School is back in session, fall is in the air, and the end of the year is in sight. September always feels like a shift back into “real life” after the summer months, and it also means the holidays are right around the corner. Don’t worry—Christmas music isn’t allowed until after Thanksgiving! But the holiday season puts about a quarter of American families into debt each year, and while I always say your debt does not define you, the more you can plan ahead, the easier it will be to meet your financial goals and feel less stressed about money. So now is the time to get in the spirit of saving.
The True Meaning of Christmas
Whatever winter holiday you may choose to celebrate, there’s a good chance that it comes with some beloved family traditions and some “shoulds.” Before you start budgeting, try to let go of some of the pressure to do things a certain way and spend some time connecting with your favorite holiday memories. Just four years ago, my daughter and I spent Christmas together—with a broken heater. We made a fire and bundled up in our matching pajamas to watch holiday movies. For me, it’s those moments that make a holiday, so I want to prioritize time together to reminisce and maybe recreate those memories (with working heat this time).
What does your family need this year to stay focused on what matters so you won’t miss those moments by being stressed out?
Create a Detailed Budget
Make a list of your favorite holiday memories and the traditions and customs that came with them. Are those traditions still ones you hold close to your heart? If so, prioritize those things and start estimating the expenses that come with them. Don’t forget the little extras and last-minute details like gift wrap, baking supplies and ingredients, or that holiday manicure.
If sending and receiving cards is one of your favorite traditions, here’s an example of what that section of your budget might look like:
- Family pictures – $300-500 depending on where you live and package/ability of the photographer
- Printed cards – price completely depends on where you get them. Do you want a fancier option from a local letterpress printer, something from a site like minted.com, or would you rather order them from your local Walmart?
- Stamps – 50 Forever stamps costs $29
- Address list – the more folks you have on your holiday card list, the bigger the budget you’ll need
Plan Your Savings
Take your final total and divide it by three since we have about three months left before the holidays begin (unless you celebrate Hanukkah, in which case you only have two months!) Now you have your ideal savings goal for each month.
Is it realistic?
Is it shocking, or no big deal?
What choices can you make depending on your answers to those questions?
If it seems like too much, do you want to get creative to come up with extra funds or downsize some things that really aren’t necessary? You might prioritize your list and let a few items at the bottom drop off. Remember that timing can affect how much you pay for certain items too: is there a big-ticket gift you can get on Black Friday, or will you plan to stock up on wrapping paper and cards for next year when they go on sale?
If you need someone to talk this out with, don’t hesitate to reach out! Get in touch with us and let’s figure it out together.