Smart Spending

Controlling Christmas Spending – Budgeting Your Time and Your Money

We spread ourselves and our pocketbook so thin with our Christmas spending that it leads to a lot of unneeded stress on ourselves and our budget. We do not plan to go over budget; it just happens one last gift and impulse buy at a time. That’s just it. We do not plan.

Parties, traveling, gift buying, decorating, baking and cooking—all of these take time and money to achieve. Sit down and realistically plan what Christmas spending is and is not doable before you commit yourself or your money to doing anything else.

First determine your overall budget; how much spendable income after paying the bills each month plus anything you managed to put aside for Christmas spending do you have?  Divide this figure by what percentage you plan to spend in each of the major categories: Presents, parties, decorating, travel, charities and food—and then find creative ways to stick to it.

Review the list and determine where you can cut back or come up with an alternative strategy.  Determine what is and is not more important: an extra string of lights, having a party or a nice Christmas meal?  Instead of springing for everything on the menu, is there a way you can delegate some of the cost and cooking time to others?

Would your favorite charity be just as happy with a gift of your time later in the year as a lump sum you can ill afford during the holidays?  Do you really need yet another Christmas sweater or Christmas tie to add to the growing number hanging in your closet that you only wear once a year?

Know that unless you take steps to prevent it now, fully 25 percent of your Christmas spending will be eaten up by non-gift related expenditures for decorating, greeting cards, parties and clothing.  Do you automatically pick up more wrapping paper and ribbon before checking your stash leftover from the year before?  Are you a sucker for this year’s latest Christmas decoration?  Do you go out shopping for gifts or food blindly buying without having a plan or a clue as to how much you can reasonably expect to be able to pay for without bringing out the credit cards?

The last thing you want to do is to be paying for your lack of planning next year by paying high interest on credit cards.  Back to the plan: can’t afford to send Christmas cards?  Don’t send them, cut your list or find a cheaper alternative.  Surely, there is someone on your gift-giving list that would welcome the chance to cut back on their own list that you can come to some kind of money saving agreement with.  Is there anyway to get creative with your gift buying by either utilizing your own talents or even a friend’s talents for performing duties you can do in exchange?

That is the purpose of having a plan—determining what Christmas spending you realistically are able to afford, what you are willing to pass up in order to be able to spend in areas that are more important to you and then finding a creative way to achieve your goals of a debt and guilt free holiday without stress.

In future articles, I will be discussing ways to take the stress out of managing your time and your money by Making a List and Checking it Twice, Concentrate on Spending Less and Enjoying More, Make a Game Out of Finding Ways to Save Money on Holiday Spending and How to Recognize and Avoid Holiday Scams.