Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thirty-one Days ~ Day Eight - Christmas Budget

This is pretty important area, money. I hate the words budget and limits but we need accountability plain and simple {or maybe it’s just me}. This is an area that I have seldom had a lot of success but am hopeful that this year can be different.

If you don’t have a budget now is the time to establish one. Nothing can ruin Christmas as fast as realizing that you’ve spent too much money.

Begin by determining your spending limits.

Be realistic if you aren’t paying with cash you will have credit card bills come January.  Maybe you can review last years spending. Really stop to consider all of your holiday spending needs. Don’t ignore gifts you are sharing the cost of with others like classmates or family.

A homemade gift or store bought?

When you are budgeting remember money for supplies for gifts you will make as well as gifts of money. This will allow you to better shop sales for gifts or supplies to make gifts.

You may also need to factor in other expenses into your budget like entertaining costs, babysitters, food, decorations, Christmas cards, postage or shipping cost and family outings i.e. tickets to shows maybe. Will you need to factor in any travel costs? ~ We will talk more about some of these areas a bit later in our 31 days.

Next create your list. Who will you be buying for?

Family, friends, neighbors, teachers, hostess gifts and any other gift needs you may have. Don’t forget gifts for people that help you throughout the year like babysitters. The sooner you identify who is on your list the sooner you can begin to plan. How much will you spend for each gift? By doing this you will be less likely to forget someone and have to rush out to buy something and risk over spending or giving a gift you really don’t like. This will also help you take advantage of sales when you know what you are looking for and what you can afford to spend. Will you be going in on some gifts with someone else? My children are on a gymnastic team and we go in with teammates for our coaches’ gifts, but I always seem to forget to add this one in.  

We have a few couple friends that we use to exchange gifts with, now we go out to a nice dinner together and catch up, no gifts just time for each other. Yes we are still spending money, but there is no stress of shopping and dealing with malls and all that comes with them; we’re creating memories and strengthening our relationships.

Every year I try and pretty much every year I fail to stick to my budget. In my defense our sons birthday is December 28th so I’m buying for both and tend to forget that some of what I’m buying is for his birthday, so I go get more for my daughter, to balance it out. It’s a vicious cycle and I one I’ve repeated often.

One area that we do get some relief in is family gifts. Several years ago money was very tight and our families decided to forgo gifts for the adults and only buy for the kids, our nieces & nephews.  Then we would stretch our money by getting a gift for our parents together or giving gifts like current photos or photo books of the kids. We have kept that tradition; it means fewer gifts to buy and less stress in the shopping and money department.

Also look at what or how you have bought for your family and friends in the past. Do you go overboard? Why? I would take a good look at that and see if you need to improve in this area.

In the past we have gone above and beyond for our kids, but in recent years we have tried to scale back. They now are allowed to ask for 5 things with the knowledge that they may or may not get all of them. Almost always there is a gift we can’t afford, don’t want them to have or it’s sold out. We usually aim to get 2 or 3 of the 5 gifts they have asked for and then add 1 or 2 items that we want them to have so there is some surprise to Christmas morning.

Do you have a gift closet {I had never heard of this until my mother-in-law}? If so start there. You may have some great deals you picked up months ago just sitting there. These could save you time & money. You could use these as your hostess gifts or your “just in case” gift for someone. Avoid impulse shopping if at all possible and when you have completed your list STOP. Don’t go shopping, don’t surf the web and maybe even throw out the catalogs or at least put them up.

Find a way to keep yourself on track with these perhaps some kind of computer program, app, spreadsheet or even just a notebook is better than nothing. Devise a way to keep up with your receipts, you may need to return an item or activate a warranty. This will also help you with planning next year. When you have a plan and have taken the time to budget for these you’ll be less likely you blow your budget and be depressed when bills begin to roll in in January. It’s just not worth the extra stress.

Remember above all else, Christmas isn’t about more, how much more can you spend or do. It’s not about the all of the ideas & stuff that the stores want to sell you. It’s about the birth of Christ. Give your family time not stuff and money. We try harder each year for it to be more about being with each other than what we can give each other. Creating memories and traditions over adding to our debt or our clutter.  Give gifts of love and kindness where and when you can. 

No comments: