If you haven’t noticed by all of the commercials, the holiday season is on its way. That’s right, the time when we celebrate family and friends and faith… and oh yes, presents.
Don’t get me wrong – I love the gifting part of Christmas. I love giving gifts (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy receiving gifts). I actually love going overboard for people. To me, it’s part of the fun.
But that doesn’t mean breaking the bank.
If you’re like me, you started your Christmas gift shopping months ago. I think I bought the first gift I planned to give sometime in March. When I see something that I think will be a perfect gift for someone, I buy it and set it aside. I also keep a running list in my planner of what I’ve bought for people so that I don’t suddenly end up with thirty-seven gifts for one person.
But that’s not going to work for everyone. Plus, even with that method of shopping, I do still have some gifts I need to buy.
For me, step one is figuring out who I all want to buy for. With my early shopping, that means figuring out who I still need to buy for.
Setting a Christmas budget.
But wait. Shouldn’t that be the other way around? Figure out what I can spend, then figuring out what I need to buy? Well, that’s one way to do it. But I like to see what I need to do before I figure out what I can spend. No need saying “Hey, I can spend $200,” and then realizing I have exactly two small gifts to buy. And because gifting is important to me, I want to be sure I have the money available. I set aside money for gifting purposes all year. But if it comes down to Christmas and I really want to get something else for someone very important to me, I take a hard look at the budget and see where I can find some extra funds. To me, the gifting is important.
But while I love going overboard at Christmas, the big key is to not totally blow the budget.
I love that layaway has made a return over the past few years. Sure, you pay a small fee to put your items on layaway, but you know that if you pull together the money, the items will be there, and you won’t be adding to any credit card debt. You will have bought them free and clear.
I love planning for the holidays all year round. To me, it’s a great way to find treasures certain to make people smile.
I also think it’s important to try to buy a gift for someone less fortunate. A lot of food pantries, churches, and other organizations have ways that you can adopt a family for the holidays and buy them gifts. If you can’t afford to adopt a family, there are always ways to buy a single gift for a child in need. There are donation boxes at stores and charitable organizations are always looking for items.
I know that a lot of people argue that the holidays aren’t about gifts. And they’re correct. But that doesn’t mean that gift giving can’t be another way that you show your love for family and friends and maybe even for a stranger. It’s a time to remember how fortunate we really are.
Megan is a 30-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.