5 Rules for Planning Your Most Affordable Christmas Ever
Welcome to October! Before you know it, Christmas will be here.
Personally, I think that the better prepared you are for Christmas, the more likely you are to enjoy it. Over the last few years our family has developed some internal rules that help us make decisions regarding Christmas.
1. Give what you have, not what you will have or wish you had
Honestly, I cannot identify with people who buy all of their Christmas gifts on credit. For years and years, I've known of families who are trying to get out of credit card debt who continue to spend more than they can afford on Christmas gifts. This may make for a decent December, but a horrible January.
If you've ever read or watched a version of A Christmas Carol, then one of your greatest fears may be that people are going to look at you and think you are just like Scrooge. As a result, we give what we do not have and buy gifts on credit.
In your Christmas planning, you must establish boundaries.
- Financial Boundaries (often called making a budget) — How much money do you have to spend on Christmas?
- Scheduling boundaries — How many Christmas parties can you logically attend?
- Hosting boundaries — How many people can you feasibly host?
As a result, 'no' must become a part of your Christmas vocabulary. For many, Christmas is about a time of over-commitment, so it is essential that we know our limits.
2. Giving a gift does not require buying a gift
You can communicate love for someone by giving them something that does not cost a penny. Somehow we've muddled love and spending together. As a result, we think those who spend money on us love us.
For the last few years my family (wife and the kids) have exchanged homemade Christmas gifts. Those gifts are some of the most valuable items in my office. Have you ever heard the question "What would you save if your house was burning down?" The things I'd try and get would include the silhouette of my kids, the hand-print card, and the "we love you daddy" scrapbook page. (See also: 25 Gifts You Can Make Today)
3. You must make a list, but you might need to check it more than twice
When I've written about how to make a Christmas budget, I suggest that people write a long list of everyone they want to give a gift to.
At the very top of the page, write your total Christmas budget. If, for example, you plan to spend $500 for Christmas, then write that at the top of the page. Now allocate that $500 in portions to each person who will get a paid gift like a store bought item or a holiday gift card.
Now review the names on your list and write one thing you can give each person. It might be a card, a homemade gift, or something you can give with your time, energy, or talents. Some people may just get a thoughtful card, others a gift that doesn't cost money, and others a gift that requires money — but everyone can get a gift.
4. Start saving money n-o-w
If you haven't already, you'll soon start noticing all the Christmas decorations in stores (crazy, I know).
Even though those decorations are being put up outrageously early, they can be a positive mental trigger. Christmas is coming. If you don't start saving now then how can you possibly have an all-cash Christmas?
You might consider taking the total dollar amount you have to spend on Christmas and dividing that number by the number of months between now and Christmas. Since it is October, you would take your Christmas budgeted amount and divide it by three. Thus, a $500 budget would require you to save about $165 each month between now and Christmas. Is that possible? If not, you may need to decrease your budget.
5. Be watching for sales today
Time is always a friend of a savvy shopper.
Stores almost always have sales, but they don't put everything on sale at the same time (typically). This means that if you start watching for sales today, you can snag a pair of running shoes for junior today, and then in a few weeks they might have a video game on sale. Far too many of us wait until the last week and are forced to pay full price for everything. But since you've already got your list, your budget, and you're even setting aside money, you can start taking advantage of sales now.
What tips do you have for making this your most affordable Christmas ever?