Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. It is time of celebration and reflection. But it is also a time that can be stressful and leave you exhausted. Preparing for family time and thoughtfully sharing gifts can easily steal the reason for the season. I wanted to share here a few practical steps to not let shopping and preparation ruin the season.
1. Start with a budget
For so many people the holidays can be a very difficult time to stay on budget. The pressure of wanting to find something that is nice but that doesn’t break the bank can be a challenge. The first step is to set a budget. If you have never set a budget for gifts, it may be good to look over last year or the last few years and see how much you spent. Did you feel like this was within your means? If so, then that may be a good number to start with. If you felt that you over-spent or you went into debt to buy gifts, then you need to set a budget that is lower. Another good rule of thumb is 1% of your total income. If you make $50,000 a year then you budget for Christmas should be around $500 total. Just a rule of thumb but the key is to set some sort of budget that is within your means.
2. Make a List and Check it Twice
The next step is to make a list of all the people that you plan to buy gifts for. Remember to include teachers, neighbors, and anyone else that you plan to buy for but that falls outside of immediate and extended family. If you tip housekeepers, hairdressers, doormen, etc then make sure to put them on the list. You then want to divide the dollar amount you agreed to budget for gifts across the list. I like to start by dividing percentages by groups. 50% immediate family, 30% extended family and 20% to everyone else. This helps to make it easier to decided how much to spend for each person. You can then list out all of the people you plan to shop for and assign the dollar amount. Keep in mind that this is just a rule of thumb to keep you on track.
3. Plan your time to be most effective
Let’s face it, as Christmas draws closer our days seem to shrink. To make this time of the peaceful and focused on its true meaning, you must stay organized. Set aside the day or days that you plan to do your shopping. Keep in mind that the earlier you get it done the better you will feel rolling into Christmas. A great time saver is buying items online. Many retailers have great deals online in addition to free shipping. Amazon is another great place to find the items that you are shopping for. The key to shopping online is to have you list before you go onto the website and not getting distracted by all their offers.
I hope that these tips will help you to take on the holiday craze with a budget and a plan and that this is turn will help you to live a more peaceful and meaningful Christmas season.