Maybe you've been there.
Maybe you've felt it.
That uneasy feeling in your stomach.
And I'm not talking about that "I ate too much hangover." I'm talking about that "I spent too much hangover." We've all been there. We've all dropped more money than we should of on Christmas. We all have dreaded the future credit card payments. We've all had to pay for Christmas months into the new year.
I hope none of you have been in this position and I hope that you all have your money under control. I hope that you budget and spend exactly what you plan each Christmas. I hope that this article is not needed by anybody.
Even though I can hope that everybody has their finances in order, and a Christmas budget that they stick to, I know that everybody may not be in a financial position to make it through Christmas without debt. This article is for the Christmas overspenders. This article is for the people without a plan. I am going to give you some simple tips that can help you make it through Christmas in a solid financial position.
Tip #1: Sit Down and Create a Gift List
This seems so simple. Just write down every gift that you need to get this Christmas season. If you don't do this, you can end up getting last minute gifts for an unexpected friend. By writing down a concrete list, you force yourself to only get gifts for those people. Whether you are single or married, you should take the time to create this list and make a point to make sure that this list is concrete (Can't change unless the are some extenuating circumstances).
My wife and I discuss our Christmas list every year and discuss the amount that we will spend. This year, our list contains 8 adults and 8 kids. That's 16 gifts for our young family.
Tip #2: Set a Budget
Look at the money you have in your Christmas fund and the money in your December budget and set a Christmas gift budget. Don't deviate from the amount that is set. Once you have the budget total, then you can breakdown the budget for each person on your Christmas gift list.
We discuss the amount for each person, because our family exchanges have different dollar amounts. So, some gifts cost us $50 and some cost us around $20. We set the budget for each gift before going out and shopping.
Tip #3: Stick to Your Budget
There is one problem, when it comes to creating budgets. People don't always stick to their budget. These people will set a budget and have great intentions, but don't follow their plan. They see something that someone will love and spend an extra $10 here and an extra $20 dollars there. Sure, $30 doesn't sound like a lot, but that was only going over budget on two gifts. Imagine spending an extra $10 on all 16 gifts on your list. That's $160 over budget. Maybe $160 over budget isn't a big deal to you, but it's a big deal for us. We have a plan for all of our money and if we go over budget on gifts, the money will have to be taken out of another category to avoid going over budget for the entire month.
Tip #4: Use Cash
This tip is for everybody who struggles to stay on budget. I personally believe that a credit card is okay, if you are good at staying on budget. We use our credit card for the points and pay it off in full every month. Don't take this tip as a "You can only use cash!" statement, but instead think of it as, "Only use Cash, if you can't control your spending." This is one way to get control of your spending and you may need to use this advice, if Christmas continues to break your budget.
Tip #5: Start Saving for Christmas in January
I know this tip may not help you this year, but can be very beneficial next year. If you busted your Christmas budget this year, sit down and find out how much Christmas really cost you. Take that number and divide it by 12. Start saving that much money each month right away in January. That way, when Christmas rolls around next year, you don't have to worry about where your Christmas money will come from. You will already have the money saved and can just pull that money out of the bank and drop it on Christmas.
Tip #6: Stop Letting Gifts and Christmas Control Your Life
I know that not everybody is a great big fan of setting a budget and sticking to it. I know that a lot of people can feel like a budget restricts their spending too much. I know that some people will never even try. That's fine, but using a budget and sticking to it can help you avoid the following:
The uneasiness of buyer's remorse.
The fear of having your credit card declined.
The worry of having enough money to pay the bills.
The doubt that things will ever get better.
Sure, not everybody has these feelings. But if you have had these feelings, you have to break the cycle. You have to get on a plan. You have to make a decision and that decision may have to be kicking out the high cost of Christmas.
I'm not trying to be a fun hater, because I really do love the Christmas season. But there is a bit of insanity that we need to fix. Just because there is a holiday, does not mean that we can forget about math. Just because there is a holiday, does not mean that we can forget about our responsibilities.
These responsibilities and bills will be waiting for us at the end of the holiday season. Instead of just waiting until after the holidays to deal with your spending, take some time TODAY and deal with your spending. Look yourself in the mirror and take control or YOUR LIFE. Take control of your MONEY. That is the only way that things WILL get better. That is the only way that YOU will be successful!
Reaching the Financial Summit, Starts with You!
Bonus Tip #7: Read my Previous Article on Other Ways to Save
My previous article focussed on ways to shrink the Christmas gift load and the cost of decorations. It focussed on the following strategies:
- Asking for Gift Exchanges
- Opting Out of Gift Exchanges
- Avoiding Work Gift Exchanges
- Making Your Own Gifts
- Cutting Gifts for Spouses
- Not Going Overboard with Decorations
- Buying Decorations After Christmas for Next Year