Ah, Christmas. That time of year that always seems so far away until it’s way too close. Especially when you have kids, it feels like they just start school and then BAM! You better get shopping for Christmas because its only weeks away and you haven’t gotten a thing.
Going back as far as I can remember I’ve always made a list and a budget for Christmas shopping. I find that it helps me to frame how much I can spend on each person, which helps when I’m shopping for gifts. My husband has a big family – a lot of nieces and nephews – so even at small amounts they add up quickly. Especially when I was in my early 20’s and I wanted to make a good Christmas for my oldest son, a list and budget was key to make sure I (1) didn’t forget anyone and (2) didn’t overspend. Because yes, I’ve done both of those things before.
And the temptation to overspend is everywhere at Christmas. Buy this for your kids – it’s the latest toy! Here’s our Christmas catalog, don’t you want to buy every shiny object inside? Why yes, they do! Sales, displays, all the latest things, seeing your friends and coworkers buying tons of cool stuff for themselves and their families-it can all be overwhelming sometimes.
Here’s eight quick and interesting Christmas spending facts:
Top Five Christmas Shopping Tips for Busy Working Moms
Now that you know more about how the average American spends their money at Christmastime, here’s my top five tips for shopping for a family with kids on Christmas.
Make a list
I know, I already said this, but I think it’s a great idea. I make a list of all the people I need to get something for and jot down ideas of what they might like/want/need. This way if someone mentions something in passing I have a place to jot it down. Don’t forget to include things like cards and decorations. I suggest putting this in a note in your phone, or in an Excel sheet on your computer, so you can implement steps 2 and 5 more easily. Also in your list put down the kinds of things that person would like.
Make a budget
I actually put the budget next to each person/item in my list. Setting a budget helps me make sure I don’t overspend the amount I’ve set aside for the holiday, and makes sure that my spending is the same for the same type of relative (e.g., for nieces and nephews, parents, kids). Putting the budget next to each person on the list helps me with step #5.
- Implement your own Christmas club – When I was a little kid my parents had a “Christmas Club” with their local bank. Every week when they got paid, a small amount (maybe $5 or $10 at the time?) was transferred from their checking account into their “Christmas Club” account. Then sometime in November they were able to get that money and use it for shopping. This helped spread the cost of Christmas over the entire year so there was no need to go into debt or feel squeezed financially around the holiday. Today I do that through my online savings bank. I have an account where money is transferred every week throughout the year, and I use it to pay for Christmas gifts. You can easily do that through an online bank like Ally or Capital One 360.
I’ve been shopping online for Christmas for about 15 years now, back to the time when all Amazon sold were books (in the olden days of the internet). Last year I shopped almost exclusively online. Not only does it save time – because I don’t have the time to leave work and spend time shopping in a store – but you can easily compare prices online. I shop Amazon, Target, and Walmart online and get all the gifts delivered right to my house. This leaves more time for Christmas activities!
Track your spending
The budget won’t do you any good if you don’t stick to it. As you buy things for people, be sure to note down what you’ve spent. If you’re using Excel (which is my preference) you can set it up to calculate for you how much you have left in the budget based on what you’ve spent so far.
Stay tuned for later this week where I’ll go over some fun and frugal activities you can do together as a family without breaking the Christmas bank.
What’s your best Christmas money (or time) saving tip? Let me know in the comments.