Okay, Christmas is right around the corner – 56 days to be exact – but who is counting, right? I am looking at our list and checking it twice to make sure that our budget will cover all we need to do this holiday season. Budget? Who budgets for Christmas? We do. Starting the year before, we make a plan for the following Christmas. By looking at what worked and what didn’t last Christmas, we are able to determine what we will need or want for the upcoming years’ Christmas budget. Here are the steps that we take.
We make a list of every person we need to buy gifts for and every event that we can think of that is going to cost money. Include all relatives that you normally buy for but also include other gift recipients like teachers, bus drivers, babysitters, etc. Events that are on the list include pictures with Santa, riding the Pink Pig (an Atlanta Christmas tradition), parties and the like. Also be sure to account for travel expenses, shipping expenses, Christmas cards and any special Christmas giving.
Now that you have your list go through and give an estimated amount that each item will cost. Even if you are not exactly sure, at least give it some kind of dollar figure.
Total up the entire cost of Christmas and divide by 12. This is the most important step that we take to make Christmas both stress and debt free. We save all year long for the expenses that will occur at Christmas. For us, we typically save $100/month for. This goes each and every month into a special savings account that we have designated for Christmas. The money does not get used for anything else so that it is waiting for us when the holidays roll around.
Now, here comes the fun part. I use several survey and search sites through the year and save my rewards or points from those sites to help offset Christmas. The ones I use the most are Swagbucks.com, MyPoints.com, e-rewards.com, MySurvey.com and mycokerewards.com. With the points or rewards that I collect on these websites, I am able to normally cover at least 3 presents on my list at no cost to me. I could probably do more than that but I have been known to use my rewards during the year if I am in a pickle and need a no cost birthday present or two. Most of the rewards that I redeem are in gift card form from various stores including Barnes & Noble, Starbucks, Gap, Amazon, Blockbuster and other popular retailers. I treat this like a little game I play with myself to see how many points or rewards I can rack up all year long. You will be surprised that it doesn’t take long to accumulate enough points to get a nice little gift card and it doesn’t cost a dime.
One of the biggest money saving tips that I use at Christmas is to use my envelope system at Christmas. I make an envelope for each Christmas category (gifts, events, travel, etc) and put the money allotted for those expenses in that envelope. Then I attach my list to the envelope so I know how much is assigned to each item from the list. As I spend from the list, the money comes from the envelope. When the envelope is empty, then the spending stops. Using this method, there is no after Christmas credit bills to dread or regrets on how much was spent.
Christmas can be a fun and pleasurable time if you plan and prepare. Go grab a piece of paper and start a plan today. It is never too late (or too early) to start!