I ran into some friends at Target today. We exchanged greetings and briefly chatted about why we would possibly want to be out shopping AGAIN–after all, wasn’t Christmas here JUST YESTERDAY and shouldn’t we be finished seeing the inside of a store for oooooo 30 days at least?!?! I would think that I’d be ready to hang up the Santa cap for another 338 days…BLACK FRIDAY 2019 ANYONE???? Well, it got me to thinking about the way my household prepares for Christmas each year might be something I could talk about. Saving money and motherhood are probably two topics I get asked the most about (not that people are bombarding my front door to ask questions, mind you) so I thought I’d share what seems to be working well for our family. Now keep in mind that when I share our story, it by no means is the ONLY way to plan for a successful holiday and keep financial woes minimal but this is just what works for us. As you read the method to our madness, I would like you to take in and tweak what might work well for your family in your unique situation but THROW OUT whatever doesn’t work for you. There’s a saying I like to remember and morbid as it may be, it definitely gets the point across: There’s more than one way to skin a cat. First of all, who thinks this stuff up? And secondly, what did the cute kitties do to him??? I digress, so here’s what I’m doing to prepare for a successful Christmas 2019.
*Before I get to the nitty gritty, I’d like to point out that our family is by no means minimalist but definitely intentional about how we spend our resources for the holidays. What is a priority to me might not be a priority for you and THAT’S OKAY! Personal finance is just that…PERSONAL…even around the holidays*
1. Start NOW!
One of my favorite life coaches, Tracey Hensel, has a saying that I’ve heard frequently over time but still have yet to find the first person to say it:
***Failing to plan is planning to fail***
Um, OUCH! Let’s face it, there’s no use in mincing words here. Is it possible to have a nice Christmas without planning every.single.detail? Sure is! But how is my stress level? Can my holiday experience be EVEN BETTER if I take a bit of time this week to at least create a vague vision of what I’d like my family’s experience to be?
For our family, the overall vision is to have a restful day at home, doing whatever we want and whenever we want. Years ago, Joel and I decided that we wanted to be with our immediate family on the holidays. We love holidays where we are able stay in our jammies all day long so we make sure that all of our activities are finished BEFORE the holiday begins.
This might not be your vision for your family and that’s okay! My oldest son (21-years-old) thrives on running around from house to house to visit extended family and spend time with his girlfriend and her family as well. He plans the order of his stops and approximately how long he can spend at each stop to visit with each family. We are supportive of him finding his groove and I rather admire the sheer metabolism it takes to do so. I don’t have that much pep in my step but more power to him!
2. Make a budget
Oh, Lord! Did I just lose you? I think I just heard about a dozen free spirited people sigh in boredom while rolling their eyes and getting ready to click the “close” button. But hear me out people.
One of the reasons Christmas used to be stressful for me and my family is because it never seemed like there was enough money. I’d end up picking up anything and everything that was cheap, even if my kids weren’t really interested in the product. At least there would be SOMETHING under the tree, right? Like that one Christmas when Duane got a Stitch (Lilo and Stitch) stuffed animal because it was on clearance at the Disney Store, even though he wasn’t interested in the movie. I would love to say that this was a one-in-a-lifetime happening but instead I’ll just insert a facepalm here!
So, for sanity’s sake, take a moment to estimate how much you spent this past year on presents, extra food, company white elephant gifts, cards, postage, etc. Now, break it down by how many paychecks you want to contribute and voila…there’s your budget!
3. Have a place for your holiday savings
Either envelope, separate bank account, a tin buried in the back yard, or even a trusted friend who won’t hand the money over even if you beg and plead, find a place to stash your cash. Personally, I don’t do well with having a significant amount of cash in an envelope in our safe. I love the idea but I know my limitations and all too often, the money will be nickel-and-dimed until it’s gone. But I know many people who work well with the envelope system for Christmas savings. For our family, I opened a Holiday Club Account at our local credit union. The stipulation is that I have to deposit any dollar amount in the account every month and they won’t release the funds until October 1 of each year. Personally, this works well with me as I don’t shop throughout the year anymore. For 2019, I don’t plan on shopping for Christmas gifts until November and be finished by early December.
Alternatively, if you’re not really into the cash system and waiting til later in the year to shop doesn’t work for you, consider pre-paying a card or buy gift cards to your favorite places where you KNOW you’ll spend money while holiday shopping. A place I like to “stash” money is on Amazon. I will use my Ibotta rebates and Fetch reward points to load a few dollars here and there to my Amazon account so that I have a nice little credit on my account when I shop. But if you do shop year-round on Amazon, be sure to check the method of payment so that you don’t use your holiday savings during the year…go ahead and ask me how I know!
*If you download the Ibotta app, feel free to use my referral code (ncpgdhi) and we’ll both get a wee little something as a reward when you scan your first receipt. If you download the Fetch app, you can use my referral code (DV9KX) and when you scan your first receipt, we’ll both get a little something too! Just a side note, both apps give a detailed tutorial when you first sign up so I won’t do that here.*
4. Patience is a virtue. No, it really is!
I learned in 2017 that shopping throughout the year just isn’t a good idea for my family. Hear me out on this one, I promise at some point in time it’ll be worth it. I used to get a thrill in picking up a toy on clearance and putting it in my closet for Christmas but here’s the kicker…when the time came, my children would’ve moved on or decided that they wanted to jump on the next trendy bandwagon. I just don’t have the space or mental capacity to keep up with all of the extra, albeit temporary, clutter that would usually land in my closet. So, last year and this upcoming year, I’m focusing on saving the money and when the time comes, I’ll be more up to date on the interests of my children to make wiser decisions for gifts. My motto with gifts is that I get more bang for my buck with fewer gifts that “wow” the receiver than a bunch of gifts that are “meh.” To accomplish this, I need to understand that my children’s taste change with the season and I can’t get upset with them for not having interest in a toy that I bought ooooooo 9-ish months ago.
5. Pick up décor incrementally
Two years ago, I decided that our decorations had just about had it. I’d been using the same décor for almost ten years and not only was it old and tattered, my taste in color scheme changed. Well, I certainly didn’t have it in my budget to do a complete overhaul on decorations so I decided that it’d be done in a few steps. After Christmas 2016, as I was packing away the decorations, I tossed/donated anything I wouldn’t be using again and headed to the stores for the 50/75/90% off after Christmas sales. I think the only thing I was able to pick up that year was a tree skirt, a few ornaments, and living room curtains. The following year, I added couch pillows to the collection, lighting, and wall art. This year, I’m hoping to add some more wall art, a cozy throw, or perhaps more outdoor lighting. Who knows? I’m open to whatever fits my vision and is still within my budget. If I’m willing to be patient and incrementally fill in the gaps of my décor, I can indeed “have it all” but perhaps not all straight away.
Well, there you have it. But the really awesome thing about this particular plan is that I only need to think about it for a few more days, automate the transfer into the savings on payday, and keep on keeping on until October…when the money is released and the fun starts! Some of the ideas are a little unconventional but hey, I’m a quirky gal!
I’d love to hear how you get ready for Christmas. Do you have a system that works well for you? I wanna know!
If you’d like to hear how I use apps and rebate websites to get a little extra cash, let me know and I’ll write a post on it.
As always, stay safe and God bless. Belated Merry Christmas and Happy 2019!