Managing your Christmas Budget

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It’s not really a big surprise.  Christmas rolls around every year.  And it’s always on December 25th.

There is nothing tricky about trying to remember when it is. Unlike Thanksgiving- is it the 3rd Thursday of November, or the 4th? I can never remember.

So, knowing this- why do we always seem caught off guard, like it just creeped up on us?

Why don’t we budget for this ahead of time?  Why do we wait until we’re inundated with TV commercials, radio commercials, billboards, online pop up ads on our phones, and companies just generally banging us over the head with messages to buy their products?

Maybe we should talk about managing your Christmas budget, and not breaking the bank.

Saving Money

There are several ways you can plan for Christmas throughout the year. One way is to set up an account, and then take the dollar amount you want to spend, divide it by 12 months (or 26 pay periods if you’re paid bi-weekly), and start setting the money aside every paycheck.

You could also do this the old-fashioned way. Get a big jar, throw it in the top cupboard of your kitchen, and start putting the cash in there each week.

Some couples may have a spouse that receives an annual raise or bonus each year. If this is the case in your household, you could just take that money and put it away towards Christmas for the following year.

All of these are great ideas.  You just need to find the one that works for you.

Make a List

If you make a list, check it twice.  And then stick to it.

The easiest way to save money, whether your Christmas shopping, or grocery shopping, is to go in with a list. This way you know exactly what you are going to get, about how much it will cost, and if you’re diligent, you don’t stray from this list.  Going in this way really goes far in preventing impulse buys.

Start with all of the people you need to buy presents for. This can be immediate family members, grandparents and in-laws.  Don’t forget to add in the babysitter, hair stylist, and maybe even your kids’ teachers.  If you do this ahead of time, it helps you from forgetting anyone.  It also helps you decide who is maybe more of a Christmas card recipient than gift recipient for the year.

Once you’ve got your list together, make sure you share it with your spouse or partner. Together, you can come up with a reasonable budget for it.

No one wants a huge surprise or a credit card hangover in January.  Being transparent is a good way to make your holidays less stressful for you both.

Also- give your significant-other some credit.  They may not help very much with the shopping- but they can have some good ideas for some of the harder to buy-for people on your list.  It can also be a good way to make sure you didn’t forget anyone.

Start Early

Nothing leads to over-spending like waiting to the last minute.  It’s when you’re stressed or rushed that you’re most likely to blow your budget present shopping.

Does this mean you have to pull yourself out of bed at 4 AM to go stand in line with a bunch of strangers for Black Friday?  No.  Actually, I strongly recommend against shopping on Black Friday. I’ll save this topic for when we get closer to Thanksgiving again, but it’s usually not the deal a lot of people think it is.

If you do your Christmas shopping in advance you won’t get stuck with rush shipping fees.  You also won’t be yelling at Amazon for not playing the perfect Santa and getting your packages to you late.

Christmas is only a week away, but it’s not too late to be managing your Christmas budget.  Use these tips to minimize the stress while you wrap up your shopping list, and then go home and relax with some (possibly spiked) eggnog.

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