Updated: Oct 1, 2020
Overspending during the holidays? Who does that? Well, if you answer “ME!” to that, you are not alone! According to Finder.com, 42.62% plan to use their credit card or cards to pay for Christmas expenses. For some people credit cards are out of convenience; some will pay off that card right when the bill comes, but many will be continuing to pay on it each month until eventually it’s finally paid off. When the Black Friday sale items you bought are still being paid for months later it seems less and less of a good deal.
When you do the math, no matter how many points you get on that card, or the cash back, or the “on the spot” $40 off your bill if you open up one of those store credit cards it’s just not worth the temptation financially. Making those payments on your card all the way through April just to pay for Christmas means that holiday financial stress is dragged out. No wonder every year when we start hearing Christmas music in the stores and seeing the decorations go up in October, it seems like we just finished paying for last Christmas!
The most effective way to cut back on financial stress this Christmas is to take steps to prevent it! Work toward not going into debt during the holidays—and if you didn’t plan ahead last year for a debt-free Christmas, do it this year and start right now if you haven't begun saving yet! With so much of our lives out of the ordinary this year, due to Covid-19, this is the best time ever to start saving for Christmas right now and with the money you would have spent going out to dinner otherwise.
Use Cash, not credit
Dave Ramsey, a renowned author and leader in financial freedom education, advocates for using a cash-and-envelope system for budgeting and to keep track of what is being spent. In my own family as well we’ve found this has been a direct and helpful plan of action in being aware of how much money is being spent and where it’s going.
Have a budgeted gift amount for each person to receive…
Grab a pen and paper to plan ahead who will be receiving gifts. Decide how much you want to spend on each person who will be receiving a gift from you this holiday season. Calculate a total of how much that will end up being.
…And find out how much will need to be set aside
Divide up your total by 12 months to find out how much will need to be set aside each month to save for the holidays next year. If helpful, instead of putting aside money monthly, putting it away each pay period would also be a great alternative (if this is the case, just divide your total amount for all the gifts by the number of pay periods you have in a year to know how much to set aside). Tuck each month’s amount safely in your “Christmas envelope” and watch the amount grow throughout summer, spring, and autumn.
It really takes the mental stress of the holidays down to a new low when you don’t have the panic and worry about paying for gifts well after they’ve already been bought, the decorations are down, and the tree is at the curb.
Don’t sabotage your efforts
Resist the temptation to dip into your Christmas envelope during the year for something else. If you don’t keep it set aside for its original intention, you end up still buying the gifts anyway, only you will either have to lessen your amount you were originally going to spend on some on your list, or still spend the same amount but need to take it from another envelope intended for something else OR- hopefully not, put money on your credit card to play for all the gifts for people on your list.
Factoring in the interest you pay on a credit card (sometimes up to 26%), plus possibly a late fee or two if you don’t have the money to pay it on time, you will end up paying WAY more than what you intended for gifts. If you’re one of the 4.6% of people who use a short-term payday loans that amount is even higher.
Use Cash-and-Envelope saving in other areas
My family has found it’s so helpful to budget like this for other holidays too--like Valentine’s Day, Birthdays, our anniversary, vacations etc. When that times comes, I just take out that envelope and spend that money that we had worked into our financial plan. Even prescriptions and doctor office copays, pet expenses etc. Over the years it’s worked really great!
Resources for financial education support
Just so you know, The Cardiac Bear and our parent company Xpand Your Brand are not affiliates and receive no compensation for suggesting any resources. We’ve found a fantastic resource for an easy way to set up an easy family budget is the “Everydollar” app from Dave Ramsey, along with resources from his website. My husband and I have been using the Everydollar app ourselves and have also been using the cash-and-envelope system as well. We love it--and there's no cost for the app! We love FREE!
Reach out for Support
It’s been a passion of mine over the years to help families learn more about how to grow in financial stability and I would consider it an honor if any of our readers want to contact me with questions. Over the years, I’ve read many books on the subject, listened to hundreds of hours of financial strategy programming, and have coordinated Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University classes. Feel free to contact me via phone or email—I’d love to be able to help you, too! My support and expertise are completely free of charge. Or, listen to the daily (weekdays) radio show that Dave Ramsey hosts across the nation on hundreds of stations. You'll be blessed and learn more so much from Dave's plan!
As our three-part blog post about Managing Healthy Living and Managing Stress over the holidays comes to a close, we hope that our suggestions have been helpful and hope you have a great upcoming holidays from the Cardiac Bear Team!