I can hear the Charles Brown Christmastime song “Christmas Comes but Once a Year.” This song is the poster-song for what most of us experience each holiday season. The song goes:
Christmastime comes but once a year
Oh I'm so happy
My kids are happy too
It takes the next six months to pay my bills
When I think about it folks it gives me chills
But I don't care ‘cause Christmas comes but once a year
I'm gettin' ready people
To have myself a ball
I'm going out partying Gonna dance to every call
I'm gonna think about New Year’s Day
I don't care what I have to pay
Let the good times roll
Cause Christmas comes but once a year
Now, can’t you hear the piano solo, Charlie’s velvety voice, and the cool jazzy bass playing while the aroma of holiday treats hypnotize you into allowing yourself dance to the drumbeat of the motto: “But I don’t care. Christmas comes but once a year.” At the moment, you won’t allow yourself to consider the consequences of your actions, you simply shop until you drop.
But, if you can quickly allow yourself to think of credit card “Bills of Christmas Past,” then you might be a bit more open to the following ways to avoid being pulled into the pressures of overspending. Think of this as an invitation to better manage your Christmastime spending. Here goes:
Speak openly with your family about your financial limitations
This one applies most especially to your minor children, as many of us tend
to want to make children's’ Christmas’ extra special for the babies. Allow them to give you a list. Then go through the list and let them know what is possible and not. Ask the child, “If you were only going to get one gift then choose the one you want?” Then make that your priority. Then have him/her rank the other gifts in the order of the strongest desire. Then you remind your child(ren) about the financial limitations. This may be a good time to remind them of the point of gift-giving and have them give gifts as well. See my sixth point below to help with this.
Set your budget (and stick to it)
Make a declaration and write it down, padding it just a bit for emergencies (considering that you may overlook someone). Your declaration could read something like, “This year my spending budget is $, $$$$.$$ PERIOD. Use your budget to make your list, writing down the amount you will spend on each gift. Do a little looking around to make sure you are being realistic about what things cost.
Keep track of your holiday spending
Remember your list? Right, type it or write it and take it with you. As you make purchases, write down the price of the cost and check the name/gift off the list.
You want to also keep track of your debit's balance as you go. Yeah, it is work but it’s going to save you the $35 overdraft fees. Overspending with limited or insufficient income can lead to a greater severity of stress and depression. Ain’t nothing like throwing money away when all you needed to do was keep track of your spending!
Shop by comparison
Don’t buy impulsively or shop when you are tired because you are sure to pay more than needed. So, go window shopping to see who has the best prices. Ask your friends where you might get the best deals. Of course, use the internet to help you out.
Use cash (or debit cards) as often as possible
Since you have declared what you are going to spend and you know
exactly (about) what you will be spending on each gift then open an account
and get a debit card just for Christmastime spending. Put the declared money in the account and when you have bought your gifts the account should have a zero balance. If you saved a bit of money—you may put it in a Christmas savings account or our may donate to your favorite charity.
Be creative and make gifts instead of buying them
Some of the most meaningful gifts that I’ve given I’ve made or had some truly artistic person make it. It’s thoughtful, it’s personal and they are extra special and meaningful to the recipient. Because your loved ones know the time and thought you put into creating a meaningful gift and will cherish the gift and your love forever. You can’t buy this kind of giving or happiness.
Keep in mind what’s important
What is truly important to you? Keep this in mind as you spend. If it’s sharing special times and making memories, allow this to guide how you spend. If it’s buying unique gifts then plan ahead. If it’s the tradition of the true meaning of Christmas—then you may choose not to buy a single gift and invite your family members and friends to join you in helping those in need. And if you have the Charles Brown mentality—throw caution to the wind and “have yourself a ball… “cause Christmas comes but once a year.”