Start Saving Now for Next Christmas

Believe it or not, now is the time to start saving for next Christmas.  Christmas is a large expense, and you should be planning for it year round.  A few weeks ago, I mentioned how to set up a Christmas budget.  If you haven’t done so already, set up a new savings account for Christmas, and transfer 1/12 of your determined Christmas budget into that account today (or on the next pay day).  Then, set up automatic transfers on the first of every month for the same amount.

If you follow these simple steps now, you’ll barely  notice missing the money throughout the year.  You will feel much, much more relaxed come December though, since you won’t have to worry about how you will pay for everyone you buy for Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

I love everything about the Christmas season.  I’m not sure what it is, but it’s a magical season for me.  Maybe it’s because it was always my grandma’s favorite season, and I think of her a lot this time of year.  I love seeing my family, and my wife’s family too.  I love listening to classic Christmas music the whole season: while I’m at work, while we’re wrapping presents at home, and while we’re driving to our destinations.  I love it when it snows, because it makes me really excited.    I love decorating both the inside and outside of our house (we finally got a nativity set for outside, thanks to my mom finding it at a yard sale over the summer).  I love getting a real tree inside, and putting all the wrapped presents under it.  I love picking out a new ornament that has some special meaning for that year, and adding it to our collection on the tree.  I love watching classic Christmas movies every year, and quoting the really good ones throughout the whole movie (ahem, Christmas Vacation).

I love taking the time to wrap presents so they look almost perfect, because I believe the presentation is part of the thought that goes into the gift.  I love loading up the truck with presents, and driving to both our families.  I love giving gifts, and watching the looks on people’s faces when they open them.  Every year, it seems that there’s one or two gifts I get really excited about because I know people will love them.  This year is no exception.

One year, I had a great plan for Christmas.  I got Megan (my girlfriend at the time, now my wife) lots of kitchen stuff (which she did want, but it was just kind of boring).  The last present she opened was some measuring spoons, and I told her I thought there was one more present buried in that box (it had lots of newspaper and bubble wrap in it).  She kept digging and didn’t find anything, so my response was “I THOUGHT there was another one in there… Keep looking.”  She eventually found a little white cardboard box in the bottom.  She opened that box, and it was another wooden box.  She still had no idea what it was, until she opened it up and saw an engagement ring inside.  After seeing the look on her face, I was so excited I was speechless.  I just cried and gave her a huge hug, and said, “Megan Jo Ruths, will you marry me?”  Luckily, she said yes, and the rest is history.

Whatever you do this Christmas, make sure you get to spend some time with your family.  They’re the only one you’ve got, and spending time with them makes this season even more special.

Miss you Grandma, but I promise I’ll be thinking of you the whole season.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Christmas Budget

If you’re like most people, you run up your credit cards during the Christmas season.  Hopefully, you don’t still have money on your credit cards from LAST Christmas.

For my wife and I, Christmas is a large expense.  We exchange gifts with parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, and nieces and nephews.  We found a system that works really well.  I created a spreadsheet with the names of people for whom we buy gifts.  I list a dollar amount for each person, and that’s our budget for Christmas.  When we buy a gift, I record the total (including tax and shipping, if applicable) into another column, and we make sure we don’t go over the budgeted amount.  I also keep a little column for what the items actually were.  When Christmas is over, I wipe out all the information, so it’s ready to go for next year.

So, we have this budget we use every year, but how do we avoid going into debt with all the gifts we buy?  We save 1/12 of what our budget is every month.  You can do this in several ways.  You could open a separate account, and automatically transfer 1/12 of your budget into it on the first of every month, or you can use a more holistic approach, and budget all your expenses every month.  I’ll cover budgeting more at a later date.  This approach eliminates all the stress the holiday season puts on your finances.

If you are one of the millions of people who get stressed out about money this time every year, take the following steps to be able to really enjoy the next Christmas season:

  1. Create a list of everyone  you bought (or are planning on buying) a gift for this year, along with how much you spent (or plan to spend)
  2. Create a new spreadsheet (you can use Google Docs if you want, it’s free!) with the following columns:
    – Name
    – Budgeted Amount
    – Amount Spent
    – Items
  3. Fill out the Name and Budgeted Amount columns for each person on your list
  4. Set up a savings account (call it Christmas)
  5. Set up an automatic transfer on the first of every month, starting in January, that’s 1/12 of the total amount of what’s in your Budgeted Amount column

Then when next year rolls around, just pull the money back out of your savings, and you will have a stress free Christmas season (well, financially… I can’t speak for the other things that could cause you stress during this season).