Yesterday my calendar read “153 Days until Christmas”. I’m passing this along so that you’re not caught unaware like I used to be. I cannot tell you how many years we went into debt over Christmas spending – and I hate debt. When I look back though, it really came down to being unprepared. Christmas comes at the end of December every year, yet I would be thrown off when it arrived. I had some money saved, but every year it wouldn’t be enough. Then I would scramble and try to exchange money from our November and December budgets to try and make up for what I was spending. After the money ran out, I just started using my credit card. Come March, I was still paying off the balance from December…
The New Christmas Savings Plan
The best way to conquer anything is to plan for it. “Start saving now” is a good plan, but it may not be good enough. Statistics show that approx 45% of us will get into some kind of debt over the holiday season. We don’t have to be one of them, but we’ve got to start getting ready now. Here’s a better plan: 1) determine how much you can save between now and December, and 2) decide how you will divide that up. Here are some ideas that may help:
- Make (and keep) a list of who you buy for: We buy gifts mostly for kids. We start warning the 16- and 17-year-olds that their gifting will soon be passed down to the younger children that come along.
- Set Spending Limits: Once you’ve made a list, make a column for how much you’ll spend on each person – based on the amount that you will actually have saved.
- Start Pulling Names: If you have a large family, propose the idea of pulling names (you decide how many) so that everyone has fewer people to shop for.
- Get Gift Cards: if you know you have a hard time staying within your own shopping limits, consider purchasing gift cards. That way you’ll know how much you’re spending.
- Shop around online for deals and discounts. Sometimes it’s easier to “say no” when you can walk away from the computer. It can be hard sometimes to walk away from a “deal” in the stores.
- Don’t get caught by the “Christmas Extras”! See below.
- Remember the reason for the season: Some of those Christmas presents get lost, are never opened, or are used only once. It’s not worth the financial stress to go into debt over it.
The Christmas “Extras”
Once I had a decent budget in place, I would still go over on the extra things that are not gifts. I’m especially thinking about the holiday brunches (food costs money), Secret Santa gifting at work, buying new ornaments/trinkets to decorate with, and buying things for myself (don’t act like you don’t). These things really add up, and impulse shopping can really mess up a budget! We had to learn to set limits on these as well: $20 on new ornaments/decorations, and $40 on food for the holiday potluck, for example.
I encourage you to start planning now. Write it down on purpose. The goal is to enjoy your family and friends over the holidays – and to not go into debt doing it!