Right now your Christmas tree and decorations are likely put away, it seems like a weird time to think about next year’s debt free Christmas. It’s cold outside, and you’re probably trying to decide what to do with all your kids’ old toys to make room for all the new Christmas toys that have taken over your home.
Well, that’s what I’m dealing with, anyway! But I’m also taking a few steps now to prepare for a better Christmas this year. Not that this last one was bad (it was pretty good, actually), but there is always room for improvement. Our family probably could have planned better, spent less, and avoided some stress.
It IS a long way off, of course. But if you start your planning now you’ll be glad you did. So here are three things that I’m doing and that I recommend for everyone, to make your next Christmas better than ever.
1. Make lists of all the gifts you exchanged with family and friends.
You probably won’t remember everything, but you’ll remember better now than you will in December this year. Especially try to note the gifts that weren’t expected or planned. Keeping a “gift diary” of sorts can help you decide who to give gifts to in the future, and what kinds of gifts are most meaningful. For me, I received some nice cards I didn’t expect, and now I’m adding those people to my Christmas card list!
Having this kind of list will help you compile your gift budget for Christmas. You won’t suddenly think “Oh! I wanted to give that person a gift, too” and feel pressured to find something at the last minute.
Now, gift-giving should never involve feeling pressured, of course…we all know that gifts should be given from the heart, not out of obligation. But we’re all human and want to show others that we appreciate them, but sometimes we can be forgetful, too! It helps to have a list to work with, even if you decide not to give gifts to everyone you write down.
Anyway, it’s fun to read lists of what gifts were exchanged each year, for nostalgia!
2. Start a Christmas savings account if you haven’t already.
We started one a few years ago and it’s been one of the best things we’ve done. We have an amount automatically transferred from our checking account to this savings account each month, and by November/December we have enough to cover our expenses. See if your bank or credit union offers one, or check an online bank that may offer higher interest like www.ingdirect.com.
3. Start a gift idea notebook now.
When you think of a great gift idea or if a friend or family member says “I could use…” be sure to write it down. This way you’re ready before Christmas or a birthday comes along.
To help with planning, read the book Debt-Proof Your Christmas by Mary Hunt. It just came out last year and I borrowed it from the library for a few weeks. Mary Hunt is known as the “Everyday Cheapskate” lady from her newspaper column, and founded Debt-Proof Living. Her new book, Debt-Proof Your Christmas: Celebrating the Holidays without Breaking the Bank is full of great ideas to make Christmas less stressful and more fun. Most importantly, it’s about making Christmastime meaningful again, too. Many of us have come to believe that the perfect Christmas is achievable only with money. But she proves that planning and creativity can be the best gifts you give yourself and your family.
There are many great gift ideas, recipes, activity ideas, stories and more. Since you may not have much time to read it at Christmastime (a busy time for most of us!), pick up a copy at the library or order a copy (I like amazon.com) to read little by little this year.