Most of us find it difficult, if not impossible, to finance Christmas out of December’s paychecks alone. That’s why in today’s installment of Christmas in July we’re going to discuss how to pay for Christmas.
The Christmas in July series is all about planning ahead in order to avoid a stressful Christmas season (read more about this here). Strained finances certainly contribute to stress, so it’s best to save for Christmas beforehand. Here are a few ideas on how to do this.
Strategies for financing Christmas
Regardless of what strategy you’ll eventually use to pay for Christmas, it is important to first know how much you are going to spend—otherwise you will not know how much money you need! An easy way to determine this is to make a list of all of your expenses. Don’t forget about less obvious expenses such as wrapping paper, foods you’ll take to parties, batteries for toys you’ll be giving as gifts, and stamps for Christmas cards. Take your time when making the list and check it twice so you’re certain it’s thorough. Tally up your expenses and contemplate if one of these strategies can help you pay for them.
- Save throughout the year. For most of us, it’s easier to set aside a little money each month than to set aside a lot in December. If this is true for you, then consider setting aside some money for Christmas each month. Take the total amount of money you estimate you will need for Christmas and divide it by the number of paychecks you have between now and then. This number is the amount you should set aside each paycheck. Put it in a separate savings account or somewhere else where you won’t be tempted to use it for something other than Christmas.
- Commandeer inessential budget categories during the fall months. If you have a few budget categories that you can cut out for a couple of months (e.g., clothing, eating out, entertainment), then consider commandeering the money you usually place in these categories during the fall months and using it for Christmas. This may or may not provide you with enough money for Christmas, so be sure to closely examine your budget before trying this.
- Take on extra work. You may be able to temporarily increase your income by taking on some extra work. You could turn a hobby into a small business, babysit, get a seasonal job, or work overtime. Personally, I think this is one of the more challenging and uncertain approaches to paying for Christmas, but it is a valid option.
- Use credit card points. As I shared last year, my husband and I use points we’ve accumulated during the past year to pay for our Christmas celebrations. We use credit cards that do not have annual fees, we do not carry balances on our cards, and we only use the cards to make purchases we would be making even if we didn’t have the cards (e.g., gas, groceries). Subsequently, the items we purchase with points are essentially free! This approach is not for everyone, especially those who have credit card debt or those who are not disciplined enough or financially capable of paying off their cards each month. However, if you can use your cards in a manner similar to how we use them, then this might be a great way for you to pay for Christmas.
I imagine there are a number of other effective approaches. Do you know one? How does your family pay for Christmas?