Nothing can take the joy out of Christmas more than a mountain of debt you spend the rest of the year paying off. When you are paying off the interest year after year on long forgotten “latest gadgets” that have since taken up residence in the closet or sold at last year’s garage sale, you may want to take a more sensible approach to Christmas.
The most practical approach to Christmas is to start planning for it in January, estimate how much you are planning on spending the following year, and save a 1/12 of it each month. We know that it is coming every year, so we shouldn’t let it take us by surprise.
That way, instead of spending the year paying off high credit interest, you actually gain a little interest over the year and have more to spend on the event.
Over the course of the year, you may also want to pick up items on sale for those on your list, and pack them away until the Yuletide event.
But now that we are in the eleventh hour, there are still some things that you can do to make the event a Blessing, and not a Curse.
First: Set a budget of what you will spend on Christmas. Fund the budget with cash. If you don’t have the cash, don’t make the purchases.
Second: Make a list, and check it twice, to make sure that you have everyone on your gift list for who you intend to purchase Christmas gifts. Allocate from your budget the maximum you will spend on each of the people on your list, and don’t go over it. If you just can’t help spending more on one person for a special gift you just “have” to purchase, then you will have to subtract the amount of the overrun by decreasing the amount spent of the rest of the people on you list.
Pick up a couple of generic gifts such as a box of mixed chocolates or a cheese assortment for those last minute friends or relatives that suddenly show up on your gift requirements after you have made your list. Make sure these “just in case” gifts are included on your original budget. If you have no unexpected guests, these “just in case” gifts can make a nice supplement to your Holiday feast.
Third: Leave the plastic at home. Use cash. If you are out of cash, you are done shopping. The only exception to this rule are those of you who are extremely well disciplined, and who get “cash back” on their purchases from their credit card company, and will pay the balance in full when the bill comes in January.
Fourth: Handcraft many of your gifts, if possible. The dollhouse crafted in Dad’s woodshop with his own hands is going to mean a lot more to your daughter than the plastic one purchased at the department store the week before Christmas.
Fifth: Include the children in preparing for the holiday. There is nothing more memorable than helping Mom decorate the Christmas cookies, or the drive to the country with Dad to the tree farm to pick out and cut down your very own Christmas tree.
Finally: Remember what is important. Toys and gadgets don’t make the Holidays. What is important is spending the quality time together as a family. More memorable than any gift I received as a child was the moment before we went to bed each Christmas Eve when my Father would read Clement Clark Moore’s ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas to my brother, sisters and me. I also loved spending Christmas afternoon playing board games and putting together puzzles with my parents. While they might not have had time on so many other days of the year because of the demands of their jobs, they took the time at Christmas to let my siblings and I know that we were special.
Love isn’t bought in a department store. More important than expensive gifts is spending quality time together building happy memories. Let’s make this Christmas the year we remember that quality time together, and not have to worry about those after Christmas bills haunting us like the Ghost of Christmas Past.