It’s the middle of summer and most of the country is is still enjoying weather that is anything but what we’ll see in December, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thinking about Christmas. I know, you probably hate it just as much as I do when the stores seem to push their holiday merchandise out earlier and earlier each year, but that’s the beauty of thinking about Christmas in July–you may be able to avoid a lot of that holiday stress completely.
When it comes to the holiday season there are usually two things most people lack: time and money. We often wait too long to get around to shopping and that means rushing around in the weeks leading up to Christmas and stressing out or buying items that we didn’t really want. If the lack of time isn’t bad enough, most people find they didn’t budget enough (if at all) for the holidays, and that leads to spending money you may not have, putting the purchases on credit cards, or skimping on giving presents altogether. It doesn’t have to be that bad and if you start today, you can easily put aside $500 to ease the holiday budget or pick up a few items early on before it’s too late.
Start Today and Save $500 or More by Christmas
Don’t think there’s any money left in your budget to save for the holidays right now? Think again. You basically have 22 weeks left until Christmas, so that means it takes less than $25 a week to save up $500. You don’t have $25 a week to spare you say? Don’t be silly. Think about the things you buy or do each week that can come out of your budget to make this money magically appear. Just cut out one regular coffee you buy on the way to work and save $2.50. Take your lunch into the office just one day a week and save upwards of $10. Cook a family dinner at home instead of heading out just one night and you could save the entire $25 or more right there! If you do go out to eat just order a water instead of soda or adult beverage. Water is free and it will save you a couple of dollars each time.
See, it’s not that hard. You don’t have to cut your cable subscription, turn in your iPhone, or resort to using the internet at the library to come up with the money. Save two dollars here, five or ten dollars there, and before you know it you’ve come up with the cash without even missing it.
Now that you’ve found the extra $25 each week you need to actually save it. If you already have a savings account it’s easy enough to just deposit it there, but an even better idea is to create a separate savings account just for your holiday budget. This keeps it a bit out of sight and out of mind so you’re less tempted to tap into it for other things. So, the best bet is probably an online savings account such as FNBO Direct or Sallie Mae savings. These accounts integrate seamlessly with your existing bank accounts for easy fund transfers and they carry some of the best interest rates out there. Sure, you won’t make a ton of interest on a few hundred dollars, but something is still better than nothing.
So, what are you waiting for? $500 may not entirely cover your holiday budget, but it will put a nice dent in it for sure. But the best part is that once you have this account and recurring payment scheduled you can start saving for next Christmas as soon as this one is over without changing a thing. When you save $25 a week for a full year you’ll end up with over $1,300! Maybe you skip Christmas at that point and treat yourself to a well-deserved vacation. It’s up to you.
Getting Some Gifts Out of the Way Early
Why wait until after Thanksgiving to seriously start thinking about buying presents? There are a lot of people in your life that you’ll be buying for that you know really well and can find something they will like at any time of the year. If your wife has been hinting at some new jewelry for the past few months you can start looking around for deals now rather than wait. By starting early you’ll have more time and won’t be rushed into a decision and it’s the slow season for things like jewelry so you will likely get far more for your money. When it comes to the kids you might not know what the must-have toy will be yet, but that’s fine. Kids love almost any toy so you can pick up a toy here or there in the coming months and tuck them in the back of the closet.
But here’s the best part. Every gift you pick up early is one less gift you have to pick up come November and December. That means less travel in the slush and snow for your colder climate folks, less time fighting traffic and finding parking, and less time fighting the crowds and dealing with the inevitable nasty surprise of a must-have gift being out of stock. Instead, you’ll be sitting by the fireplace with your egg nog while everyone else is pulling their hair out at the mall a few days before Christmas.
Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle
My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.