Start Saving Money Now!
The holidays can become a really expensive stressful time if we let them. I believe a good game plan to save money is a huge factor to minimize the stress. Then once you save the money, sticking to the budget is a whole new challenge. Before the holidays hit, let’s navigate the ins and outs of saving money, sticking to the budget, dealing with family, and avoiding obligatory spending.
Planning Ahead is the Best Way to Avoid Debt
Right now it’s mid October, which means it’s only 10 weeks until Christmas. If you want to avoid last minute, December 23 shopping, you have a bit less time. Let’s play it conservative and say you want to be done Christmas shopping by December 15. That leaves about 8 weeks to save.
One of the first steps is to figure out how much money you’ll need. That takes a bit of game planning, which I’ll talk about more later. But let’s just ball park a number for now. If $300 is your magic number, divide that by how many weeks until Christmas, or until you want to start shopping.
If you’re big into saving money and battling crazy shoppers on Black Friday, you’ve got about 5 weeks left to save up. That puts your weekly savings at $60. Now is as good a time as any to start saving money. If you’re shopping later, you don’t need to save as much per week
If you really want to get a jump start on planning ahead, start saving money each week starting in July. Put a few bucks aside out of each paycheck, and you’ll be amazed how quickly it adds up. I guess we’ll save that one for next year! 🙂
Personally, I like to over save in case extra expenses creep up or if I forget anything. It’s always good to have a bit of a cushion if you can make it happen.
Save Money With Direct Deposit!
Maybe you’re not a great saver. No problem. There are a few things anyone can do to help save money. My dad is great at saving money for Christmas. For years, he’s created a direct deposit into a savings account. The account is only for Christmas money, and every paycheck $25 or so gets deposited.
The great thing about direct deposit is he doesn’t even see the money in his pay stub, it’s already taken out and his new, lower level of income just becomes the norm. The key point is he stays disciplined and doesn’t touch this money until Christmas shopping starts.
Navigating Family Situations: Do You Need to Buy a Gift For Everyone?
The first thing we decide is who all we’re buying gifts for. In the first three years of our marriage, we aggressively paid off $90,000 in student loan debt. As a result, we didn’t put a high priority on buying a Christmas gift for every single family member.
We have a combined five siblings, four of which are married. Then we have eight total nieces and nephews, and finally both of our parents. If we buy a gift for everyone, that’s 21 presents. Even if we budget on the low end of $20 each, that’s $420 without breaking a sweat.
In the end we only get gifts for our parents, and then we buy a few small gifts to do a White Elephant gift exchange. More on that a little later.
We Budget a Specific Amount for Each Person
I think deciding on a specific dollar amount is so important to avoid blowing the Christmas budget. It’s so easy to get caught up in the holiday buzz and go hog-wild on spending. We actually just started talking about gift ideas, and how much we plan to spend. No final decisions as of yet!
The last few years we only budgeted $25 for each parent. That seems like next to nothing, and to be honest, it was really hard to find awesome gifts that our parents wanted. This year we are debt, free so who knows, we may choose to increase that amount.
Be Clear and Upfront with Family
If you typically buy gifts for everyone, but this year are choosing to stick to a budget, I think that’s awesome! However, your family might be a bit surprised and confused. We’ve found that being upfront, open, and honest is the best medicine.
Our family knew that paying off student loans was a huge priority. It didn’t mean we loved them any less, but we just didn’t show that love through gifts. To be honest, I’m still not sure how our families felt about it, but we did what was best for our family and didn’t apologize for that. We still have a blast every Christmas and spend as much quality time with family as possible.
Handling Gifts for Friends or Work Parties
My job doesn’t have a Christmas party, and I’m not too sad about that because it means I get to spend the extra time with family. I personally don’t feel there is a big need to buy a gift to share at a holiday party.
This is another great chance to set clear boundaries. If you want to build a gift or two into the budget, I think that’s great, but I don’t like spending money out of obligation. Some people might get upset, but again, being open and upfront goes a long way, and I feel like most people can get behind your goals of paying off debt.
Christmas is a Great Time to Get Creative
A few years ago, my entire family felt our budgets get tight around Christmas. Out of that desperation began one of my favorite Christmas traditions. The White Elephant Gift Exchange. Instead of buying a gift for everyone, again, 9 siblings/spouses, everyone bought one pretty cheap gift for a White Elephant exchange.
If you’ve never done White Elephant, it’s awesome. The main purpose is for entertainment, not how awesome the gift is. For that reason, the gifts don’t need to be expensive at all, or even store bought. It’s amazing how feisty and excited people get for something as silly as a set of coasters or an old school Nintendo NES. We’ve exchanged cheap store bought gifts and interesting pre-owned gifts.
Wrapping It Up
Christmas can be a super stressful time of the year, but it doesn’t need to be. Clear boundaries, planning ahead, and discipline to stick to the budget are key to get through the holidays unscathed and debt free.
Let Me Know in the Comments
What do you think? How do you avoid stress and extra spending during the holidays? How do you budget for the holidays?