Contributed by our own dynamite educator, Lee Ellingson of CCCSOK.org
1 Really – Must We Be Reminded?
No matter what time of year you are reading this article, Christmas is getting nearer by the day. Perhaps you haven’t recovered from the last one – you are not ready to even think about the next one. But it will be here before you know it. Or, will it? Actually, we already know the date of Christmas. Last year, it was December 25. Guess what? It will be that same date this year … and next year … and the next year. We know when it will be, but it seems to catch many people unprepared.
2 The Best Time To Begin Preparing For Next Christmas is Dec. 26!
Why not take the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day to write out a Game Plan for next Christmas? This year’s festivities and gift-giving are still fresh in my mind. What better time to plan for next year, using this year as a guide? What elements do I need to include in my plan for next Christmas?
- A list of each individual for whom I will buy gifts, including the “dirty Santa” gifts for work, church, or school parties.
- Estimate the maximum amount I will spend on each person in the above list. Total the individual amounts to come up with a total “ball park” amount that I will spend.
- I might want to buy some new decorations for the house and/or yard for next Christmas. I don’t need to totally replace everything I currently use, but I might want to add a few decorative items to replace old or worn-out items. This might include replacing the artificial tree I have been using for the past decade or two.
- Do I plan to travel across state, across the country, or around the world to visit with family members or friends who don’t live near me? If so, will I include the anticipated cost in my Christmas budget or my vacation budget? (I opt for putting it in the vacation budget).
Go ahead and get started. If I don’t start now, I will awake to find it is December, and I am not prepared!
3 Building My Christmas Fund Is a Year-Long Activity
How much is the “ball park” amount I plan to spend for Christmas gifts and festivities? According to the American Research Group, Inc., average spending for Christmas gifts in 2016 was estimated to be $929 per family, an increase of $47 over the $882 average spent in 2015. These amounts mean very little, as every family spends differently. But, just for the fun of it, let’s use the $929 average amount. How can I come up with that amount in the easiest way?
If I am paid every two weeks, I will receive 26 paychecks in a one-year period of time. If I set aside an equal amount, I will set aside $36 from each check (rounding up to the next dollar) toward my Christmas goal of $929. When I do the math, $36 times 26 paychecks equals $936, a few dollars more than my goal. I can put that in a separate Christmas savings account, not touching the money for any other purpose.
My employer has a Christmas Fund account. I can contact our payroll person or department and ask them to automatically deduct $36 from each paycheck, putting it into the Christmas Fund account in my name. By doing that, I don’t have to provide extra discipline to save the money. By doing this, I will miss that money less along the way between Christmases.
If you are reading this article near the end of June, the year is already halfway gone. However, you can begin now to set aside $36 from each of your remaining 13 paychecks this year, and you will have $468 toward your Christmas spending plans. That is $468 more than if you do nothing! You can scale back your spending this year, and then go for the full amount next year. Or, you can supplement this $468 with funds from your savings account, if you have funds available.
4 I Can Duplicate This Plan
I find two wonderful things about the above game plan for saving for my Christmas spending.
- I can use the plan for other special occasions. In a normal spending plan, certain things come along every week (groceries) or month (rent or mortgage, utilities, car payment). Other things are periodic, coming along only once each year, such as birthdays and anniversaries of friends and family members. I can follow the same principles for these annual events as I have laid out for Christmas spending.
- I can use this plan with different amounts. Suppose I plan to spend $300 for Christmas (or, for birthdays or anniversaries) rather than $929. The same principle applies. If I am paid every two weeks, I divide the $300 by my anticipated 26 paychecks, and I can set aside $12 (rounding up to the next dollar) each pay period. The important thing is to begin with the end in mind. Determine the total amount you plan to spend, and then break down that amount into small portions.
I have sketched the outline of a simple plan for you, which is based on the general game plan that I follow. Take it, work it, and have a MERRY CHRISTMAS … next year and every year thereafter!