The holiday season is a meaningful time. It possesses elements of a spiritual nature that can be as tangible as the wrapping paper and the pumpkin pie. When friends and family surround one, the month of December gives the power to believe in the kind of magic that exists not just in gifts and delicacies, but also in humanity. We feel thankful to be alive, grateful to be loved, and oftentimes overwhelmed by the enormity of our to-do-list. When did the pressure to buy the perfect gift overshadow the beautiful holiday season? The larger, more complex question is when did our society begin to justify going deep into debt in order to show our loved ones just how much we love them?
With just a little bit of planning, every individual or family can be prepared for the upcoming holiday gift-giving season. Instead of buying first, paying later, the concept of saving first, buying later should be considered. Follow these steps to a financially stress-free holiday season.
- Begin by making a list of everyone to whom you would like to bestow a gift during the holidays. Be sure to include even the gift certificate for your son’s teacher, the fruitcake for your garbage man, and the rattle for your cousin’s baby.
- Consider your projected spending for each and every person on your list.
- Calculate the total. That amount will be your goal over the next year. Let’s say, for example, that your goal amount for gift-giving is $600.
- The next step is to take that total and divide it by the number of pay periods that are left until the holidays. If you are paid 12 times in a year (monthly), then divide your total by twelve (or the number of months between now and Christmas). If it were currently January, then you would divide $600 by 12 to get $50. If you were paid bi-monthly, then you would divide $600 by 24 to get $25. A semi-weekly pay period (every other week) would mean 26 pay periods in a year. This final amount is what you will need to save each pay period in order to be prepared financially for the hustle and bustle of the gift-buying season.
- Create a special fund where you set aside each payday the required amount. Consider it sacred and to be used only for its intended purpose.
- Once you have successfully used a gifts fund, your next goal should probably be to begin a holiday fund for the parties, decorations, food, and special events that go hand-in-hand with the season of joy (previously known as the season of stress).
Charlie Brown in the Peanuts Christmas holiday classic complains bitterly of the commercial ruin of what is supposed to be a time of celebration. Maybe if he had known that his parents had thoughtfully and strategically set up a system where they could not only survive the holidays but also truly enjoy them, he might have had a holly, jolly Christmas after all.
What is your favorite holiday budgeting tip?