How to Cash Flow Christmas This Year
HEY! It's November! That means Christmas is in LESS THAN 55 DAYS! YAY!
Unless of course, you're planning for shopping for all of your Christmas gifts on a credit card this year. In which case, I can almost guarantee you have that tiny little knot in your stomach because you know that every year your heart is going to skip a beat when you get that credit card statement in January.
Did you know that consumers spend almost 40% more than they plan to spend, or remember spending, when they shop with a credit card rather than with cash or a debit card? That means that if you had a Christmas budget to begin with, it is 100 time easier to go over that budget by 40% when you pay with a credit card rather than cash or a debit card. So if your budget for Christmas is $1,000, you're more likely to spend $1,400 instead. Does that make your head, or wallet, hurt a little? It does mine! I don't have an extra $400!!
Avoid that extra punch in the gut with my free Christmas Cash Flow Planner.
So this year, I'm going to give you some tips, guidance, and a little challenge to approach Christmas differently. Here is how to cash flow your Christmas, even if you're just getting started in November!
Before you get started, download your free Christmas Cash Flow Planner here! I'm going to reference each document throughout the post so go ahead and download and print it so we can walk through it together!
1. Make a plan.
As with anything in your life, the best way to successfully cash flow your Christmas shopping this year is to start with an actual, written plan. Decide on how much you can afford to spend, make a list of everyone you need to purchase a gift for, assign a budget for each person, and know exactly what you plan to spend. Easy right?
Well - if you've never done it before? No, probably not. How do you decide on what you can afford to spend? It starts by having a cash flow plan for the month of November. If you've never done it before, I really challenge you to do it for November so that you know what you can really afford. Warning: this may be a really big wake up call for you and your budget!
There are a bunch of different ways to do a cash flow plan but assuming this may be your first time, we are going to take a really simple approach. Take your November Cash Flow form and at the top of the page, add up all of the income you plan to receive for the month of November and put it in the box labeled "Income". See? Nothing scary so far!
Now, go down the page and fill in each box with the corresponding amount of money that goes towards that category this month. Start with the needs: giving or a tithe, food, transportation (car payment, insurance, and gas), rent or mortgage, and utilities. Then fill in any debt payments you have going out - credit card balances, student loans, medical bills, etc. After that, complete the boxes for eating out, clothing, and any other miscellaneous discretionary budget line items.
Don't forget to plan for your Thanksgiving meal, the Thanksgiving parties at school, any extra traveling you'll be doing for Thanksgiving, or other holiday related expenses for November.
Add up all of these, and put them in the box labeled expenses, and then subtract your expenses from your income, and this is how much money you have to spend for Christmas in November.
Quick gut check: Are you pleasantly surprised by this number or are you a little ashamed of it and think you should have more? Look at all of your debt payments going out and think about what it would feel like to add those totals to this number? Doesn't getting rid of that debt free up your budget so that you can give more?
Whatever that number is - here is your challenge. Find a way to make it work for Christmas this year. Whether it is $250 or $2,500, make it your budget for Christmas gifts and use that to plan for your spending this year. It might be hard but if you don't have as much money as you thought you would, it will be a serious wake up call.
2. Change your spending method.
This year, vow to put that credit card away and to use either cash or a debit card for all of your purchases for Christmas this year. Even better, cut that card up! Oh yeah - I went there.
But wait! I do most of my Christmas shopping online! I don't want to risk having my identity stolen! That still doesn't mean you have to use a credit card for shopping. Your debit card is protected by the same principles that your credit card is as far as fraudulent spending - if it is used fraudulently, you're never responsible for the money spent whether it is a credit or debit card. BUT, if you are on a budget and can't afford to have that cash just disappear until they decide to give it back to you (which I totally understand because hey, that is where we are!), it is so easy to get a pre-paid debit card, load it with your budgeted amount, and shop online without worrying!
So, no excuses! NO CREDIT CARDS THIS YEAR!!
Every time you see that cash leaving your hand or watch your checking account get drained every time you make a purchase, it will help you feel your money and keep that budget in check!
3. Downsize your gifts
Raise your hand if you have to go through your house either before or after Christmas and get rid of stuff just to make room for more stuff you're going to buy. Is that you? That was us a few years ago and when we had Jett, his first Christmas was ridiculous. Chris and I didn't even get him anything because we knew his grandparents would do what grandparents lovingly and generously do and go a tiny bit overboard.
Then when we decided to change our financial future and get out of debt, we completely changed our outlook on Christmas. Not because we wanted to - we had to! We didn't want to spend a ton of money on Christmas because it went against our overall goal of getting out of debt. So we decided to go really small on gifts and big on time together and with family and honestly (I promise I'm not trying to cheese it up around here) it was one of the best Christmases we have ever had as our little family.
This year, instead of focusing on spending a lot of money on a person on your list, try and focus on the intentionality behind the gift. A lot of times we use Christmas as an excuse to buy something someone really wants, no matter how exorbitant it is price-wise. I'm not going to tell you to only buy needs for Christmas because frankly - that is boring! It is nice to treat your loved ones a bit with something unexpected that they want! I am going to tell you that you don't have to go over your budget to make that happen. The phrase "it's the thought that counts" has been around a long time for a good reason: because it is true.
Instead of buying the first gift that comes to mind (unless of course that gift is within your budget and is something they want) do some investigative discovery and find out something they've been really wanting and haven't had the time or inclination or money to get themselves. It could really be something very meaningful and simple that can light up their Christmas and make them think of you every time they reach for it! Maybe it is a really amazing cookbook from their favorite chef, a gift card for a much needed massage, or a good book they have been wanting to read. The point is, it can be meaningful and wonderful without blowing your budget. It just may take a little more work!
Grab the Gift Planner page (you may need to print off more than one, depending on how many gifts you need to get), and sit down with your spouse and start filling it out. There is a place for their name, the allotted budget for their gift, their interests and hobbies, and a checkbox for purchased, received, and wrapped, so that you can track their gift from start to finish in one place.
It always helps me to do things like this in pencil because I tend to make a lot of changes before I finish it out.
The bottom line is - Christmas can be fun and meaningful even when you do it on a budget. It may even be MORE fun and MORE meaningful because you're adding something to your Christmas that may never have been there before: intenionality!
Don't forget to download your Free Christmas Planning Packet here and start planning Christmas today! You may need to do it again in December if you need to extend your time or budget a bit, so the sooner you get started, the better.
Do you have a friend who could use this information? Be sure to email them this post OR share it on your Pinterest account!