Save your money and one day it will save you.
- African Proverb
Christmas in July…or August!
It’s Christmas in August! Well not really, but it is a good time to start looking at your costs for the holiday season and thinking about how you’ll pay for them. In my opinion, the best thing to do is start saving now and spare yourself the headache and guilt that comes with spending more than you can afford. Instead of making your New Year’s resolution “pay off my credit card debt”, why not make it “save more money in my emergency fund” or “travel more?”
I love celebrating the holiday season and giving gifts, so I have a tendency to go over budget each year. To combat this, I calculate how much I anticipate spending and add an additional $50 to $100 to the total as a buffer. Remember to take into account that the holiday season usually includes a lot more than just gift giving. There are always parties to attend, charitable donations, your contribution to a holiday dinner and that tacky Christmas sweater. With all that goes on, it’s hard not to get into the holiday spirit!
Start off by making a list of the people you’ll be buying presents for and how much you plan to spend on them. Make sure to include any White Elephant Party or Secret Santa gifts. Don’t forget it can be pretty costly to wrap those gifts. (See my article: Never pay for gift wrap again) Once you’ve figured your major gift giving costs, incorporate how much you plan to spend on food and drink. Add another amount for miscellaneous items such as that tacky sweater or that new party dress you’re going to need. Also, don’t forget to include your buffer money. I use Excel to keep track of my list and figure out the total for me. I even use comments to know exactly how I got to the amount I need in each category.
Once you’ve got a handle on how much you’re going to be spending, divide the total by the number of paychecks you have left between now and Christmas. That amount should be how much you’re setting aside each time you get paid until the holidays. If the amount is more than you can afford, you should go back and make adjustments to your plan. Even if you don’t have a steady paycheck coming in, every little bit of saving counts and you can feel good because it’s that much more you can afford to spend on your loved ones.
When I know the amount I should be saving, I set up a line in my budget tracking spreadsheet and accommodate for it in my monthly total. This means I make sure to deduct that amount from somewhere else, usually the Spending Money category, to be sure not to go over what I’m bringing in. As I’ve said in the past, I like to keep a pretty tight budget and this isn’t the case for everyone so be sure to do what feels comfortable for you. That might mean setting aside your monthly amount in cash or choosing to take the entire sum from one paycheck. Just be sure not to over extend yourself and spend more than you’re making.
To make sure I don’t the spend money when I have the urge, I set up an automatic, bi-monthly deposit (or per paycheck) for the amount I’m setting aside into my savings account. Not only is it a little harder for me to use the money, but it’s also earning interest! Like the old saying goes, “You have to spend money to make money”. I don’t think this is what they meant, but you get the point.
Now that you’ve got yourself a plan, make sure you stick to it when you’re doing your buying. Keep your eyes peeled for deals and discounts you can apply to your Christmas spending. What feels better than coming in under budget and having some extra money for yourself? You could buy that present you didn’t get or get a head start on that New Year’s resolution by leaving the money in your savings to build that emergency fund. Regardless of what you choose, you can feel good knowing you’ve saved yourself from a mountain of credit card debt (or the embarrassment of telling your friends and family you can’t afford to buy them anything) and taken control of your situation.
Never Pay for Gift Wrap Again
I, for one, tend to keep myself on a pretty tight budget. When it comes to anything gift giving related, be it the holidays, birthdays or an important life event for someone close to me, I like to make money saving adjustments in my efforts to celebrate while keeping my financial plans intact. How do you do this, you say? Let me tell you!
One cost that can get out of control when it comes to gifts is the wrapping. At the store or during online ordering, gift wrap is usually an added expense. Even if you’re ordering rolls of it from a co-worker’s child, it can be pricey. Add a card to that and you’ve spent $10 you might not have anticipated. Think about it, there is always a birthday, wedding, shower and/or holiday coming around the corner. At ten bucks each time, it adds up. To get around this, I use things I have around my house to wrap gifts and save that $10 (or $100, depending on the time of year).
For starters, I make it a point to save any packaging from my online or in store purchases that I think will possibly come in handy later. Things like tissue paper, nice envelopes, ribbon and brown packing paper are great for wrapping. I save giftbags I’ve received and reuse them too. I’ve even been known to paint a deconstructed grocery paper bag and use that. Here are just two examples of what I’ve done in the past.
This is an envelope I recycled and personalized with colored pencils I had around the house. It was used as the wrapping for a gift card that was my nephew’s Christmas present last year.
With this particular gift wrap, I used brown packing paper I received from an online purchase and ribbon left over from a project. This was a bridal shower gift and I even received a few compliments on my “fancy” wrapping job!
When it comes to cards, I like to use simple blank note cards. The beauty of the blank card is that they can be used for almost any occasion. I buy them only when they are discounted and then save them for when the time is right. I’ve even received a few packs as gifts. Here are a few that I have in my rotation right now.
Let’s be honest, no one ever remembers the wrapping on a present or even the card (unless they’re truly heinous). The next time you have the urge to spend extra money on wrapping a gift for that special someone, keep in mind it’s the gift and the message that counts. So get a little creative and save those dollars for something more worthwhile and memorable!