I know it’s only October but can we talk about Christmas for a minute?
So, hi. I am that person that starts counting down to Christmas by like… July. I know, I know, SO ANNOYING, right? But it’s cool, guys. The Christmas spirit sustains me through your side-eye.
I start decorating November 1st every year.
My (two) tree(s) is up for at least a month.
Bronner’s (the world’s largest Christmas store) is legit one of my favourite places on earth.
My satellite radio is tuned to the “all Christmas all the time” channels from the day they go on air to the day they go off. That’s like two straight months of carols.
I’m that person.
My love of everything Christmas has one caveat, and that is the cost.
I am also that person who gives gifts to everyone (inclusive of my mailman and garbage man, and thus, my mail never gets delivered to the wrong house and my garbage bins are always upright – win), so it gets pricey.
In my earlier gift giving years, I had this mental block when it came to gift giving: “if I’m buying something for someone else, it can’t affect my budget”. Which makes zero sense, I know. I had no guilt or second thoughts about holiday spending, so long as it was for someone else.
These days I know better.
If you’ve ever been on Pinterest around the holidays, you’ve probably seen Christmas budgeting plans like this one:
I don’t necessarily agree with the one above (why put the biggest amount in the pot in December?) but the principle is a good one – start saving for Christmas before Christmas.
I mean, really.
Christmas doesn’t surprise us every year, it’s fairly consistent, so why do so many people end up struggling financially or even going into debt for it?
There’s no one right way to save for Christmas, but there are wrong ways (i.e. not doing it).
Set Aside Savings
My strategy is to have savings specifically allocated towards gifts. Each month, I throw money into my “gifts” pot. It’s not exclusively for Christmas – all gifts for all occasions come out of it – but it largely gets emptied in anticipation of December and built back up over the year.
In January, I sit down with my husband and list out all the occasions that will require a gift and we set a budget for each one. Add it up, plus a buffer for new friends and unexpected occasions, and that’s our gift savings goal for the year.
Keep Lists & Shop Sales
I also keep a running Excel sheet where I record gift ideas whenever they pop up. In July, my sister-in-law mentioned she’s been trying to find a good pair of headphones – on the list it goes.
This means I have time to watch for sales. Which leads me to my next holiday spending secret:
Boxing Day sales (aka “Day After Christmas sales”).
That’s the perfect time to buy those sort of generic (you know what I mean) gifts you get for acquaintances. I typically buy gifts for neighbours, the mailman, and those non-friend-but-gift-required coworkers between Christmas and New Years, and store them until the next Christmas. 75% off? Yes please.
So far, I’ve never actually been scooped by somebody buying for themselves what I planned to get them in the time between my buying it and Christmas actually coming. But if that’s the case, then I can come up with something new for those one or two people in October or November.
Another way is to set a dollar limit with family members.
Last year, between my husband, me, our siblings and our parents, we had four home purchases and an engagement, so we knew we’d all benefit from avoiding any overspending at the holidays.
We set a gift-value limit of $50, and the result was that everyone’s wallet was happier. What surprised us was that the gifts seemed to be even more thoughtful and meaningful, because we had to really think about what the person would truly enjoy rather than thinking of it in terms of financial value, like “well it’s worth $150, they’ll love it”.
More holiday spending strategies! –> Andrew, at Family Money Plan, recently suggested two equally awesome methods that you can avoid the bill shock this Christmas.
Any way you do it, saving for the holidays will mean you’ll be able to spend less time worrying about January’s bills and more time watching Jingle All the Way and singing along with Michael Buble’s Christmas album. Who doesn’t want that.