Staying on Budget at Christmastime

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Did you go shopping on “Black Friday”? Do you plan to look for deals on “Cyber Monday”? Either way you look at it, it’s official: the Christmas shopping season has begun.

Each of us is different when it comes to how Christmas spending impacts our wallets. Maybe for you, Christmas is a time of great fun and you don’t mind going into debt for Christmas spending. Or, maybe you do mind – and you mind greatly – so much so that Christmas shopping stresses you out!

Regardless of where you stand on Christmas spending this year, my hope is to give you a tip or trick here or there that you can use not just at Christmas, but all year round. Take what you want, and leave out the rest. Because I remember all too well a Christmas working in retail – with a great employee discount – and before I could wrap up all the presents, I had to instead decide which I would take back. I had gone overboard. It was so much fun picking the presents, but I couldn’t afford them! I had to return many gifts, before they were given.

There can be so much pressure with Christmas. Pressure to show how much you care with how much you spend. So, in general, here’s the strategy I use to have fun, without going overboard:

  • Before spending on anyone, decide the dollar amount you’ll be spending on everyone. If you have one gathering for immediate family, and a different gathering for extended family, and your spending is very different for the two groups, that’s fine, just decide before you buy what you’re spending on everyone. Write it down if you have to. For example, you might decide that spending on your immediate family is $100 per person, or that spending on your extended family will be $200 for the entire group.
  • As you look at how many dollars each person “gets”, think about the number of packages. I’m not saying this counts, but I know some people that are really bothered if one child gets two gifts, and the other gets four… even if the monetary value for both people is the same. If this is you, think before you buy so you don’t stress yourself out.  The holidays are supposed to be fun, and they’re not supposed to make you feel guilty because of your gift-giving skills.
  • Write down a list as you make your purchases and next to each item, write down how much was paid, so you can keep track.
  • If you go overboard like I did my year working retail, it’s ok to take some items back before you give them.

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