The Ghost of Christmas Presents


It’s that time again: Thanksgiving is just around the corner with Christmas right on its heels. Like hardworking squirrels storing away nuts for the future, I find handling Christmas expenditures is best if planned for in advance and not looked at as an unexpected expense; after all, it comes every year.

The American Research Group says that the average adult in 2013 planned to spend about $801 on Christmas gifts. I imagine that this year’s average expenditure will be up slightly, given that the October U of M consumer sentiment index is close to a five-year high. So let’s say the average adult is going to spend $900 for the Christmas season in 2014. That is quite a burdensome expense if not planned for in advance. If a family wanted to include this expense in their monthly budget (which I highly recommend) they would want to put away roughly $75/month beginning in January. Right now, of course, we only have one month left to save for the 2014 Christmas season, but we have a whole year to plan for the 2015 holiday.

Now, I know that some families out there are going to spend less and some will spend more, but whatever the amount your family is going to spend, it may be wise to divide that number by 12. Every payday, go into the bank, get actual cash (archaic, I know), and put that into an envelope marked “Christmas Only.” Then, stash that money somewhere safe and sound. Speaking from experience, there is nothing better than peeking into your Christmas envelope in mid-November to find a bunch of $20s just waiting to be spent … guilt free!

“Where will I find this extra money?” you may ask. Think of all the little expenditures we take for granted. If we were to tighten our belts just a little throughout the year, this savings plan would fit right in. A Rassmussen Poll states that 57% of Americans go out to eat at least once a week. If you translate that to a family of four, you can expect to spend at least $40 on each dining experience. Reducing dining out by just one meal a month would put you halfway to the monthly savings goal. Energy bills are another source of savings. Find your average monthly electricity cost, and then make it a family game to see how much you can save on your energy bills. Make a conscious effort to turn off lights, keep the heat or air conditioner two degrees above or below your normal level, and shut off that cable box when not in use; I’ve heard estimates that a cable box with DVR capability can cost up to $10/month worth of energy alone! (It makes sense though … put your hand over the top of the box after it’s been on all day: you could almost fry eggs on it!) When you add those small savings together, you would be surprised at how the “Christmas Only” envelope can fill up while not substantially affecting the family’s lifestyle.

If you’ve already budgeted the cash for this year’s Holiday expenditures, hats off to you! If you have not, New Year’s is right around the corner, and budgeting for next year’s holiday expense can be right at the top of your list of resolutions. ♦

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