An article last month at DaveRamsey.com called, “October: The Most Critical Month of the Year,” begins by saying that no matter what your financial situation, what you do in October will determine your financial standing all the way into next year. So does that mean that because it’s now the second week of November that it’s too late for you? No, of course not.
The point is to plan ahead. Even if you have a ton of money, this applies–the real question is not how much you have to spend, but how much do you want to have in January?
If we plan now, before the first strains of “Winter Wonderland” fill our ears, then not only will the holiday season be merry and bright, but so will our New Year. Let’s think about a few typical holiday expenses:
- Gift wrap & supplies
- Greeting cards & postage
- Holiday decor
- Party or entertaining necessities
- Cleaning and/or repair services (carpet or window cleaning, preparing the home for guests)
- Travel expenses
- Special activities (going to the movies, seeing a show, out to eat, visiting a museum, etc.)
You’ll notice that “gifts” is not even on the list, even though many of us only think to budget for gifts, if we budget at all. I’m listing “gifts” separately because that’s another list in itself:
- Kids (nieces and nephews and friends’ kids too)
- Family, relatives
- Spouse’s family, relatives
- Close friends
- Close associates (church, knitting club, poker buddies, and so on)
- Kids’ friends
- Parents of kids’ friends
- Kids’ teachers
- Kids’ bus drivers
- Other special school employees
- Newspaper delivery person
- Favorite website owner (Ha! You were paying attention!)
When I’ve found myself at the last hour with a few more gifts to buy and very little left to spend, it usually isn’t because I’ve overspent (I’m cheap in real life), but because I’ve under-planned. And then I find myself trying to put together a thoughtful-yet-affordable gift when all that’s left on the shelves are cheap snow globes and Santa slippers.
There’s another advantage to planning — it gives us time to put some thought into what we really want out of the holidays. And it also helps us make the most of the budgets we have.
To put together my plan this year, I’m enlisting the help of some of the smartest shoppers I know–other Cities on the Cheap bloggers and YOU!
What advice do you have for spending and saving during the holidays?
Here are my top five tips:
Make the most of the budget you have.
Make a list of typical expenses and find cheaper alternatives when necessary.
Find thoughtful alternatives to meaningless items.
Decide what you really want out of the holidays.
Stay thankful for what you do have.
The very day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) can be the most potentially threatening to my usual thankful attitude. As great as the deals are (and they are!), the focus suddenly becomes about getting all that stuff. With a plan, I can carefully avoid the emotional frenzy and just take advantage of the sales as they fit into my budget. (Some years I have skipped Black Friday altogether and I can’t say, looking back, that our family suffered from it at all. :))
Oh! and of course, my 6th and most helpful tip is to keep an eye on Wichita on the Cheap, where you can find Black Friday type deals every day!