The holiday season is quickly approaching. I know this time of year can be a very stressful time for just about anyone. It doesn’t matter if you host or not.
Everyone is stressed, especially if you are not financially stable or just starting to regain control of your finances (like myself).
This time of year doesn’t have to be this way. With careful planning and a lot of consideration, it is possible to have a debt-free Christmas.
The holiday season should not be spent stressed out and frantic. It is a time meant for joy and to celebrate the true meaning of the holidays.
Don’t add stress to your holiday season by putting yourself further into debt. Christmas comes once a year, every year. It is expected.
You can plan for it and be ready. If you apply the tips I am about to share with you, I promise Christmas will be much more enjoyable!
#1. Start Planning As Soon As Possible
It is never too early to start planning. The more time you allow yourself to save money and plan, the smoother and stress-free the holiday season will be.
Write everything down. Are you traveling this year? What events will be going on? What about Christmas parties? Will you host one or go to one or a few? Think about who you will be buying gifts for.
Think about your family traditions. Perhaps, you are considering starting your own tradition. If so, what is necessary for that?
By writing all this information down, it gives you a glimpse into the reality of what your Christmas may/will look like. It also provides ideas of what to plan for.
Create a Budget
If you have never created a budget before, check out this post Budgeting For Beginners: Creating a Monthly Budget. If you think you are too cool to create a budget, you need to check out this post 5 Budgeting Excuses You Need to Get Over.
Depending on how early you start planning, your budget will be subject to change. It is not a set it and forget it type thing, make adjustments as necessary. Revisit it often and make it realistic.
The more realistic your budget it, the easier it will be to stick to the budget. These tips will help you stick to your budget. Figure out how much you plan on spending on each item and category in your budget and write it down. Remember, budgets not written down are not budgets.
Some budget categories to consider in your budget are:
Food (cookies, Christmas dinner, dish to pass)
Gifts (family, friends, secret Santa, etc.)
Gift Supplies (wrapping paper, boxes, tape, glue, gift bags, tissue paper, gift tags)
Cards (stamps, labels)
As you create your budget, use last year’s budget or spending as a guide. Did you spend too much in some areas and too little in others? Did you forget about certain expenses? Make sure you include them in this year’s budget.
Now, add up all costs for each category in the budget. You will have to make a decision. Do you like this total? Is it too big for comfort? Is it too small? Or just right? If you are uncomfortable with it, you have two options 1) make adjustments to the budget or 2) try to achieve this goal.
It’s okay if you are unsure or uneasy right now to decide. It is completely natural to feel negative feelings. Just remember, this all depends on how much time you give yourself to prepare. This is why it is so important to start planning as soon as possible. The sooner you start planning, the sooner you can start coming up with the cash.
Collect the Money
Now that you have an idea of how much money you need or are planning on spending, it’s time to open a special savings account and collect the cash.
Yep, I said CASH. If you want to have a debt-free Christmas or avoid going further into debt, you cannot borrow your way through. Avoid the plastic! It has cooties!
There are a quite a few different ways to come up with the cash and it’s up to you how you want to obtain the money. Make it a game or challenge and see how quickly you can come up with the cash.
Earn some extra income
The possibilities here are truly endless. You could find a part-time job, get paid to take surveys, make one of your hobbies profitable, or do errands for friends, family, or neighbors for money.
Drive for Uber or Lyft in your free time. Become a mystery shopper. Have a yard sale (Here’s a post on How to Plan a Successful Yard Sale Without Driving Yourself Crazy). Sell stuff online, or sell things to a consignment shop.
Take any unworn jewelry to a place that buys gold/silver. Pinterest and the internet have a ton more ideas. These are a just a few off the top of my head.
Start a savings plan or challenge
I understand not everyone has the time or is willing to take on extra commitments. If you fall into this category it is still possible to save the money. You could take the total of your budget and devise a savings plan.
Calculate how much money you could/should put aside per paycheck up until Christmas. I highly recommend this process to be automated that way you don’t even notice the money is being saved.
You could also participate in a savings challenge, or create one yourself. Pinterest has a ton of ideas on saving challenges. I see one or a few of them every time I go to Pinterest. The idea behind a saving challenge is to determine a certain dollar amount you are going to strive to achieve.
Then depending on how often you are going to save the money (every week, biweekly, monthly, etc.) you put a certain amount of money into a savings account toward that goal. By the time the challenge is over, you should have reached your goal.
Don’t forget to save money when possible. When buying gifts, or groceries even, make sure you use coupons, discount codes, or money savings apps such as Ibotta. See my How to Use Ibotta to Quit Clipping Coupons post to learn how it works.
This post 4 Tricks to Reduce Your Grocery Budget will help you save money on food. Shop during sales and promotions to save when you can. You can also save money by buying store-brand products. If you prepare the meal and use store brand products to make dinner, no one is going to notice a difference in taste, so why not save a few bucks?
We all know that Christmas comes every December 25th and the holiday season is the most expensive time of the year. Don’t let it catch you off guard and unprepared. Start planning for it as soon as possible, so you can enjoy the holiday season rather than be stressed, frazzled, and stuck with debt. Have yourself a Merry and debt-free Christmas!
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