where you’ll find ALL the details about opening a Heritage Makers or Forever account and this link about the Club options (which I LOVE for gift-giving!)  Joining Club HM is completely optional—you can make any of these sweet and beautiful gifts without it—but since it’s free and has so many perks, it just makes sense to me to join.  I love the freebies and the free Premier access.  (You can see what I’m talking about at that link.)  That first link also has some information about upgrading your account to Preferred Customer, which is entirely optional as well.  It’s $19.99 and gives you an extra 10% off for everything you order for an entire year.  You’ll have to do the math, based on what your total price is going to be for these sweet gifts, to see if the Preferred upgrade makes sense or not.  Again, check out that link above for details.  UPDATE:  If you choose to create your gifts with Forever, there are not separate types of accounts tied to savings.  With Forever, there's just one type of account and it's free; 5% savings comes with Forever Club.

personalized chocolates using address labels from Heritage Makers


In October, you get to start creating!  Woo hoo! (Certainly, you can start on this earlier if you want).  This is the fun part.  If there aren’t specific videos for the items you want to gift—or if you just have questions—you can contact me here.  I have been known to hire out to make projects for people, too, so if that’s your preferred option, let me know.  I’m pretty fast since I’ve been creating gifts and photo-storybooks and digital scrap pages etc.) with Heritage Makers since 2005 and Forever since 2021.

Chocolate Countdown to Christmas using address labels from Heritage Makers

In October, you’ll need to do these 2 things: 

1.      This one is easy!  If you’re on Club HM, let it auto-renew this month, putting $60 worth of publishing credit in your account for $50.  That publishing credit (called Publishing Points) doesn’t expire for a full two years, so stocking up like this is brilliant.  If you joined in September, you’ll have $120 worth of Publishing Points (so $20 of it free) this month, waiting to be used when you’re ready. If you didn’t need enough Publishing Points to warrant joining Club HM in September, join now.  Again, this is optional but has the benefit of giving you a few freebies.  UPDATE:  This is the same if you joined Forever Club in order to create using Forever, except your publishing credit, Forever Dollars, don't expire.  

7x5 hardbound book

2.      Instead of going shopping for hours in November or December, you’ll use that time now to create your special gifts, following the instructions in the links listed under September.  In October, you should make most (if not all) of the gifts you’ll be ordering.  Again, contact me if you have any questions!

tiny tri-fold nativity made from DIY playing cards from Heritage Makers


You have 3 things to do in November.

1.     If you’re on Club HM, let it auto-renew this month, putting $60 worth of publishing credit in your account for $50.  If you joined in September, you’ll have $180 worth of Publishing Points (so $30 of it free) by now.  If you have extra Publishing Points, you can save them for next year.  Or, if you didn’t join Club HM, just pay for your items at checkout instead of using Publishing Points.  UPDATE:  If you are on Forever Club, let it auto-renew with your chosen amount ($25, $50, $100, or $250).

2.      Check the sales (“Publishing Specials") November 1!  Sales depend on WHEN you submit something for publishing.  You’ll get the sale price when you submit something for publishing during the specified month/week.  If you haven’t finished creating (digitally) some of your gift items, the Publishing Specials will help you determine what you need to finish first.  I post updated specials here, and I send them out in my monthly newsletter also.

coasters (cork-backed; set of 4)

3.    Last of all, place your order!  Place your order by Thanksgiving for delivery by Christmas.  All these gift ideas are professionally published and shipped to your door.  


I love being *done* with Christmas gifts before Thanksgiving, steering clear of malls and big box stores at that time of year, and spreading out my gift-giving budget over a few months.  More than that, though, I love giving high-quality, unique, and personal gifts that are always loved.  I feel like Forever and Heritage Makers make me the best gift-giver in the family/neighborhood.  Christmas in September has so many perks, and I hope you enjoy this plan as much as I do.

As a bonus way to enjoy December, you’re welcome to join the yearly online event I host called the Enjoy December Card Party.  It’s only $5 (or free if you bring a friend), and it’s the most fun you’ll ever have getting Christmas greetings done.  It’s normally the first Friday of November, but you can find details (including date & times) at this link.  

UPDATE: Use either Heritage Makers or Forever for your card-making.
The annual online Card Party is held at the beginning of November.

We “meet” online and work individually to create our digital cards (or newsletters, or any number of other creative greetings), then submit them for publishing!  Again, you’ll get them back before Thanksgiving, so you can enjoy December.  Be sure to check out (at the link above) the creative ideas (personalized postcards, anyone?) and bargain options as well as the tutorial video I made showing how exactly you create Christmas greetings online with Heritage Makers. 

DIY traditional greeting card from Heritage Makers

And then you get to just enjoy December!  Sip hot chocolate in front of twinkling lights.  Give service to those in need.  Go to some parties.  You might even have enough energy now to host one!  

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