I thought the kick-off day for the commercialization and merchandising of Christmas was the infamous Friday after Thanksgiving. Up until that day, we got a pass, right? Weren’t we supposed to be exempt from the inundation of things like 24-hour-per-day Christmas music; the current and very annoying Target ad campaign; a mailbox full of catalogs; and people with red ribbons, ornaments, jingle bells and the like hanging from their car antennae?
Well, the fact of the matter is that “Black Friday” is now about three weeks into an already bustling shopping season. Truth be known, most people strip the front door of their favorite ghouls and goblins poster on the day after Halloween and instantly replace it with a wreath. Ugh! Unfortunately, to many in our community, an earlier start to holiday shopping equates to being deeper in debt.
Don’t overspend this year. If Christmas is still being paid for on Independence Day, there is a problem. Here are some ideas to avoid “Christmas in July.” I hope I’m not too late to help:
1) Do you have a spending plan? Are you going to stick to it? Who are you buying for? How much will you spend? Answer the questions and don’t compromise. Be honest. If your crazy uncle is only worth a $10 IHOP card, then stick to your guns.
2) Make a “food” budget. ‘Tis the season for eating and drinking. If you’re like me, you’ll eat and drink more in the next month than you did in the previous 11. The restaurant visits are increased – bars too. The grocery store visits are increased. There will be potlucks at work. There will be potlucks at church. There will be potlucks in the neighborhood. Who thought of potlucks and why is chili-cheese dip required? Don’t’ fool yourself – you will pay more for food this time of year. Budget accordingly.
3) Are you going to buy yourself a new outfit? Yes you are. Have you budgeted for it? No you haven’t. Hey, I get it. It’s fun to dress up during the holidays and to have something new seems appropriate. Have fun in that new red dress or that new red tie, just make sure it’s part of your plan. I agree, it feels good to be the star at the top of the tree at the company holiday party as long as you’re not paying for it, come Easter.
4) Finally, your travel costs go up. You’re moving around more – “over the hills and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go.” Lots of visits are on the calendar. Unless you’re tooling around in a horse-drawn sleigh, you’ll have to use petro. Gas prices are higher now than in the summer. Don’t forget to build your budget to accommodate your increased driving.
This is considered one of the most joyous times of year. Make it the very best for you and your family. Enjoy giving and enjoy the season, but do so with an accurate budget that accounts for everything. Have a plan.