It’s that time of year again. Halloween hasn’t even arrived and yet the well-dressed Salvation Army bells are beginning to ring like distant thunder rapidly approaching. While the holidays are supposed to be about all joy and peace, so many people find that that the visions of sugarplums cause stress and the need to stretch the already taut family budget just a little bit more. Each year you are probably like the millions who say they are going to start a Christmas savings club or tuck a clean and crisp $20 bill in a mason jar every week of the year to plan for the next Christmas and then suddenly its October and you realize you haven’t set a dime aside. Setting a Christmas budget is absolutely necessary especially if you want to be able to enjoy the season rather than lie awake each night worrying about money. Here are some tips!
The first thing to realize is that Christmas is 1 day! If you have children in the home than by now you should realize that all that careful planning, stuffing of the stockings and pretentious wrapping and buying unfold into about 15 minutes of a paper hiatus. Kids rarely appreciate all the time, effort or money nor are they aware of just how hard mom and dad work to provide the plethora of gifts and treats to make these 15 minutes the most exciting of the entire year. Part of the splendor of Christmas is all the time waiting for Santa to come and parents are often too determined to impress and not leave their children disappointed which just results in over spending. Even worse there is lots of pressure to purchase gifts for everyone on your list; unnecessarily! Does your sister in law really need that decorative gift basket of body soaps and lotions or are you buying it just to have a gift to give?
Setting a Christmas budget can be done and it can be effective. Make a decision right now that you are going to spend your money wisely and avoid frugal spending just to make a holiday impression. That is the first step. Beyond that try some of these ideas?
Smart Ways of Setting a Christmas Budget
Make a recipient list! Include your kids first and talk to the adults in your family about not exchanging gifts. Decide to take that money and have a nice meal together or something else that everyone can enjoy! As hard as it can be to approach the subject of not exchanging gifts, be sure that the non-essential people on your list will probably feel relieved that you have made this decision. This saves them tons of money as well. It also avoids the impulse purchasing of all sorts of useless holiday items that make more of a presence than a present. (Note…once you make this decision, DON’T buy them something anyways as this causes embarrassment and resentment.
If you have a large family, put names in a hat! This way you are only buying for one person and you can purchase one great gift rather than a bunch of junk!
Instead of counting gifts and spending a set amount on each person; choose to give the kids one great gift each instead. Giving them one thing they really want and avoiding all the junk that will end up in spring yard sales or stuffed under the bed in less than a month is more meaningful and will allow the kids to appreciate the gift even more.
Use the holidays to give useful things. If your children must have name brand sneakers, than make them a present! Don’t be afraid to wrap underwear, socks, new school supplies or other things that your children need.
Shopping online is ultra convenient but economists also lend a word of caution. You are more liable to spend MORE online since it doesn’t really feel like you are spending. If you do shop online, commit to finding the best price on the one or two things you really need and avoid all those “internet specials” that are as enticing as the candy to kids in the check out aisle. Marketers are trying to get you to spend more and it is super easy to click and buy without giving any real thought to your purchase. Also, consider shipping costs versus taxes.
Don’t use credit cards during the holidays. If you start TODAY you can begin purchasing one or two things a week from now to Christmas. Avoid the pressure to buy all at once which forces people to use credit. The gift you covet will still be there in a few weeks. If you start your shopping right now and commit to buying one thing a week, chances are by Thanksgiving, you may be done with your holiday shopping. This will allow you to stick to your budget and enjoy the holidays.
Sit down and decide what you can afford and don’t over indulge! This takes some self-control, but your children and loved ones will not be disappointed on Christmas morning. Inflating your budget will only cause you to lose sleep in the New Year when the bills come in.
Teachers, mail carriers and all the other people that you typically buy gifts for can really add up. Spend a weekend baking cookies, making chocolate dipped pretzels, hot chocolate bags or other goodies and find attractive tins or containers at your dollar store to wrap them in. It is the thought that counts! (One hint….while teachers love the gifts they get, few of us really know their interests or tastes and buying things for their home or personal life pretty much ensures that they will collect dust or be regifted by the teacher. Is it worth spending your money on that?)
Don’t underestimate the meaning of holiday cards!
Use personal pictures and a little creativity to allow your kids to create gifts for the special people in their lives. This teaches children the importance of giving from the heart and will make them excited about their gift. In addition, grandparents, cousins and friends will love these special gifts. This can really stretch the Christmas Budget.
Setting a Christmas budget is the best thing that you can do during the holidays. You deserve to be able to enjoy the season and not feel intense pressure to provide so much for so many. In return, if you think back to all the things you have bought in Christmas’s past, you will undoubtedly realize that little of it has held onto much meaning. Your brother in law never wears the sweater you bought him, your first cousin lost the lambs wool slippers you just had to get and your kids probably don’t even remember what they got just last year. Think about the gifts you get from others. On average people spend about $25 on gifts that really serve no other purpose than to be a wrapped box to hand someone on this day. Everyone feels the same pressure, and choosing to NOT over spend and give too many presents can allow you to set a Christmas budget for your family and not feel compelled to buy too much. The season is about togetherness and the meaning of the people in our lives and those that are most important should realize that a present does not translate into love. Essentially, you are only succumbing to silent pressure to impress by giving too much and humility and reasonable consideration is essential to setting a Christmas budget and sticking to it. Happy shopping and be true to your wallet first! There is no shame in not being able to afford a gift and realize that most people are in the same boat.