I know; Christmas is probably the last thing on your mind right now. It’s 11 months away. However, by the time most Christmas prep articles come out, it’s too late to prepare adequately. What I’ve discovered in my own life is that the most helpful steps toward a financially sane Christmas begin in January.
1 – Create your own Christmas club
Do you remember the Christmas club savings accounts that banks and credit unions used to offer? Actually, they still exist, but they’re not nearly as popular as they used to be. And too bad because it’s a great idea to set aside money all year for the spending you will surely do at Christmas.
But nothing is stopping you from creating your own Christmas club. While we don’t call it that, our family has been following the principles of a Christmas club for many years—although not just for Christmas gifts.
Each month, we transfer money from checking to savings for all of our periodic bills and expenses—one-twelfth of the annual cost of our vehicle insurance, life insurance, vacations, and yes, Christmas gifts. When the bill or expense needs to be paid, it’s a wonderful thing to have the money available in savings.
Don’t mingle this money with your checking account money. Mingled money leaks. But money set aside for a specific purpose tends to get used for that purpose.
2 – Set your shopping on ‘simmer’
Many of us have experienced Christmas shopping as a frantic, last minute chore. Even though Christmas occurs on the same day every year, some years we’re so busy that it seems to sneak up on us. So we fight the crowds, or we have to pay extra for shipping because we started our online shopping so late. There’s not much joy in that.
A better idea is to take a much slower, relaxed approach. Make a list of people you plan to buy for this year right now. Then jot down some ideas of what they might like and be on the lookout for sales on those items throughout the year.
One year, we talked about buying an American Girl doll for our daughter. Such dolls cost over $100. Early in the year, we attended a fund-raising event and saw a new, in-the-box American Girl doll up for bid in the silent auction. It had the same hair and eye color as our daughter (important factors, I’ve learned). Since we had already talked about buying such a gift, we went for it and ended up with the winning bid.
It wasn’t a huge bargain, but apparently this doll was no longer available from the manufacturer and we paid a little less than its original price.
I’m trying to do this more and more—be on the lookout for deals on Christmas gifts throughout the year.
Of course, exchanging gifts isn’t the most important aspect of Christmas. However, being able to do so without over-spending or over-stressing definitely enhances the joy of the holiday.
How do you keep Christmas gift giving manageable?