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Today’s post is one that I wrote last year, but I find it still packs a fun holiday punch. Enjoy!
Christmas time has come and gone. Presents were opened. Recycling bins stuffed with wrapping paper. Stuff was acquired. And most people had a pretty darn good time enjoying the holiday season. Sadly, it’s all over. But for some, the fun is just beginning!
Christmas On The Credit Cards
As much as we love the memories, food and presents of the holidays, sometimes the holidays come back to bite us in the butt. I’m talking about when we finance our happiness through purchases on credit cards when we don’t have the money in the bank. No use hiding, we all know that you did it. Heck, I did it for years, that’s for sure! But you know what, it doesn’t mean that this has to happen every year. There are steps you can take to make sure the money is there, every year, so you don’t have to stress about paying off Christmas in February.
Steps to Holiday Financial Freedom. Forever!
- Stop Spending Money You Don’t Have. Yes, it seems more obvious than the fact that Justin Bieber should have stopped making records like 10 years ago. But, it really is the best advice you can follow, especially during the holidays. All the ads, “sales” and once-in-a-lifetime Black Friday deals are trying to get you to spend without thought. The best way to combat all the convincing advertisers is STOP!!!! Check out the bank account. Only $2 in there? Hmmm, maybe you should NOT buy anything else. If you spend what you don’t have, you won’t ever feel in control of your finances. Put the card down and walk away from the tablet!
- Pay Off Your Debt With The Quickness. Well, you can’t get ahead with the credit card monster hanging around. You need to arm yourself with a weapon and KILL that debt with no mercy. It’s an unwanted guest and you need to show it the door immediately. The best way to do this get on a budget and put ALL extra cash toward paying off your credit cards as soon as possible. The quicker, the better, and the less interest you have to pay for gifts you bought months earlier. Nothing is better than seeing a $0 balance on that card 🙂 Well, no reason to wait. GET ON IT! 🙂
- Plan For Next year Starting January 1st! I’ve talked a bit about how I got on a budget and paid off our debt. One of the best lines I’ve heard from Dave Ramsey was talking about planning for Christmas. He talked about having the family around the dinner table during Thanksgiving, enjoy a nice turkey dinner. And after taking a bite of the juicy meat, you gasp and almost choke on the turkey, because all at once, you realize Christmas is on DECEMBER 25TH THIS YEAR!!!! WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?!
The point is, Christmas doesn’t change. Ever. So you can plan ahead and make sure you have the money in the bank when the big day arrives. We do this by putting money aside in our savings bucket. We save $50 a month to ensure we have $600 annually for Christmas gifts. This year, we spent around $550 of that, so we came in right under budget. The point is, we have the money in the bank before we spend it. We planned ahead, saved for it, and had no guilt in buying our gifts because they were budgeted for. You can do this too, just start now so you can enjoy all the shopping later!
So, What’s YOUR Plan?
Are you planning for next year’s holiday season? WHY NOT?! I am. I suggest you start putting money aside each month to make sure it’s there when you need it. And heck, if you haven’t put together any kind of budget for next year yet, HIT ME UP! Just check out the Budget Friday page, and shoot me an email to get started 🙂
Note: Yes, I promote using credit cards to gain travel rewards. No, I don’t think you should ever put money on a credit card that you don’t have in the bank. Credit cards use should be part of a full budget plan, not a means of getting something before you have the money for it.
45 thoughts on “Christmas On The Credit Cards”
I also have $50 built into my budget each month for gifts, but I find that it gets eaten up fast with baby shower, bridal shower/wedding gifts, etc. It must be the age I am but it leaves little left over for Christmas. I tend to put one of the pay periods during “three paycheque months” towards gifts.
“I tend to put one of the pay periods during “three paycheque months” towards gifts.”
That works too, as long as it doesn’t impact your monthly budget, you’re golden.
Now is the best time to start budgeting for next Christmas if you are a big Christmas spender. $75 a month will be $900 at Christmas 2013! Adjust to your realistic spending level.
Yup, you need to see how much your normally spend and then divide that by 12. That’s your monthly budget 🙂
Great post! I applaud you guys for staying under budget, and the savings bucket is such a great idea. This is especially great if you get paid via direct deposit, because you can set up that $50 to go straight into a special account that you don’t touch until you need it.
Automation is the best way to ensure you are saving for all categories, period. Because you don’t have a choice once it’s set up 🙂
I plan on doing things the same next year. We save throughout the year then buy minimally!!!
Yup, because you’re a “cheap-@$$ Santa”, LoL.
There was one year my family put Christmas on the card and I can tell you when that bill came January I could not believe how much we spent. That was in 1997 or 1998. Since then I would buy things through out the year. When my husband and I finally got on a real budget in 2008, and became debt free in 2009, (48K in 13 months!) we talked about our Christmas spending and our anniversary today, (December 27) we started putting $100 a month in a savings account for everything we do in the holiday season. It has been great. Now that the kids are older its hard to buy through out the year. Knowing we saved for this time of year for the past 3 years has been very stress free! And come our first pay check in January our 2013 Christmas season is being saved!
You seriously need to send me your story to post here, because $43k in 13 months is INCREDIBLE!
And I’m thinking I should really re-name my savings buckets to “stress relievers”, lol.
Great points! I can remember the days of dreading the CC bill in January – thank God we have changed our habits. Christmas is so much more enjoyable and less stressful when you plan accordingly and buy gifts through out the year.
When the bank owns your Christmas gifts, it’s much less fun…
I just penciled in Christmas for my next year 2013 budget. It would be kind of cool to have a surplus of money in the pool, not need to touch it, and just let it roll over into my investment funds!
yup, and extras go toward other goals. That’s how we do it too! For us, it’s back into savings 🙂
Last year I was 100% guilty of doing Christmas on credit. This year I am proud to say we did not use credit and I even scored some great deals on gifts:) we are paying off our cards so I did not want to repeat the same mistake of using credit that takes us forever to pay off. It feels good to have budgeted the money for Christmas and by having to stress wether we can afford the gifts or not. I also started my shopping in October and people made fun of me but a week before Christmas all the presents were purchased and wrapped under the tree… Stree free:) I also did some secret shopping to earn extra money to pay for our gifts. Thank you for helping us with budgeting, it is really making a huge differance for us 🙂
Karen, that’s AWESOME! I’m glad I could be of assistance, and am excited for you to be debt free soon 🙂
And nice work on the side income, that’s some awesome hustle!
This article was very inspiring to me I so need to pay off debt fast this year! I did not add up a lot this year for our household but I did put some on the card I have to admit……by the way Mr. CBB sent me over here!
AHHH, the famous Mr. CBB. Love that guy!
Well, it sounds like you have a plan in place, and from the comments, looks like Mr. CBB has hooked you up with a budget? You’re definitely set for 2013!
I’ve had many years with Christmas on credit. That’s why January is such a dark month for so many people. If they could just get a flippin sweet budget January would be bright and sunny, at least in your mind anyway. I promise I am retiring that phrase with 2012.
Lol! I’m hoping more people are starting to plan for Christmas ahead of time on their flippin sweet budgets. It’s time to spread the word!
I had a super frugal Christmas and plan to repeat this next year! Definitely need to make more effort with a gift for my BF though in 2013 (esp as it’ll be our first as a married couple.
Congrats on the upcoming marriage! And hey, it really is the thought that counts. Trust me 🙂
Thankfully we learned years ago to have a solid budget when it comes to Christmas spending. It’s just another line item on the ol’ budget and it really makes it much less stressful to do our shopping. We use our card to get the rewards points and pay it off with what’s saved.
^ exactly what we do 🙂
I like to do my Christmas shopping in February when everything is 70-80% off on winter stuff and get most of it on sale. Then just buy a few more things in September, October, wrap it right away. Done! This way I don’t have to shop when everyone else is shopping and get in a big spending mood just because it’s a holiday. It saves me a lot of money!
Nice! Seriously, the holidays are much more joyous when you finish shopping a month or two early 🙂
Now, try finishing wrapping by November, and you are a REAL ROCKSTAR!
Boy, I remember the very first Christmas I was out on my own. I visited a long time friend who was also just out on her own. Her mother was there and the pair of them were decorating the apartment with the most ostentatious decorations I ever did see. When my friends mother asked me about my Christmas decorations, I honestly told her that I had no money for such things. I just moved into my own apartment and all my money went to buying a washing machine, curtains, paint etc.
My friends mother responded surprised: “Wouldn’t your mom lend you any money for buying Christmas decorations?” I was floored!! Of course my generous mother would have lend me some money had I asked. But why would I want to borrow money I didn’t have to spend on something I didn’t need only to have to pay it back next month, when surely I would find something more sensible to spend my money on (such as monthly recurring bills and all)?
All this happened about 15 years ago. Since then my friend lost her job, moved back in with her parents, moved back out again (3 years later), went bankrupt, ended up living in an unheated trailer with her toddler son and is now finally paying off all her debts (and this will take her many years to come).
Whereas I am now married, a stay at home mom, we live of off my husbands income alone and he works only 4 days a week! And we still manage to lead a pretty cushy live using only 50% of our take home income!
I sure am glad I never asked my mom for a loan to buy Christmas decorations!!
Wow, Sandy, what a story! Isn’t it crazy that a small thing such as deciding not to borrow for Christmas decor sets you on such a polar opposite path as your friend? Really, it’s an attitude about money that puts you on a path toward financial freedom. Your priorities will direct your actions. Great work on live on half your income in a one-income household, that’s phenomenal!
“We save $50 a month to ensure we have $600 a month for Christmas gifts.”
Fixed. You can now be my official editor. 🙂
“The point is, Christmas doesn’t change. Ever.”
I guess the date won’t ever change, the largesse with which we celebrate it won’t change…unless we change it. I think it’s still a choice (of omission) to celebrate it the way we do — and I’ve certainly been guilty of some of that myself.
Of course, this is an easy thing for me to say without kids who’d either need a lot of convincing or might have trouble avoiding ridicule from their judgmental classmates. But then I think of all my Hindu/Jewish/Buddhist friends who managed to grow up alright without going wild during the holidays… More to follow, I suppose
I agree. Our family enjoys giving gifts, but the point is not about giving each other the latest crap, but the gift that was given 2,000 years ago, namely Jesus. When it gets turned into “spend all my money on a bunch of stuff because everyone else is”, we’ve definitely bastardized the true meaning of the season.
Peer pressure is one thing my kids re definitely going to be taught to go against, to think for themselves rather than let others think for them.
We technically don’t specifically budget for Christmas, but we only use $500-$1000 a year and it’s always from “extra” money – money that isn’t used for our bills, budgeted savings, or put aside for anything else. Sometimes we even use the $300-$400 of credit card rewards towards the spending, lol. But yeah, never spend anything on a credit card that you couldn’t afford in cash right then too…
Great advice – this Christmas has been the first year I haven’t had that ‘what did I do?!’ moment come the January credit card statement, but I still feel like I could do better for Christmas 2015. You’re right it never changes, but how come it still always manages to creep up on us?! This year I’m depositing £100 in an account every month so that come Christmas, I’m completely covered, and can enjoy the festive period without the ‘debt hangover’ that often follows!
Having a Christmas savings bucket is awesome. Has definitely taken the sting out of the season, and let’s us enjoy giving instead of questioning every purchase.
Unfortunately I spent a little too much on my cards over Xmas and am now paying the price. Trying to reduce the debt on my card is killing me at the moment and reducing how much money I can put towards my investment strategy.
Thankfully though, I now have an upfront conversation with friends before Christmas and we agree not to buy each other gifts.
It’s easy to do, but a little planning can go a long way and help prevent this in the future. Sounds like you’re making all the right moves now.