Christmas (Planning) in July

Christmas (Planning) in July

- in Finance, Parenting

It’s July and it’s time to start thinking about…Christmas. What?! I mean it. It’s the perfect time to start planning for all of the expenses that come along with the holidays. You know it’s only a matter of weeks until you’ll spot a Christmas display in some store. It’s sad, but probably all too true.

So, if stores are jumping on the Christmas bandwagon this early, maybe you should, too. I’m talking about creating a budget for Christmas, though. Even though it’s summertime, with some advance planning, you can make Christmas much easier financially for your family this year. Here are some tips to get you started.

Make a list (and check it twice)

It’s time to write down the names of everyone you are buying presents for this upcoming Christmas. Or be nerdy like me and make a spreadsheet. Figure out how much you want to spend on each person. Maybe even add in other holiday expenses, like food for Christmas parties and giving to charity. Our family usually buys presents for a family in need, so we add that into our planning now. 

Create your Christmas budget and timeline

Now that you know who you are buying for and how much you’re spending on each, you can create a Christmas budget. Simply add up the present amounts and other expenses. That’s your budget. Now figure out when you need the money, and no, the answer isn’t December 25th. If you are buying presents in November and earlier in December, you’ll want to be finished saving money before then. Figure out how much money you need to set aside every month or week to get you to your savings goal.

Brainstorm gift ideas

Now comes the fun part. At least it is for me. Take time to brainstorm gift ideas for the people on your list. What would they love? Maybe they’ve mentioned something in passing that you remembered. What are they into? Maybe it’s something handmade. Maybe it’s just cold hard cash. I always like that! It’s good to be flexible if you come across a deal or they mention something else later, but it’s also good to have a plan.

Set aside money for Christmas

It’s time to start funding your Christmas shopping list. There are tons of ways to do this. You can just withdraw money every week or month and set it aside in an envelope. You can open a separate bank account for holiday money. Maybe open a high-yield savings account through an online bank. The money still accessible enough when you need it, but you’ll earn way more interest than you would in a traditional savings account. You could set up automatic transfers every paycheck, too. It’s less work for you and it takes away the temptation of spending that money on something else. Whatever method you choose, it pays to set aside money instead of waiting until December to find the money for presents. 

Maximize your Christmas purchases

Christmas is months away, but now is the time to start looking for deals. Sure, there’s always Black Friday deals. But if you know what toys your kids want and come across a great deal now, why not just buy it and set it aside? If you shop online, search for coupon codes before you check out. There are tons of sites dedicated to discount codes you can use. Some of them are expired or don’t work, but I’ve been lucky several times and saved tons of money doing this.

Another thing you can do is pay cash for everything and save any change from your purchases. I don’t do this, but I know people who do. Just round up the purchase as you track your spending and by Christmas, you may have enough money to splurge on something nice for yourself. 

Another way to maximize your Christmas spending is to use a rewards credit card for all your purchases. You can earn points and money for travel and other perks. Don’t do this if you aren’t good at controlling your spending or if you can’t pay off the card at the end of the month. It’s not worth it if you have to pay interest. We’ve paid for several vacations for our family of six using this method. The keys are to pay off your card every month, only use your card on normal purchases, and only buy things you already have money set aside for, like Christmas presents in this case. 

Find ways to generate extra income for Christmas purchases

Don’t have flexibility in your income to set aside very much money for Christmas presents? You may need to find a way to make extra cash for the holidays. This could mean picking up a part-time job for the season. Maybe you can create a side hustle. What about selling some stuff you have laying around the house collecting dust? We have a whole attic full of my wife’s old Disney snowglobes I’d love to sell! It might take some creativity, but there are usually ways to find extra cash. You just have to be resourceful. 

It’s OK to not spend, too

It’s great to be able to spoil the ones you love with Christmas gifts, but that’s only one part of the holiday season. Maybe times are tight and you can’t justify buying big gifts for everyone. I’m letting you know it’s OK to not do that. Set aside what you can and your family and friends will understand. Christmas shouldn’t be so stressful. Another option is to opt for a family experience instead of presents. Maybe plan a fun family outing somewhere cool and opt for no gifts for this year. 

I’ve found over the years, with Christmas shopping and with most things in life, that planning ahead helps us hit our goals better and leads to much less worrying and stress. Do your family (and yourself) a favor and start planning for the holidays now. 

About the author

Kevin Payne is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance and travel. His work has been featured in Forbes and Credit Karma. He is a regular contributor to Student Loan Planner, FinanceBuzz, and Club Thrifty. Kevin is the budget and family travel expert behind Kevin lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with his wife and four kids. His spare time is spent exploring Northeast Ohio and planning family vacations.

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