Wednesday, November 3, 2010

'Tis the Season

If you haven't entered the Holiday Themed Give-A-Way yet... skedaddle over to this post and get your entries in before the deadline! 

The holiday shopping season is upon us, and I thought it might be a good time to give some ideas on how to make things a little easier on yourselves. For several years now, I've been a follower of a man named Dave Ramsey... he wrote a book called The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness that comes with this workbook The Total Money Makeover Workbook. He is a money management genius - and actually we took a class at church that he leads via video - and I literally changed our lives:  Financial Peace University which is held at churches all around the country.

Anyway, one of the principals of Dave's plan is using what is called an envelope system - where you budget small amounts of cash to set aside for future expenses... when the cash is gone - you are done shopping for said expense. He recommends doing this system for a lot of household expenses on a monthly basis, but that didn't quite work for us - but there are things that it does work beautifully for... like Christmas, Birthdays, and the like. 

We set a plan for how much we plan to spend on Christmas each year in January, and break it up into 12 monthly payments... and put the cash aside each month. Since Christmas doesn't sneak up on us in an expensive way... it takes some of the stress out of the season for us.

Now, I know that in this day and age - we do a lot of shopping online... and with two infants - this year I'll likely do more than ever before via the interwebs. So what we do is shop online and then take the cash and deposit it back into our account... always paying for our online purchases with our debit card to make sure that we don't get into a credit card spending situation.

Another way that we make our shopping a bit more stress-free is to make a list of everyone you want to buy a gift for during the coming season. I write out each person - and then determine the amount that I'm willing to spend for each individual on that list. It can take some of the fun out of buying the perfect gift when you see it in the store, BUT it keeps you from getting into a shocking credit card bill opening period come January! 

I am always determined to make my gift purchases fairly even for each type of person on my list too - so I set an amount we'll spend on parents, siblings, nieces/nephews, spouses, children, friends... and so on. It sometimes takes some tinkering with the amounts to make sure that you don't go over your budget - but it works for us. You may need to do a bit of this initially before setting your budget for the year as well - just to get an idea of what you need to be considering for that annual Christmas season amount. 

Like Dave always says - Christmas happens every December 25th - so it shouldn't ever come as a shock to your budget! Plan ahead and you will be one step ahead of the game. 

For more ideas check out Turned Loose. I joined in her Christmas themed carnival, and hopefully will be back with some more posts for you during this season of giving!