With less than 200 days (185, to be exact) until Christmas it is comforting to know that our budget debacles of previous years will not repeat themselves. For the last several years, the weeks leading up to Christmas were often spent hunting last-minute gifts while trying not to disrupt the delicate balance of our household budget. In the early years of our marriage we frequently turned to credit cards to foot holiday bills, but fortunately we recognized that was not a sustainable habit for financial success. For the last few years we have budgeted small amounts from the paychecks leading up to Christmas, but that means several trips to stores or rounds of online buying, and doesn’t exactly help spread Holiday cheer.
Christmas Savings Fund to the Rescue
A couple days after Christmas last year we decided to do something that up to that point we had never been able to do–save for an event and not touch the money for another purpose. We opened a savings account at our bank (I have since moved it to ING Direct–here is one of my ING Direct reviews), and scheduled transfers in the amount of $25 per paycheck, or $50 per month, to our “Christmas Savings” account. Next year, when we are ready to do our Christmas shopping, we will transfer the money to our primary checking account and take care of all our Christmas gift purchases at once.
What About Left-Overs?
If you are as frugal with your gift purchases as you are with your own purchases throughout the year, you will likely have some amount left over in your Christmas savings account. With these surplus funds you could get a head start on funding next year’s Christmas savings account, make an extra payment on debt, send a little to the kids’ college funds, or my personal favorite–give it away to someone who needs it more than you.
After reading the inspiring book about the life of Larry Stewart, Santa’s Secret, our family is beginning a tradition of giving away $100 to a complete stranger during the Christmas season. This year, we are planning to go out for breakfast on the morning of Christmas Eve and leave a $100 tip to our server. You never know what kind of impression such a random act of kindness may have on someone, and their family. Imagine a struggling single mom working at a Waffle House on Christmas Eve, wondering how she will fill the stockings for her little ones at home. That $100 could mean the difference in her kids continuing belief in the spirit of Christmas, or disappointment on Christmas morning. For us, that is what Christmas is all about!
When the temperatures outside is approaching 100 degrees it is hard to even think about Christmas some six months away. However, now is the perfect time to start planning for the expense! By spreading out the costs of presents and gift-giving throughout the year, you will feel less of a pinch around the holidays and be able to enjoy a debt-free, worry-free Christmas season.
photo by: krisdecurtis