I am very conflicted around the holidays.
Part of me loves the holidays. This time of year tends to bring out the best in people, it is the most charitable time of the year. I love the spirit of giving and generosity. I honestly wish that more people were this generous 365 days a year. I am not just speaking of financial generosity, but of being generous with your time and love.
The other part of me cringes at the thought of the holidays. I think of the constant pressure to buy the biggest, best gift. The pressure to get the gift “just right”. Sometimes, this pressure we feel can lead to not only stress, but to serious overspending. I believe many of us go into the holiday season with the intention of minding our budgets and really do mean to stick to them. Somewhere along the line, we succumb to this pressure to outdo ourself or others.
It slowly becomes oh, $5.00 extra for Johnny won’t hurt and oh, if I buy Sally a gift, I better buy Suzie one too. Those extra $5.00 gifts turn into hundreds of dollars, which usually turns into debt.
My challenge to you this holiday season, whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or another holiday, is to make and stick to your budget. I promise you will have a more fulfilling holiday season if you do. I spent so many holidays trying to get the perfect gift and really ended up stressed out and broke. I challenge you to make a list, check it THRICE, and stick to it.
Here are some tips that I use to make sure I stay on budget:
First and foremost – Decide on what your family can afford for the holidays. The ideal situation is to do it 100% without going into debt. I know that is not feasible for all of us, so if you are going into debt, be sure that you can pay it off by February 1st, not one day later.
1. Sit down and write down every name you would LIKE to buy for. This includes friends, church family, coworkers, extended family,etc. This way there will be no surprises on December 20th, oh I forgot about Uncle Joe. Think about the list for 24 hours.
2. Once you have the list made, cross out 10% of the names – so if you have 10 people – 1 person has to go. These are the people that you just cannot afford to buy for. Remember, you cannot buy for everyone.
3. Pick a few people that you can make give homemade cookies or baked goods to. Go to the dollar store and buy tins. Spend time making cookies and drop them off personally to wish your friend/family well over the holiday season.
4. Once you have your list down to who you really can afford to buy for – subtract 10% of your total budget. This 10% will be your cushion should you have last minute expenses.
5. Divide up your total amount for each person. Once you pick the amount you are going to spend, you need to be committed to it!
6. Keep track of your spending throughout the entire shopping season. When you meet your maximum spending for each individual you are DONE.
7. Use your 10% cushion for any extras you may need.
Here is an example of the spreadsheet I am using: