Last Christmas I spent way too much money on the kids. I’m not regretful of it, exactly, but it definitely put us behind financially. It’s not something we plan on repeating year after year, though.
The thing about holidays is they have their way of creeping up on us faster than we expect. Before you know it, kids will be going back to school and the expenses will seem to be never ending with Halloween, Thanksgiving, holiday parties, and of course, Christmas shopping. Don’t let it happen to you! You can easily get a handle on things now by taking the following actions.
KSet a budget that you can stick to
I see a lot of parents wanting to keep things simple like by doing the 4 gifts (want, need, wear, read) or just scaling things down in general. This is great, in principal, but a lot of people also end up caving and blowing their tiny budget. If you can stick to something small – great! But be realistic when setting how much you plan to spend so you don’t end up putting last minute gifts on your credit card.
Now is the time, not in November, to start telling family and friends you’re not going to be doing an expensive Christmas this year. Inform friends and extended family if you won’t be giving gifts this year, or come up with a fun gift exchange idea. If you have kids or other close family members that usually expect a lot, reel in their expectations and explain that they’ll have to done down those costly wishlists. If people buck, be frank and firm. It’s your money, you decide how you spend it.
Once you have a rough budget then now is the time to start putting that money way so it’s ready at Christmastime. You can either put away some from every paycheck or do other things to bring in extra money, like having a garage sale or a side hustle. Save your extra earnings in a separate account and you won’t have to worry about where you’ll get the money come December.
This one can sometimes be tricky to pull off, and requires a bit of planning and organization, but you can save a lot of money on Christmas presents by starting your shopping now. I’m not just talking about hitting mall sales either. I actually buy a large portion of my kids’ Christmas gifts from garage sales – you can get a lot of basically new toys for next to nothing. Same thing for clothes and books. A lot of people in my family also appreciate vintage and antique items – something that’s always used!
If you’re really struggling to set aside extra money you could opt to use a reward program as you Christmas savings plan. Here in Canada, we have PC Optimum points that you get at certain grocery stores and pharmacies, which if you shopped and never redeemed all year could really add up. There’s also cash back credit cards or ones that offer you credit to certain stores. If you’re going to be spending the money anyway, why not get rewarded?
If you have a big family, like mine, you’ll have to do a few of these things to really make Christmas happen the way you want to. A debt-free Christmas is possible, though, it just takes a little bit of pre planning. Remember, no one is going to remember what they got for Christmas anyway so really shift the focus on great memories rather than expensive gift.