Budgeting for Christmas Before it Matters
Does anyone hear that? The faint sound of the Christmas Creep groaning awake from its six-month slumber. I think I can definitely hear the bellow of a thousand sleigh bells tuning their pitch for their yearly debut; the Christmas Creep has come again. While I don’t condone anyone going out and playing their favorite Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas carols, now is probably a great time to start thinking about Christmas. In fact, budgeting for Christmas NOW makes it less stressful for when December actually rolls around.
I know holiday finances are a huge bane to many of us (myself included). Between unforeseen holiday parties that you have to go to, that extra mouth to feed at the holiday table, or your good cheer that means more charity donations when you visit your supermarket, it’s easy to blow your budget. I don’t take great care to hit my Christmas goal, but I budget and save throughout the year. My budgeting for Christmas consists of whatever is left over each month after all of my expenses are paid – including a 20% savings rate. I will take a look at my month over month savings in October, and if I need to make it a No-Fun November to “catch up” I will, but it seldom happens. However, I know that budget doesn’t work for many of my readers, so I would like to present something a little more concrete.
Set the Budget
For a quick reminder of how to make a budget, check out this article. Otherwise, make a listing of all your expenses and, if possible, also categorize them – Holiday gifts, charity, going out to eat with family, liquor to deal with the family, and so on. Now think of how much you usually spend on Christmas. Personally, I do about $500-550. That includes everything for me. Once you “know your number” start assigning dollar values to each of your categories, and then assign values to each of your line item expenses under your categories. This should provide a great blueprint to budgeting for Christmas.
Hit the Budget
Once all of your numbers are known, look at your current savings – and no, this doesn’t mean your ACTUAL savings that you set aside for emergency and retirement. This is your month after month savings like I use. Subtract that number from your Christmas goal and divide by the number of months to Christmas; if you’re just starting today, it’s going to be 5.5. That’s the number you need to save per month to be on target.
Is that number looking a little formidable? Think about what expenses you can cut. Cooking at home once or twice a month more than usual, lowering your personal spending on things like clothes or going out with friends; check out my four money saving habits whenever I want to splurge. Remember, the holiday season is about selflessness and the spirit of giving to others. By giving up things that make you happy, for others, you will appreciate the gifts you give them far more. You will know that you suffered a little bit just to make them happy and that reminder is what keeps us grounded and humble. The earlier you start cutting things and saving, the less you have to give up though. Keep that in mind. I save all year so I can avoid having a No-Fun July, August, and September to hit my goals.
Think about decluttering and selling some unnecessary items on Ebay or Craigslist. We all have items in our home that haven’t served a purpose in years, but we keep them for no other reason than “I’ve always kept that.” Also, if you’re crafty and like to spend hours on Pintrest, why not sell some homemade arts and crafts for a few bucks to friends? If crafts aren’t your thing, but you like to cook, maybe sell some savory appetizers or sweet desserts around the block. Every dollar counts. If you work shift work like I do, you can also consider working an extra shift every pay period until you reach your goal.
Don’t make the holiday season stressful. Regardless of your faith or belief systems, holidays are supposed to be for fun and family and being more mindful of how you treat others. By budgeting for Christmas early, you’ve taken a large hassle off your mind and can now more adequately focus on what really matters.
Readers, do you save all year or right at the end? Do you usually hit your saving goals or are you scrambling to cut cost? Discuss in the comments below. Also don’t forget to like Cash Flow Celt on Facebook to get all the latest updates from your favorite kilted blogger! If you’re looking for a Christmas idea for your intelligent coworker or uncle, why not consider “CFO Techniques”. You can read my review on it here.