Photo by Alenxandre Duret-Lutz
I‘ll be quite honest – if you haven’t started saving yet for Christmas, it might be a bit challenging. BUT – it can be done. You truly don’t need to rely on credit to have a good season.
However, if you’re late jumping on the “Christmas planning ahead bandwagon,” let it serve as a great fire to get you going for the next holiday season. When you save a little every month all year, the Christmas season truly becomes something worth anticipating. As Dave Ramsey says, Christmas is not an emergency – it falls on December 25 every year, so you know it’s coming.
It can sneak up on you when you’re not looking, however, so join me in looking a few months down the road, so that you don’t panic when it’s time to spend money.
I’m not going to harp on how much money you should be spending on what – every family is different. But this is Simple Mom, after all, so I’m obviously going to advocate keeping the holidays simple. And since I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, my Christmas season revolves around celebrating his birth – and I want to do whatever I can to keep my family’s perspective on him.
This week, if you haven’t yet, sit down with a cup of coffee and jot down what you think your holiday season will cost. It can be done a number of ways, but here’s a number of the most common line items:
- misc. decor (ornaments, candles, wreath, etc.)
- craft supplies
FOOD (not including regular groceries):
- cookie ingredients
- misc. dessert ingredients
- Christmas day dishes
- cards and/or envelopes
- paper for family newsletter
- other relatives
- dining out
Please note – I am NOT saying you should be budgeting money for each of these categories. Not by a long shot – I’d say that we’ve personally budgeted for about half of this. But I did want you to be aware of all the little things that can really add up, and if you don’t plan ahead for them, they might knock on your wreath-adorned door when you least expect it.
Once you come up with a number for your line items, add up the total, and divide by the number of months left until Christmas. If you’re doing this now for the first time, that would be three – October, November, and December. That is the amount you need to budget starting this month to meet your Christmas budget.
What To Do If Your Numbers Aren’t Pretty
If seeing this on paper scares you, there are two options – you can decrease your expenses, or you can increase your income.
Decrease Your Expenses
As I mentioned, you really don’t need to spend money on all this stuff. Every family is different, but I think we can all agree that extravagant spending doesn’t make the holidays any more special. How much you’ll spend has nothing to do with how much fun your season will be, and the amount you spend on gifts certainly has nothing to do with how much you love the gifts’ recipient.
More than anything, consider curbing your gift giving. Many extended families draw names, where everyone is only responsible for giving one gift. I think that’s a fabulous idea. Many also don’t give to each other at all, or only give to the children – also a smart move. I mean really – how many random knickknacks do your parents need? Embrace simple living, and express this in your gift giving. (We’ll discuss some simple gift ideas closer to Christmas.)
Also, I recommend setting a price limit on gifts, then searching for the right gift within that budget. Instead of being pre-sold on that $75 sweater for your sister, then stretching your budget to make it work, decide the maximum amount you’ll spend on siblings. If that sweater is just too much, then let it go. If you know ahead of time that your max is $20, you’ll need to find something in your price range.
Make most of your decorations, when you’re able. Instead of spending a pretty penny on more ornaments, look for ways to beautifully create some at home, and get your kids involved as well. Also look outside for nature to provide some gorgeous, free decor you can use indoors. (Later in the season, I’ll post some ideas and some great links around the internet for beautiful, homemade ideas.)
Increase Your Income
The other way you can make your budget work is to bring in more money. There are a myriad of ways you can do this, of course, but a simple option is to get a holiday job.
I’ve done this for about seven years now, working as a gift-wrapper at Williams-Sonoma. I love this job. I’m not able to do it this year, but when I can, I truly enjoy working there, and not just for the added income. It’s a great company, and the working environment is positive, so it actually lifts my Christmas spirits. And I love wrapping presents, so it fuels my creative drive. One of the best perks is a really great employee discount, which is helpful for the gift-giving season.
Most stores hire holiday help, and all of them have different expectations, pay rates, job roles, and employee discounts. But almost all of them start their holiday hiring now. If you want to do this, I suggest asking around sometime this month – don’t wait until Thanksgiving. The jobs will be filled then, mostly by college students home on holiday break.
Finally, I’ve created another free PDF download – a simple worksheet to help you budget for Christmas, if you haven’t yet (click on the thumbnail to see an enlarged image). You can download it here, and I’ve also included it in my downloads page at the top of this site. Perhaps it can be useful to you – let me know what you think.
How do you budget for Christmas – are you financially ready this year? Have you ever gotten a holiday job? I’d love to hear your great ideas.