I haven’t used credit to pay for Christmas in a long long time. In fact, I’ve kind of blocked out what exactly I used my credit card for back when I was using it, so I am not sure that any Christmas presents ever got charged (although I am guessing some did). But even though I wasn’t using credit to pay for Christmas, paying for Christmas was always a really big stressor and struggle for us. Every year I would hope that my November contracting check was huge so we would have enough money to pay for presents. There was the year that my check literally got lost in the mail – that was a horrible year. Yes, I got the check replaced but not in time to pay for Christmas. I think I might have cried a few times that year. And if I didn’t make enough contracting, usually in December my spouse got three paychecks (this year it was in November actually) and the entire “extra” paycheck would go to fill the gap.
But this year was different. We made a plan for how we were going to pay for Christmas – not the best plan, in that the best plan would have been to save all year for it – but a reasonable plan that would cover all of our Christmas costs and also provide a cushion for unexpected expenses without decimating our budget. We allocated a portion of my spouse’s third November paycheck – just a portion, when in the past the entire thing would somehow be spent come Christmas Day – and we stuck to it. As of the writing of this article, we had allocated $500 to all Christmas related expenses (gifts and travel) and we spent a little under $300 on gifts all told, and I am anticipating $100 on gasoline. With any luck we’ll actually come out ahead and be under budget.
Shopping with a budget was both easy and difficult. I had to come up with some creative gifts (I made scrapbooks of my daughter’s first year for both my mother and mother-in-law) and I did have some trouble not buying more gifts than I did. Next year I do think I will raise the Christmas budget just a tad, for I would like to buy a few more gifts for some of the people on my list. But overall, it was nice to have a set number in mind for how much to spend and work to find ways to come in under that number. Usually my goal is to spend “as little as possible” and this year, it was to spend as little as possible but also, to not spend more than $500. I never realized that setting an upper cap would give me such peace of mind, but it really did. Having an upper cap and not just “as little as possible” actually gave me a framework within which to work – as little as possible might seem like $900 when in fact, if I set a maximum at $500 then I can’t spend more than that and I have to come up with ways to come in under my limit. As I said, I had to be a bit creative with many of my presents but I think I did okay.
Merry Merry Christmas to all my readers, subscribers and visitors, and may you all have a joyous day with friends and relatives – even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, spend some time with your loved ones today.