The countdowns are sprouting up everywhere.
You don’t need me to tell you what’s going on.
Back-to-school clearances haven’t even finished their run and the red and green decor has made their debut.
As of today, there are 94 days left until Christmas.
We have just over 3 months to somehow get our acts together so we can enjoy the celebration of what the day truly means.
Do I have an incredible piece of advice that will help you get dozens of cookies made, color-coordinated trees adorned, children-made crafts completed, and a family picture with every single person smiling at the camera without bribery nor tears on a card that’s in the mailbox by December 1st?
My holiday season mantra is nearly opposite of my type-A, list-making personality. I clear my calendar, make cookies and scones for breakfast (and lunch), drink coffee all day and wing it.
How can it be so relaxing? Simple – realizing that the season is not about money.
Sure money is involved… people travel to see family and gifts are given to loved ones, but this shouldn’t be the focus. By planning out expenditures beforehand, we can put it out of mind when the season officially arrives.
The planning starts today.
It is too easy (WAY too easy) to overspend at Christmas. The clothes are cute, the toys are fun and who doesn’t like to give presents? Stores want your business, sales are everywhere and you gotta admit – it’s fun to be in the Christmas spirit, shopping with everyone else, even if the stores are packed.
To bless someone with a gift, and not expect to receive anything in return, brings genuine pleasure. The desire to give to others is a quality that everyone should have more of, including myself. But this same desire can be a weakness when we’re surrounded by sights and smells that overpower our common sense.
Step 1 in my series of posts on creating a budget is to commit to the idea of a budget with your spouse. Christmas is no exception. Christmas is a season of celebration filled with joy. Do you still find joy in giving those gifts in January, when you open a credit card bill that you cannot afford to pay?
Today is the day we take action on our joyful gift giving so that we can really bless others from the heart and not have resentment later. Your call to action?
1. Set a budget for Christmas gifts.
2. Determine how much money needs to be set aside every paycheck (or every month, whichever you prefer) in order to meet the budget.
3. If it is not possible to save for this Christmas budget in the next 94 days (just over 13 weeks), then your budget is too high. Reset accordingly.
4. Determine who will receive a gift.
These steps are direct and simple, but there’s a chance they may sting. Your list of gift recipients may call for a budget that you cannot afford. I’m completely guilty of wanting to give champagne gifts on a beer budget.
But the vicious cycle must be broken!
These four steps go hand-in-hand. Step 4 can come first or last, or there may be a few rounds through each step before the numbers are finalized.
You can start with an overall budget and then break it down per person, or you may have a set amount in mind for each person on your list and add it up for a total.
Whichever path is taken, the final destination is the same: create and commit to a budget for Christmas gifts. This budget MUST be set before any shopping is done.
This may be contrary to the common thought of buying presents year round. I think that spreading the spending throughout several months is a great way to take burden off the last few months of the year – IF you track your spending. If you’re diligent about writing down every single penny spent on gifts, décor, wrapping paper and whatnot, then by all means, shop all year.
If you’re anything like me, there’s a stocking stuffer one month, a red bag on clearance after Valentine’s day, some silver bells after June’s graduation and a green tablecloth after St. Patrick’s day… and the one dollar here and another dollar there gets lost in the jumble of receipts. Those little expenses add up over time and since I really don’t know how much I’ve spent, I can’t keep myself within budget.
Maybe this can be a lesson learned for next year and we can shop year round, but we can’t fast forward and ignore 2012.
Creating a Christmas budget will allow us to give within our means, and to mean what we give. There’s no arguments over spending too much, or feeling like Christmas gets more expensive the closer it gets. Having a budget for presents gives freedom in our purchases and puts the joy back into giving.
Mr. Crumbs and I discussed our budget over a date-night burrito last week. Amazing how a few minutes can bring such peace… and it’s only September! Now the hunt for deals can begin!
Disclaimer: I am not a professional. I am the average consumer who has gone through the process of cutting our spending in half in order to become debt free and stay at home to raise our children. Advice given in Friday’s Finances are lessons learned the hard way, shared so someone else doesn’t have to.