It may sound crazy, but right now is the BEST time to plan and prepare for Christmas! Like it or not, the most expensive day of the year is only 23 weeks away, and if you want to start the New Year stress-free, you need to start saving now.
Americans will likely spend over $1 trillion collectively on Christmas this year. Individually, consumers plan to spend over $935 on gifts (and about $140 of that will be spent on themselves). Without an air-tight budget in place, it’s more than easy to fall prey to the snazzy advertising and overspending trends. Here’s how your financial Christmas in July will help you prepare and plan the best Christmas ever – stress-free, and on-budget!
Make a Budget
This step goes two ways – you first need a budget to see how much you can spend on gifts, and you need a budget in order to save to buy those gifts.
If you already have a budget, just add a Christmas spending category. Treat it like you would any other expense or savings category, and be disciplined to build it now.
If you don’t already have a budget, now is the perfect time to make one! Include Christmas gifts as a savings goal as you continue to save in general.
Christmas gifts should not, at any time, prevent you from saving, giving, or paying your other bills. If saving for gifts now is putting a strain on your budget, make some adjustments and decrease the amount you are going to spend on gifts.
Make a List
Physically write out a list of everyone you know you have to buy a gift for – aunts, uncles, nephew’s new fiancees, etc. – and decide how much you can spend on each person, based on your budget from Step 1.
It’s usually a good idea to budget for more people than you can think of, because there will inevitably be Christmas parties that come up or extra guests that you’ll need to purchase a gift for.
Add a note in your phone with a copy of the list so you have it wherever you go, or keep a copy in your car.
Make a Plan
You can start brainstorming gift ideas and asking family members for suggestions early. Try to decide when and where you can go shopping for all of your gifts in advance. This way, you can take advantage of sales as they come up and avoid the tempting ads and overwhelming crowds come Christmastime.
Maybe it works best for you to buy one gift each pay period from now until Christmas – it’s 5 months away, which, for a lot of people, equates to 10 pay periods. Depending on the length of your list, let your pay schedule drive your shopping schedule.
Planning in advance will also allow you to do some research to find the best deals. Many stores hike prices in order to have a “big sale” close to the holidays, but if you know the competitive prices, these tactics won’t work on you. You’ll have a better selection of gifts now since shelves won’t be picked over or specific to Christmas-themes, so shop sales as you see them.
Crown’s founder, Larry Burkett, would say that, “Creativity blossoms when economy demands.” If you have a tight budget for Christmas gifts this year, let your creativity take over! You can be creative both with the gifts you give and how you pay for them.
One of the best parts of Christmastime is being able to give generously. Think through some generosity goals that you want to reach this winter – maybe it’s funding gifts for another family, buying Christmas dinner groceries for someone else, or volunteering your time.
Don’t let the Christmas season go by without experiencing the joy that comes with giving!
And starting even now in July, keep your eyes, your heart, and your finances focused on the one who gave it all. By preparing and planning now, you’ll avoid a lot of stress come November or December and will have more freedom to celebrate the birth of our Savior!
A great gift to give yourself or a loved one is the online MoneyLife Personal Finance Study. It’s a 7-week, self-paced course that will help you understand what God really says about your money. Use the last few weeks of summer to start the path to freedom!
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