Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday and I love doing little traditions throughout the month of December to make it special. It is, however, a busy season. It always amazes me at how we can take a holiday that is supposed to be about reflecting on the wonder of our Savior’s birth, and turn it into such a rat race of a season that very little reflecting actually takes place.
I have gone through the Christmas season so worn out from everything happening that by the time Christmas arrives I just want to take a nap. That won’t do at all.
Both my husband and I are musicians. Let’s just say that when you put the words musician and church together it means busy at Christmas. Add to that that our anniversary is in December, and we have a child with a birthday two days after Christmas, planning is crucial for my sanity.
Planning is the key to having a peaceful season. And it needs to start now. This is not to make you not enjoy the current season. Not at all. By all means I am still fully in fall mode, but I know that if I don’t plan ahead Christmas will be on me before I know it.
To kick start your planning here are the two things I think you should plan right away. I’ve already started working on this with the goal to be done by the end of the week.
It is not smart to buy gifts and then find a way to pay for them later. Credit card debt will sky rocket during the month of December as people who failed to plan run to the mall for last minute gifts and charge it.
December is an expensive month for us. We know that, so we plan for it. I’d rather plan ahead for expenses, than use money I don’t have or be stressed the entire season hoping we have the money.
Here are some things to consider when you think about your Christmas budget.
- Food: I always plan for a higher grocery budget in December. Between special meals and goodies that I make for our family, and functions that require bringing cookies our budget is higher than normal.
- Gifts: Obviously! Decide what you can afford before you start your buying. Otherwise you might overspend early on and then be in a desperate situation when you still have gifts to buy and no money left. Don’t forget to include wrapping paper, ribbons, etc. in this category.
- Decor: Mostly I decorate with what I already have, but we do buy a tree. Think about what you might need or want and plan accordingly.
- Cards: Unfortunately, we have had to stop doing real cards for a few years. I hope that won’t last forever as I really like real physical cards at Christmas, but right now we just can’t afford it. Between printing and postage, this is a pretty significant part of the budget, so if you are doing cards make sure you account for that.
- Fun Money: None of us wants to be Scrooge at Christmas. Plan for what you can spend on outings and special treats. I recommend pulling this designated amount in cash so there is no question that you are staying in budget. It kind of ruins the spirit of the moment if you and your spouse are
arguingdiscussing whether you have enough money for a particular treat. Be realistic about what you can afford. There are many things you can do inexpensively or free.
It is a really good idea to make your gift list right now. It’s early, but it is so much better.
- You are less likely to forget someone and be running out last minute.
- You will have more time to shop to their tastes. When you shop last minute, you’ll probably end up going more generic. Nothing makes someone feel more special than opening up a gift that is so uniquely them that it is obvious there was some thought put into it.
- You still have time to make things. If you are planning on making some gifts you better start now. There is still time to throw in a few handmade items.
- You will have a better assessment of what your above budget needs to be.
- You might be able to find some deals. Shopping last minute at the mall is not exactly the most frugal option.
- You will be much less stressed.
This week make your gifts list. Include everyone from your immediate family members all the way to school teachers. Write everyone’s name down, and leave a space after each name. As you think of ideas or see things around town or online that might be a good idea jot them down next to their name.
I like to keep my running list of ideas next to my computer because I do 95% of my shopping online. If you are more likely to shop around town you probably want your list in your purse (or diaper bag in my case).
Set a deadline: My goal is to have all my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving. I’d like to spend December enjoying the season, not scrambling around trying to come up with gifts.
Do you plan ahead for Christmas or are you a last minute person?