I know, I know, Christmas JUST ended less than a month ago and you've barely put away all your decorations. Why, oh why would you want to start thinking about Christmas again already?
Now is the PERFECT time to start thinking about next Christmas because it's fresh in your mind! You can still remember how awful it felt to rush to three different parties in one day instead of eleven months from now when the rose colored glasses are on and you tell yourself it wasn't so bad. Or you can remember how amazing it was to drive around and look at lights while listening to Christmas hymns. Or maybe there was something you heard of after the fact and want to include it next year. You won't remember that in a year!
So, first up, grab the free printable I'm offering for my newsletter subscribers. It's a printable workbook for you to write down how you want your holidays to look and not look. It's okay that the holidays are over right now. They have this funny way of happening over and over every year. While the events and activities are still fresh in your mind, grab the printable and write it all down. Then tuck it in with your home binder, Christmas decor, or somewhere else safe where you know you'll find it before the holidays next year. Then you'll be able to do what you want and skip what drove you nuts!
Next up, the Christmas budget. November or December is not the time to plan a Christmas budget. At least not in our house where we make a plan for how our monthly income is spent. If we waited we'd have very little wiggle room for gifts and awesome food! Instead we are constantly planning ahead for birthdays and Christmas. I can't say enough about being intentional with plans, especially when it comes to money!
1. Hit up the clearance racks
That's right, starting now you can make plans for next year's holidays. Lots of items go on clearance this time of year so it can be a great time to stock up. We grabbed wrapping paper (probably too late for that now, sorry!) but you can still find some good deals on other items.
Toys tend to go on clearance this time of year as well (especially at Target) and you can score some amazing deals to tuck away for birthdays and Christmas. Make sure the things you are buying are items that your gift recipients will actually want and love, not just a good deal. We've made that mistake and the toy has been tossed to the side after a few weeks. Now we try to only get items like LEGO that we know are a hit with our kids time and time again.
2. Start setting money aside
We have an automatic transfer set up each month to put money in an extra savings account called "Gift Savings." It's not a lot but it's a designated amount that we don't need to remember to set aside on our own. This way when the time comes to buy gifts we already have the cash on hand! No juggling current monthly budgets to see if we can afford a gift. And this brings me to my next incredibly important point -
3. Set budgets for gifts, food, and activities
Christmas is a time when it's sooo easy to blow the budget because we want to spoil everyone and then there are those people you forgot to write on your list but suddenly need to buy something for! Aaack! Write it all down NOW. Again, while it's fresh in your brain, write down all the people you bought gifts for, all the activities you did that cost money (Christmas cards, visiting Santa's village, etc) and even food costs. Figure out a reasonable idea of what you need to save up or set aside in order do all of this.
The nice thing about having a budget is it's a plan of attack. We know how much we are going to spend on each extended family member so we keep our eyes open during the year for things we want to get them. This year we found some amazing deals on certain items during the year so we were able to give a little more to people and actually stay UNDER budget because we knew what we could spend and we watched for sales. It pays to plan ahead!
4. Use rewards programs
We are members of several rewards programs. We use Swagbucks, Ibotta, Shopkick, and the healthy rewards program through our health insurance. You can check out a more detailed explanation of each of these here to see if they are something that will work for you. Even though each of these only gives us a little back each month it all adds up and helps our budget. Even if you only earn $20 the entire year that's $20 you didn't have before! And most of these require very little effort.
5. Consider Scaling Back
Were you totally overwhelmed by everything this year? Too many events? Too many gifts? Too much money spent? Is it really all necessary? Consider a minimalist holiday season. Make the decision to only buy for immediate family. Or do an experience gift rather than a physical gift so it doesn't take up space. Decide to donate to local charities in place of exchanging gifts. Don't say yes to every invitation. It's your holiday season and you and your immediate family can make the choices about what is best for your family.
Are you feeling ready to plan ahead for the 2017 holidays? I already know I need to scale back on my baking - as much as I love it we had WAY too many treats and I'm still dealing with the tight feeling when wearing real pants, ha!
What are you going to do now to start planning for next Christmas? Do you already have ideas for stashing money away or how to scale back? I'd love to hear them in the comments!