It’s October and majority of us are starting to think about Christmas. This time of year is truly the most wonderful time of the year, but often the Christmas hangover can be brutal. We let our emotions “purchase” gifts, all with good intentions, but we’re left with empty checking accounts and over spent credit cards. An absolute horrible way to start a new year.
When you’re starting behind the game, owing money for purchases already made, your year can start off extremely stressful. Or maybe you escaped without going into debt, but you still feel the sting of spending a ton on gifts and other things that come along with the holidays. We NEVER go into debt for Christmas, but we often do feel the sting of spending so much money. But when I follow these steps and prepare for Christmas, it lowers our costs, while still being great!
I’d thought I’d share some ways to prepare for the holidays in order to have a debt free Christmas.
1. Realize the true meaning of Christmas.
I know this sounds cliché, but sadly, I find myself having to remember why we celebrate Christmas in the first place when I get caught up in the hustle and bustle. For us, Christmas is a religious holiday and celebrated because of the birth of Christ. For others, you might celebrate this time of year for other religious reasons or simply as a cultural holiday. Regardless, for us, we continue to tell ourselves gift giving and parties, while great, are not the reason for the season. My goal is for my son to know the reason we celebrate Christmas. We’re not opposed to Santa and gifts, as a matter of fact we love the fun in them, but I hope we put more emphasis on the miracle that was Jesus’ birth vs. what presents Santa is going to bring. #preachingtothechior
2. Talk with spouse.
This is probably the most important step in prepping wisely for Christmas. Decide TOGETHER what you would like to spend, who you will buy for, and who will buy which gifts. If you’re on two different pages with your budget or ideas for Christmas, you have no idea what the other person is spending. Not doing this is a sure way to start an argument at the beginning of the year. Out of all the steps listed here, this one will probably be the hardest to do and agree on (at least it can be for us), especially if your spouse and you do not have the same ideas on money, specifically gift giving (which is most likely the case in majority of marriages). Talk it out. Come up with a plan.
3. Talk to your family.
Make sure you know the plan for gift giving in your family, specifically extended family. Knowing how both sides of the family do gifts will help you determine who you will buy for and how much you will want to spend. My side of the family is pretty big (4 kids, each with significant others, and multiple grandkids), so we have to decide how we’re going to do Christmas. Usually, we buy for couples and get a small gift for the kids, and then get my parents each something. This year we are looking to try and change it up to minimize the cost and focus less on gifts. We have yet to come up with a plan that we like though. Regardless, we will have a budget for each person/couple on both sides of our family. It’s important to note that you DO NOT have to buy for family members how they buy for you. For example, if my brother and his wife want to spend $50 on a gift for Ryan and I, but we can only afford $25 for them (or even a simple homemade DIY gift), then we shouldn’t feel bad about that and will stick to our budget. We are not going to go in debt in order to “keep up.”
4. Decide on a Budget.
In addition to talking to your spouse, this step is VERY IMPORTANT. This will vary for everyone depending on your budget. For us, we have relied on Ryan’s reffing money in November or December for our Christmas budget, so we know roughly what we can spend. This way we don’t have to dip into our mandatory expenses or fret about where it will come from. This year, he might not be reffing before Christmas due to an injury, so we will need to come up with another plan (read #5 for how to save for it). Also check #6 on how you can come up with a budget. Regardless, have a budget before you start making purchases.
5. Save money.
We get significant cash back from our credit card each year. We usually like to spend this on house projects or vacations, but we might use it for Christmas instead this year. Another option is to spend less from here to December and use part of that money for Christmas. You could also do side jobs to earn some extra cash before the holidays. It’s best to budget Christmas THROUGHOUT the year as you would your home property tax. If your budget for Christmas was $1200, you would stash away $100 a month in a savings account. Even if you did $50 a month, that’s $600 you’d have by December. It should be treated as an annual expense similar to taxes and insurance. I know that’s not very helpful at this exact moment in October, but this is a great tip for the following year.
6. Make a spreadsheet to stay organized.
This is actually my favorite part. I create a spreadsheet in Excel with everyone’s name that is getting a gift from us (this includes teachers, neighbors, friends, etc.). Then a space for the gift idea (as well as a space for the actual gift we buy), and then spaces for projected cost, actual total cost (I have a few lines for this if I bought multiple things for one person), and the name of the gift. Below is an example of our spreadsheet. I had to remove half of the people we give to so I could capture the main categories for you to see. Click on it to enlarge.
7. Research gift ideas.
I have found that researching gift ideas and finding them online can save me time in the stores, as well as finding a good deal. I plan to use Amazon Prime a lot this year since I have free shipping (and I need it to make me feel like it was worth the purchase) Gift giving is one of my love languages and I really enjoy it, so this process is important to me. This is also really helpful if you are on a tight budget. Pinterest is a great resource for frugal gift ideas. If you find yourself in the store looking for gift ideas, your budget can fly off the wall. At least online you can “walk away” and come back later after you’ve slept on it (which I recommend if you can). When you’re in the store, you might feel the need to get it anyway in case you don’t see it again.
Another reason I like to research gift ideas, is to gather up as many ideas as I can and go out to the stores and make the purchases (if I can’t buy them online or I don’t want to spend money on shipping). Shipping can add a lot to your costs, so this is a great way to eliminate those and find the gifts online and just make a Christmas errand day to pick them up. I plan on sharing a post with your guys soon on some good gift ideas (if you have any ideas, especially frugal, please share in the comments). I’ll start compiling a list to share.
Remember to also include “other” costs in your Christmas budget:
I hope these were helpful and I’d love to hear some of the following tips/ideas from you guys…
Any frugal (or simple) gift ideas (for anyone)?
Do you do anything creative for gift giving in your family, whether it’s large or not?
How do you save for Christmas?