Creating a Battle Plan for the Christmas Debt War

GUEST POST BY MY BEAUTIFUL WIFE: AMBER MOORE.

I’m not sure when things changed for society. At one time, Christmas truly was solely cross-1149878_1920about celebrating the birth of the one that would save all of mankind from damnation to hell (if they wanted it). Now, it’s not Christmas unless on December 25th, the tree is surrounding by truckloads (no joke) of shiny, brand-new, expensive toys.

I don’t think gifting your 5-year old with 43 new hot wheels cars is going to help him to understand the significance of the holidays and, more than likely, you really can’t afford to be giving him all of that either. Many people today live pay check to pay check. The majority of Americans plan on spending more than $800 for Christmas gifts and, according to the Consumer Federation of America, less than 1% of Americans with accounts a Credit Union hold a Christmas savings account. Now I realize that they could have a traditional savings account or even a change jar for this, but I still think that it gives a good overview of how unprepared we are when the holidays roll around.

I’m sure more than that intend to be better prepared; it’s probably a pretty popular New Year’s resolution: to save for Christmas. But that’s the problem with New Year’s resolutions, they are usually very vague and you make them to yourself so that there isn’t any real accountability. That way if you fail, oh well. In this case, when you fail to save, or if you save and maybe don’t have an savings fund built up, you use those funds for one of life’s many emergencies that come up. Well, what then? Thanksgiving is almost here, you have no money in savings, you absolutely have to give your kid truckloads of brand new toys, and so you must shop Black Friday for the awesome deals. So, what happens? You bust out your credit card, or sign up for a new one, or take out a personal loan at your bank, or, the worst, you take out a payday loan. Then you pay hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars of interest so that $830 you spent turns into $1900 by the time, if ever, you get it paid off. AND you start your New Year with more debt.

I know you are reading this thinking, “I do not want that to be me again, something needs to change!” You are so right, but where do you start?

Let’s make 2017 the year you follow through, at least on your Christmas savings (can’t help you with the 10 lbs off the midsection)!!!neujahr2017-1753894_1280

Here’s your surefire plan to avoid Mr. Christmas debt, start your next New Year without him following you around all year, so the next Christmas you can spend that $800 (or more if you want) without guilt or shame and no interest!

1 – Use strong words in your goals.

No more of this, “I plan on saving for Christmas in 2016.” First of all, saying you have a plan is not a plan, its a weak intention. Say things like “I will save $950 for Christmas this year.” Tip: Use this with any “New Year’s Resolution” you plan on making.

2 – Lay out a detailed plan.

checklist-1817926_1280It’s not enough to say you are going to save, you need to also detail exactly how much you will save and by what date. To figure this out you will want to create a “Christmas Budget” (this is Christmas Debt’s ultimate foe). Make a list of all the people you want to buy for, or at least those who made it on your nice list. Then come up with an amount to spend on that person. Here’s an example:

A – Spouse         $50

B – Kids (x 3)     $100/$300

C – Grandparents (x 4) $30/$120

D – Siblings (x 3) $20/$60

E – Nieces/Nephews (x 4) $20/$80

F – Colleagues/Friends/Teachers (x 6) $15/$90

Total: $700

Now you know you need to save $700. Now decide when you want the funds. Your first thought might be December, right? Well, no, especially if you enjoy venturing out into the madness of Black Friday. So you would have 10.5 months or 23 pay checks (most likely) to come up with $700. So, using a little bit of elementary math you can figure out that you need to be saving approximately $70 per month (you can round up a little to account for tax or shipping charges) or $35 per pay check (if you are paid bi-weekly). So, you need to add a “Christmas Fund” line item to your January budget for $70 per month.

3 – Have a dedicated savings account for your Christmas fund.

This doesn’t mean you can’t put other sinking funds in this savings account as well, but it would probably help if it were separate. Many credit unions offer a special fund just for Christmas funds that you deposit into every month and it auto transfers to your regular account in October or November.

christmas-1786558

If you keep your Christmas savings in your checking account, its too easy to spend. The minute you realize you forgot to budget for Sally’s dance recital costume, you see that $210 sitting there for Christmas and think, “I’ll just borrow out of this real quick and pay it back next month.” Guess what doesn’t happen next month? You don’t pay it back because there are other expenses that you have to add into the budget or you forget all together. So, please do not leave your Christmas fund in your checking account.

We currently have many sinking funds going into 1 savings account and while it works for us, it only does because I am meticulous in updating totals on a spreadsheet (<- nerd here) every time a deposit or withdrawal is made so that I never mix funds. A lot of people don’t have or want to spend that kind of time on that and so eventually they have $3000 in their savings accounts but are a little unsure of exactly how much of that is for what. So they go to fix their car thinking they have $400 in their car repair fund and end up spending Jonny’s Christmas fund. Oops! It usually is fairly simple to set up extra savings accounts, even if your bank doesn’t offer a specialize Christmas one. Its better to do this and just leave it strictly for Christmas.

4 – Now that you have your Christmas fund figured out, forget about it!

You have your savings account set up, and your budget started, you can start an auto-transfer from your check to that savings account. Then, forget about it. Don’t try to borrow from it throughout the year. Don’t go in and change your auto-transfer or your budgeted amount. Leave it alone. Let your plan go to work.

“But CAM! What if I find this super-amazing, can’t-resist, must-buy deal let’s say in christmas-tree-1081826April, can’t I pull out the money then?” I’m going to say “no”. It starts you down a very dangerous path. You end up giving that toy to a niece or nephew whose birthday you forgot, or little Cori finds the baby doll in your closet so you just give it to her, or the dog finds it and makes it his new chew toy. Now you are out a toy and out the funds in your Christmas account. You have a budgeted amount which means you would have to take amounts from one place (maybe siblings) and put back in Cori’s. I like to shop at garage sales and thrift stores and throughout the year I find things to give to people for Christmas. I have a separate line item in my budget for garage sales, so if there’s money in that envelope I can buy whatever the super-amazing deal is and try to hide the gift as best as possible. If there’s not money in there, then I pass and wait until I do have the funds.

If you come up to Black Friday and realize that little Cori already has a closet full of Christmas presents and you don’t need to buy her anything extra, then you can choose to do whatever you like with the amount you budgeted for her. Maybe pay off a debt, or add to your family’s emergency fund, or even use it to bless someone in need around the holidays.

5 – You made a spending plan, stick to it!

This is the hardest part, second only to keeping the budgeted amount going in every month. You made a budget and set amounts for everyone, but that Black Friday rolls around and while you are waiting in line for the Hatchimal, you notice that their blenders are only $12! “What? Aunt Susie would love that blender!” And then there’s the cheap pajamas, and all the other toys and kitchen items, and electronics filling the middle aisles just waiting for you to pluck them and place them into your cart. By the time you make it shopping-mall-522619to the cash register, you have $400 worth of items and realize thats only for 3 people on your list.

I know how hard it is to walk by a super-good, amazing deal and not to take advantage of it. So, plan out your shopping trip. Decide exactly what you are going to buy, for who, from what store. Look at all of the extra things they will have out so you know what you will see when you get there. If you decide that you really want to take advantage of some of the kitchen items deals for yourself while your there, that’s fine, just make sure you have the cash funds available in your budget for household items. By knowing exactly what you will see and what of that you are going to buy will help you stick to the spending plan you made in January. Now, I realize things happen and you might want or need to adjust your spending plan before heading out, thats fine, as long as it is a detailed battle plan.

So, here’s a summary:

1 – Set your goals using strong words: will, am, etc.

2 – Lay out a detailed “Christmas” plan: how much to save, by when, and for who.

3 – Have a dedicated savings account for your Christmas fund.

4 – Leave the savings account alone all year long.

5 – You made a spending plan, so when you go shopping, stick to it!

Just remember, Christmas is not about loading people up with new “stuff”, its about being with family to celebrate the fact that we are alive, living with purpose, because God was gracious enough to send his only child to save this world. Debt will not get you closer to feeling God’s peace: only prayer, worship, evangelism and fellowship will do that.

img_6400As someone who always made people ask, “How does she do it?”, I had to learn how to fit more into my day without completely losing my mind. Now I’m excited to share how I did that and what I’ve learned with everyone else. I just want to see people able to live the life they want, doing the things they want, without the stress they think is normal. I want everyone to experience Peace of Time.

 

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