It’s no surprise that the holidays come every year, on the same date even! So with a little planning, you and your wallet can be ready!
Ways to plan ahead and save up for holiday expenses can include setting up an automatic savings plan. Every time you get paid, have a small amount put directly into a savings account. Or tuck a $20 bill in an envelope every time you cash your paycheck. You can set aside your tax refund, or any “extra” money that might come your way throughout the year. A little bit at a time can add up to a nice sum by the time Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick comes around. By saving up all year, you’ll be able to leave your credit card in your wallet in December. Then the bills arriving in the mail in January won’t spoil your holiday spirit! Statistics show that you’re also less likely to spend as much using cash, versus a credit card.
If you’re organized, and can remember where you stash them in the meantime, you can shop the best sales throughout the year, and save them for gift-giving. I make a list, and keep it in my wallet as a reminder of which gifts I’ve already purchased.
If Christmas snuck up on you this year, and you haven’t planned ahead, here are some ideas that might help. Make a list of the people you would like to give something, and jot down any gift ideas. Estimate how much those gifts might add up to, and determine if that’s realistic for your wallet. Is there anyone on your list who would appreciate a handmade gift? A plate of baked goods? Would a relative appreciate something that once belonged to grandma, an heirloom that you could pass to the next generation? Not everyone needs, or even wants, a gift from the mall, or the hottest selling item from Amazon.
If you have a big family, consider drawing names. One gift for one person doesn’t have to break the bank. Set a realistic dollar amount, and stick to it! In our family, among the adults, we fill each other stockings with fun, inexpensive gifts. Sometimes one well-thought out purchase makes for wonderful memories. The dollar value of an item does not necessarily equal the sentimental value.
For your children, a practical solution comes from a recent minimalist trend of giving 4 simple gifts:
Something they want
Something they need
Something to wear
Something to read
Also, think beyond the packages under the tree. Will you need a new outfit for the office holiday party? Or will the kids need something new for their school concert? Thrift stores are a wonderful alternative for the budget conscious shopper!
You might have to plan for extra food and refreshments, as well. If you’re hosting Christmas Day dinner, consider making it a potluck, and ask your guests to share their favorite dishes. Or instead of an elaborate meal, where everyone stuffs themselves with rich foods and Uncle Bill has to loosen his belt, you can prepare a more simple meal with less expensive ingredients. After all, those holiday meals aren’t really about the food on the plates, as much as they are about the loved ones seated around the table.
The holidays should be merry and bright, not a time of stressing about money. With a little pre-planning, and some creativity, you shouldn’t have to go deep into debt. Focus on the people around your tree, and worry less about the stuff under it.