As I am writing this, the first snow of the winter is falling. Next week is Thanksgiving and then all of our attention will be on the biggest holiday of the year…Christmas. For many households, Christmas is becoming more bah-hum bug because of the commercialization of Christmas. We want to help you take some of the stress away from Christmas this year and the next.
One of the biggest stressors of Christmas is how much money can be spent (and it is way more than just gifts for the family) and where is all of that money coming from. With that there are four categories this Christmas that if you manage properly you will enjoy Christmas while reducing stress.
- Gifts – This is for most people this is the largest expense for Christmas. The average family spends $600-$800. Far too often, this is where a lot of people stop their debt snowball and do one big splurge. If you are still in debt, consider spending less this Christmas. Oh I know, that sounds boring and not American. But the truth is it is not worth spending lots of money at Christmas, only to watch the children play with the box their toy came in more than toy itself! Have fun. Make a game out of it. See how much you can get with less this year. You will be surprised on what you can do.
Example: My wife one year took an old picture of my dad and Johnny Cash back in November of 1968 in Davenport, Iowa. She cleaned up the picture and then purchased three picture frames from Hobby Lobby, costing $5 each. My dad, my brother and I each got that picture for Christmas. To this day, that is one of my favorite Christmas presents…again $5!
- Traveling – If you are going to travel for the holidays, figure out how much you are going to need for fuel, eating out and any entertainment that you will be doing. You will spend less and not have a sense of guilt afterwards.
- Hosting – Hosting can be a lot of fun, but it also can be very expensive if you are not careful. Establish in advance how much you will need for food, decorations, any table service, etc. Consider having everyone bring a dish to save on food cost.
- Fun Money – It is perfectly ok to set aside a little bit of cash to have fun with. Whether it is you and a friend enjoying a latte at your favorite coffee place or going to a movie, be sure to give yourself a little bit of fun money so you can enjoy a few random opportunities (just not too much).
2016 and Beyond: Unfortunately, too many households wait until Thanksgiving or afterwards to save up for Christmas. Imagine if you did not have to spend a lot of time reprioritizing your entire budget in one month?
The good news is there is a better way. Take the total amount you spend during Christmas (gifts, food, fuel, decorations, etc.) divide that number by 12. Then starting in January save that number per month over the next twelve months and you will feel almost no pressure towards next year’s Christmas. Where you stash your saved money is up to you. You can put it in an envelope, accordion folder or an old fashion envelope. Where you store your money is not what is important (except your checking or emergency fund). What is important is setting a goal, breaking it down into easy to manage chunks and then make it happen.
You can do it. Have next year be the most enjoyable and stress free Christmas you have ever had. And remember, the real reason for the season is celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior’s birth Jesus Christ.
What was your favorite Christmas gift of all time?
What is your favorite Christmas memory?