Raise your hand if you absolutely hate it when stores start putting out Christmas merchandise right after Labor Day weekend. I’m raising mine in between keystrokes.

Stores put out Christmas merchandise extra early hoping you’ll start spending early and continue spending right until the end of the holiday season.

I’m talking about Christmas because I’m hoping you’ll start saving early and continue saving until you start your Christmas shopping.

The holiday season is a happy time for many. But, too many people are faced with depressing credit card bills once the new year rolls around. Too many people are still paying on last year’s Christmas debt and it’s September (in a couple of days). That’s not the type of situation you want.

What you want is to have a special savings account that’s dedicated entirely to Christmas shopping. Ideally, that savings account has all the money you need to buy your gifts, decorations, food, travel, and whatever else you spend on during the holidays.

If you want to have that dream account, you have to start working on it now. Figure out how much you can afford to save each paycheck. Then, on your next payday, go open your holiday savings account. Continue contributing to it each payday until you stop shopping for the holidays. Put your credit cards away and don’t even think about using them. And in case you were wondering, holiday gift shopping is not an excuse to dip into your emergency fund.