Christmastime – lights and carols, trees and cookies, laughs and memories… mmmm…. I love it all! Unfortunately, in addition to these warm feelings, each December tends to also bring stress, worry and disappointment – specifically in the area of finance.
When the commercials begin to advertise the “perfect” present for each person on my list, I realize how little I actually have to spend on these must-have gifts. Have you been there? You’re gazing at your bank statement, which is about 1/3 the size of the ever growing stream of people you remember need something under your tree, as you feel your heart rate climb. Then there’s the new movie coming out all the cousins, including your kids, have to see! And what about that special Christmas concert date with your spouse? And the new sweaters you need to purchase for Christmas pictures? Sending Christmas cards? Need postage? How about the festive food dishes you are expected to make for all of those parties? And you certainly don’t want to leave only leftover change for charities, church, or special mission projects.
STOP! You may be thinking. It’s only July!! Give me a few more months of peace! Yes, it’s July, which is exactly why I’m bringing it up now. We have five months until the big day, and there is no time like the present to start planning. Set aside the hot temperatures, swimming stuff, and popsicles, and, for just a few minutes, give yourself the gift of a stress-free environment come December.
I found this handy sheet from Simple Mom in October of last year. It helped me tremendously plan for all of my expenses over the holidays. From clothes to cards, food to fun, this budget list is a wonderful tool! You simply plan on how much to spend on each item, add the total, then divide by the number of weeks (or months) until you begin your spending. Viola! You now know how much to save between now and Christmas. The best part is that you have the money you need before you need it. The sheet is quite extensive, and you may not need every idea listed. The only item I would add is for travel expenses over the holidays (especially important with gas and plane fares rising!).
Now imagine a different scenario: It’s November 25, the day after Thanksgiving. You have one month until Christmas. You look into your bank account (or, even better, an envelope that you’ve saved cash in), and you see a nice lump of money. You already have written down how much you can spend and have saved for each item you may need over the coming month. You don’t need the credit card; you won’t be in debt. And you certainly won’t be in a panic. You smile and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate with your family knowing this Christmas will be one of less stress because you took time to plan ahead!
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