Christmas is only 96 days away. Is September too early to start planning for the holidays?
I don’t’ think so and hopefully, you don’t either. If you want to sail into the Christmas season ready and equipped with all the resources you’ll need to NOT go into debt – then now is the time to start planning.
Let’s get started!
Now’s The Time To Start Planning For The Holidays
Most people have the best of intentions when they begin their holiday shopping. They figure they’ll charge gifts on their credit card with the intention of paying them off within three months.
This rarely happens. In fact, instead of paying it off in three months, or when the tax return comes in, they take upwards of six months or more.
Why is it so darn hard to keep to the goal of paying it off in the time frame you established?
Because life gets in the way; you find something you want, so you charge it, derailing your original plan. Or an emergency creeps up, and because you lack a sufficient emergency fund the emergency is handled with a charge card.
Just for starters, it’s super easy to get caught up in the material trappings of the holidays. With all the glitz and festivities, it’s a challenge to stay focused on a spending plan. You’d rather be out at a party than thinking about your budget, but it’s essential. Without a self-imposed holiday budget, you’ll end up spending freely, only to later find you’ve overspent.
Gone are the days where my gift list included everyone under the sun. I’ve pared it down to a number that is manageable and stress-free for me. That’s what I want you to consider as you make your list – make it manageable and stress-free.
My list is so small I don’t even have to write it down. But I don’t recommend that. I suggest you use the budgeting tool I’ve created for you as part of this years 100 Days of Debt Free DIY Holidays Ideas.
The important point to remember is IF it’s important for you to give a particular person a gift, and then include them on the list. If not, considering chopping them.
Remember, handmade gifts are usually greatly appreciated by those who receive them; so don’t take someone off your list just because you’re not buying them something. Making something from the heart, given with love is one of THE best gifts to give.
One year I made all my staff my traditional homemade tomato sauce and gave it with some specialty pasta. Everyone raved about the sauce. The gift was a big hit!
Get creative when coming up with gifts for your list. Not everyone has the skills of Martha Stewart when it comes to crafting a home-made gift. Nor will a home-made gift be appropriate for everyone on your list.
Some family members or friends may appreciate your time more than another $50 gift card. Rather than getting a new coffee maker for your grandmother, could you take her to a doctor’s appointment or help her run errands?
Avoid Any Credit Deals
Watch for the deals that sound too good to be true.
For example, stores often offer “zero percent” financing for twelve months on big-ticket items.
Here’s the problem: if you fail to pay off the item within the allotted time frame, you could be looking at hefty interest fees that have accrued from the day you made the purchase.
Stores make these offers because they make money on them. They know most people won’t keep to their goal to pay it off within the specified time frame. They’re counting on you to mess up with your original plan.
Avoid Credit Cards All Together!
Remember, if you finance your holidays, the bills will inevitably start rolling in sometime in late January. More than likely your plan to pay off the bills will fall by the wayside.
Ask yourself – is it worth the stress it causes, the strain between you and your spouse or significant other? Now is the best time to reevaluate and reconsider your holiday spending habits and start planning for the holidays.
Determine Your Budget
You have to know exactly how much you are going to spend before you start to save. You probably understand that holidays mean not only gift giving, it also means parties, guests, decorations and even holiday travel. So if you start to build your budget in advance, you’ll have more of a chance of staying within your budget.
How Much Are You Willing To Spend
There’s only so much money to go around, right? Figure out all the budget categories you will likely spend and then allocate an amount to each category. Don’t forget:
• gifts for the family members and friends
• gifts or treats for your colleagues
• holiday food
• holiday outfits for parties and celebrations
• tickets or gasoline if you are planning a trip
• home decor, including a decor for your yard if you own a private house
• charity expenses
• gift wrapping
• greeting cards and the cost of mailing
Stay realistic in terms of how much you have to spend and not on what you WANT to spend. There’s typically a big difference there for most of us.
Try to have a general idea of how much you’ll spend on each person on your gift giving list and then stick with that amount.
Rank people in order of importance and then if you run out of money find an alternative to buying a gift they would still appreciate. There’s nothing wrong with homemade gifts!
Letting people know your expectations for gift giving and holiday spending is the smart move to make.
If you don’t have the money to buy a gift for everyone, let them know now. Maybe they’ll be relieved too that they don’t need to overspend either.
Ask your kids exactly what they want so you can have enough time to find their items for the best possible price.
It’s never too early to start thinking and planning for holiday spending. The earlier you start the more you’ll know what you have to do to make sure you’re not overspending and getting into debt.
Remember to think through your plan carefully, cut where you can, and make the commitment to stay within your budget. By doing so and planning early you’ll find you’ll be in better shape come January.