I know! We’re all just detoxing from all the food we ate, busy schedules we endured, and money we spent a month ago and now I’m forcing you to think about next Christmas.
A few minutes spent planning now and a little intentional saving and spending throughout the year will yield significant results come December.
And how would a Christmas without over-spending or any debt feel come next January? Pretty awesome right?
Here are six things you can do NOW to have a debt-free (and supremely awesome) Christmas this year:
1. Figure out what type of Christmas you want to experience this year.
What lessons do you want to teach? What activities and events will support those lessons? How many gifts do you want to give?
This will help you make every other decision as you prepare for the season — both how you budget your money and how you spend your time.
2. Set a solid Christmas budget.
This is by far the most important thing you can do to keep your spending under control. Figure out NOW how much money you want to or are able to spend on Christmas and commit to not going over budget.
Think through all the expenses related to the holidays, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s and then put a dollar amount next to it. For instance, how much will you spend on the following:
- Gifts for family
- Stocking stuffers
- Gifts for teachers, friends, postal workers, neighbors, co-workers
- Clothing for parties and special events
- Hostess gifts
- Extra groceries (food for parties, special ham, turkey, or roast, baking supplies)
- Travel expenses (gas, airline tickets, food while on the road)
- Holiday family fun (admission to events and activities, plays, concerts)
- Decorations (Christmas tree, new lights, wreath)
- Christmas cards and postage
Oftentimes we only think about gifts, but as you can see, there are quite a lot of potential additional expenses related to celebrating the holidays. Planning for these extras will keep your spending in check and help you save.
3. Save for your holiday-related expenses throughout the year.
Take the total amount you listed in the first step and then divide that number by 12. That is the amount you need to set aside every month so you have the cash ready come the holidays.
I strongly suggest you physically set the money aside either in a separate savings account (this can be attached to your checking account to make transferring the money every month easy) or in cash in a physical envelope.
Yes, an actual white envelope with real money inside of it. Every month, withdraw your monthly savings amount and put it in that envelope. And then put the envelope in a safe spot and spend that money ONLY on the expenses you listed in your budget.
4. Make a quick list of the people and groups you will give gifts to in December and keep it in your wallet, in your cash savings envelope, or in your phone.
This list will help you know who you are shopping for throughout the year, especially if you employ the next strategy.
5. Shop sales throughout the year.
This one tip, if carried out with intention, will save you so much stinking money. Watch your favorite brick-and-mortar stores and online sites for giant sales especially on toys and games. Here are some big sale times to be planning on:
- Target toy clearance in January and July
- School supply sales in July and August (stocking stuffers, crafts, gifts for charities)
- Sales on socks and underwear in late summer
- Valentine and Easter holiday clearance
- Back-to-school clothes clearance in October and November
Keep your Christmas stash all in one spot. It would also be helpful to note the recipient either on your list or on a sticky note attached to the item.
6. Have the tough talks with your family NOW.
January is the best time to have a “Let’s reevaluate the gifts we’re giving in December” conversations as everyone is experiencing the pain of too much money spent at the end of last year.
If you wait until November to tell your siblings that you all don’t need to spend $100 on each other, they will most likely hear “I’m super cheap and I don’t love you anymore” instead of the actual “I can’t keep going into debt to buy you something you don’t even want.”
The conversation can be as simple as this: My family needs to reign in our spending this year and we have already set a budget for Christmas. Can we adjust what we all spend and give this year so our family can make some progress financially?
Honestly, if you take a few minutes NOW to plan and then take these steps you can have a peaceful and debt-free Christmas this year!
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