Have you ever watched your family open up Christmas gifts while mentally calculating how much each gift cost and comparing that against the amount you have in your checking? Have you dreaded opening the bills in January because you know the credit card statement from holiday shopping will be coming soon and you do not have the money to pay the balance in full?
When my husband and I were newly married and dirt poor, we carefully planned our Christmas purchases to fit within our meager budget. We didn’t buy many gifts, but the ones we bought were well thought out. When we went to visit my mom over the holidays, she kept telling us about all of the presents she had bought for us. There were so many under the tree! Because we are the only people to buy gifts for my mom because my dad has passed, we started feeling guilty about the few presents we bought her. Noticing that her bathroom towels were worn, we went out Christmas Eve night and bought her an entire set of 6 new bath towels including hand towels and washcloths with money we did not have. Then we bought her some jewelry. We charged everything knowing we didn’t have the money to pay.
On Christmas morning, she delighted in her presents. When we opened ours, we were in for a surprise. She too had bought a few well thought out gifts for us. But all those extra gifts we found under the tree? They were leftover t-shirts from a conference some of the professors had hosted at the university where she works. She bought them for a $1 each. Each time I or my husband opened another one of those presents that contained a t-shirt, I felt sick. We had put ourselves in debt to try to make sure our presents were equal to hers, but she had stuck to her financial budget by giving us “filler” presents. There had been no need to buy those extra gifts on Christmas Eve. . .
We worked like crazy selling off things in our apartment such as textbooks we no longer used so that we could pay off those credit cards used to buy the extra gifts. On our meager salary, it took us until March. Thankfully, we have learned our lesson.
If you don’t want to spend the months after Christmas worrying how you will pay off the new debt you just acquired, consider having a no spend month now. We still have nearly three months until Christmas. Pick a month such as October or November to drastically reduce your spending.
If you normally spend $1000 a month on groceries, gas, entertainment, eating out, toiletries, etc., decide how much you want to cut that amount. Maybe you will decide that in October you will only spend $500 a month. To make up the difference, perhaps you won’t eat out or you will eat from the pantry to use up those groceries that have been on the shelf for awhile. Maybe you will do something for free as a family rather than catching the latest movie.
By reducing your spending for just 4 weeks, you will be able to come up with a good amount for your holiday gift giving. If you normally spend $1000, but only spend $500 of that in October, you now have $500 saved for holiday gift buying. Yes, you sacrifice now, but it will be well worth it when you know that every present under the tree has been paid for. Best of all, there is no reason to dread the bills in January. Isn’t that a great way to start the new year?
Melissa is a writer and virtual assistant. She earned her Master’s from Southern Illinois University, and her Bachelor’s in English from the University of Michigan. When she’s not working, you can find her homeschooling her kids, reading a good book, or cooking. She resides in Arizona where she dislikes the summer heat but loves the natural beauty of the area.