Guest post from Jami Leigh Balmet
Take the hassle out of Christmas 2012 by starting to plan now! Are you feeling overwhelmed just by reading that? Don’t be. Planning for next Christmas now will make your entire year less-stressed, more enjoyable, and budget-friendly.
Every year when November rolls around, the tension starts to build. First it’s Thanksgiving. Family is coming over, so you scramble to get the house in order, do the shopping, cooking — all the time, the thought that Christmas is getting closer is hanging over your head. Then the last Friday in November hits and Christmas is upon us.
Christmas trees go up. Jingle Bells is suddenly the only thing playing on the radio. Stores try to entice us with their sales and the days slip by, and we are not done with Christmas shopping or planning yet. In years past it has not been uncommon in our household to continue shopping right up until Christmas Eve!
Why should you start planning for Christmas in January?
- You will save money
- You will ultimately save time
- Your holiday season will be less-stressful
- You will have more time to spend with family and friends
When it’s January, your thoughts are likely off of Christmas. You are more focused on getting back into the swing of the school year and mastering your new year’s resolutions. But let me challenge you to prepare for Christmas all year-long. Yes, start now and follow these 4 easy steps and next Christmas will be much less stressful and a whole lot lighter on your bank account!
1) Make a written Christmas budget
Christmas spending is clear in our minds right now. So sit down (preferably with the hubby), get a cup of coffee, and pull out all of your receipts from Christmas — count up how much Christmas cost you this year.
Count up everything. Take into account things like Christmas parties and charitable giving. Get a grand-total (you may want to be sitting down for this). Now after the impact of how much you just spent, decide what you want to spend on Christmas 2012. Look at ways you can save and things you can cut back on and decide on a realistic budget for next Christmas.
2) Pull money each month
After you have decided on a total amount, determine when this will come out of your bank account. For example, if you choose this year to cut back on expenses and your total budget for Christmas 2012 will be $1100, then you need to pull $100 every month toward Christmas spending. We do this January through November, as most of December’s spending would be used before the month is over and there always seems to be unexpected additional expenses in December.
Set up a second checking or savings account and remove this $100 each month. Or use the envelope system (love this!) — pull cash out each month, so you can use it when you need it.
Note: Your first year of doing this you may find that you can’t draw January’s full amount as Christmas just depleted your account. That’s okay; pull what you can throughout the year. So by January 2012 you should hopefully be able to pull a fully-budgeted-months’-worth, because December was just an average month spending-wise. It may take a year to get on-track; start now, so by next January, you will be ready to go.
3) Start your Christmas shopping in January
Think about doing away with a real tree next year (since they are getting so expensive!), and buy it now! After-Christmas sales are the absolute best time to get next year’s Christmas supplies. And you can usually find fantastic deals such as Christmas trees for 70-90% off! So take a small part of January’s Christmas budget and buy the tree you want for next year. You can also buy a new nativity scene for 80% off, because nothing seems to last terribly long in a house with toddlers.
Then follow the sales all year-long. In May when a perfect Lego set goes on a super sale, take your May’s Christmas budget amount and buy it now. You will save a lot of money in the long run by shopping on your own time to find the sales. Also, you won’t be doing all of your Christmas shopping in December!
4) Make a holiday cleaning schedule
Create a cleaning-plan that spreads your deep-cleaning projects throughout the year. This will allow you to be ready for family visiting. It will also free up your time, allowing you to spend it bonding with your family and playing games with your kids.
Create a plan of action for the year. Plan out your spring and fall cleaning needs now. Make a calendar and in May include “clean out all old winter clothes and make a list of what we will need next winter”. Do the same thing in September with your summer clothing. Do this now, so that when the warm weather starts trickling in, you don’t end up living halfway out of drawers and halfway out of boxes of clothing around your room.
Plan ahead so it doesn’t surprise you. Schedule a deep-clean for your refrigerator three times a year or even more, if needed. Pick a different closet in the house each month to clean extensively. Keep this calendar going, select one closet or space each month (like under the kids’ beds). Clean out and donate all old things. Then by next January, it will have been a year and likely a great time to clean it out again.
Setting a regular deep-cleaning schedule will allow you not just to stay caught up on things all year-long, but it will also allow you to enjoy the holidays more. If you get to the beginning of November and the only cleaning you will have to worry about it straightening up a bit and cooking dinner, your Thanksgiving will be less stressed. The idea is to get all ambitious cleaning projects out-of-the-way before the holidays begin.
The holidays can be a time full of anxiety over money, busyness, and messy houses. But it doesn’t have to be that way! By being intentional, we can plan throughout the year and save money and time – having more fun! I challenge you this January to create a budget and plan all year for Christmas. This way you can focus more on the real reason for the Christmas season: Christ.
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