Twinkling lights, sparkly wrapping paper, and an incessant stream of Christmas music playing in the background at our every turn can create a strong temptation to overspend during the holidays. By the time January rolls around and the new of all the presents has faded, we begin to feel like Santa’s elves might have ripped us off.
Try being proactive this year instead by utilizing the following tactics to avoid budget burnout in the New Year:
1. One is Enough. Does your daughter really need another Barbie, the new Justin Beiber CD, and a fully-equipped kitchen play set? Will your son even notice if he doesn’t get one more Transformers figurine, a new bike, and a XBox all at once? There’s always a temptation to shower our children with gifts around this time of year.
I know. I know. They’re only kids once, but are they learning the real meaning of Christmas or are we setting them up with an unhealthy expectation that the holidays are all about them and the things they receive? Before you dismiss the idea your children have too much, take a quick peek in your child’s room and count the toys, books, and video game systems. Would it really be a bad idea if “Santa” taught them a lesson in moderation this year and let one gift be enough?
2. Avoid layaway. Walmart recently reinstated their layaway program just in time for the Christmas buying frenzy. Kmart, Sears, and Toys ‘R Us also offer layaway programs, which at first glance seem like the financially responsible way to buy expensive gifts. However, each of these stores require a nonrefundable fee (interest in sheep’s clothing) for the convenience of layaway and if you miss a payment, they can keep the money you’ve already put down and put the item you wanted back on the sales floor. Walmart even charges an extra fee for items that aren’t picked up or cancelled by the customer.
It would be better to start saving earlier for Christmas and pay outright for the item you want instead of worrying about what to do if that holiday bonus you were counting on falls through and you’re stuck with extra fees and the possibility of losing your gift to customers who can pay the total in cash.
3. “Stocking Stuffer” is just an expression. Does anyone, young or old, require twenty pounds of chocolate, 15 candy canes, and a novelty snowman for Christmas survival? I don’t think so. In alignment with the “One is Enough” principle, how about exercising some self-control and limiting stocking stuffers to a few small pieces of candy, a cookie or piece of fruit, and a homemade keepsake that means a little more than plastic reindeer who…um…expels chocolate M&M’s. (No offense to the person who put one of those in my stocking a few years ago.)
While these may seem like small efforts, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find what a huge impact they make on your wallet this season.