For many people, thinking about Christmas in July seems a bit crazy. Many of my friends and family do not even want to start thinking about Christmas until Black Friday. I started planning Christmas in October when I was in high school. When I was in college, I moved that up to start planning between June and July. Over the years, this has helped me take a more careful, planned approach to Christmas, and helped my budget.
The current inflation rate in the US is just over eight percent. According to Knoema, inflation is expected to continue rising between 1.5-4.3%. Starting early can allow us to save and stretch those dollars as best we can.
Setting Up a Plan
When June and July roll around each year, I start making a list of all of the gifts we plan on having for that year. This includes Santa, sibling gifts, extended family, friends or work gifts. I put this all in a spreadsheet with an initial budget.
Usually we take a chunk of our tax return and put it into savings as our Christmas budget, and then we adjust for a few months for some extra people we want to add, or new traditions we would like to add. Other family members that we have use a sinking fund, where they put a certain amount in a separate account each month to fund their Christmases.
Once we have a list of people to give presents to, we start making a rough budget for how much each present will cost. Then we brainstorm ideas of what to get each person based on that budget.
Then, we can go shopping! This is my favorite part, haha.
While we make the list, we plan for those big ticket items our kids have been wanting or look interested in, because often toys go on sale between July and August as stores get ready for holiday toys to come in.
Because we try to brainstorm ideas of what we want to get ahead, it allows us to plan where we get things, and make bulk orders, or think about which things we want to buy in the store, so it’s not an endless stream of boxes, which helps save on shipping.
Other Money Saving Ideas
- Use a money saving app — (I love using the Chrome add-on Honey, which shows me trends on items, digital coupons are available, and whether there are options for cash back)
- Have price limits — For many family gift exchanges, families have budget caps to help keep presents fair, and help with budgets.
- Buy experiences — One way to potentially to cut down on cost and clutter is buying experiences such as movie tickets, or zoo passes, or admission to other community events.
- Limit presents — It’s so easy to over spend on kids. They want everything, and they are easy to shop for. But limiting the number of gifts can help keep you on target. A popular one we usually aim for a thing they want, a thing that they need, something to wear, and something to read. Sometimes they get a book set, or a couple of outfits, but this helps guide us to make sure it’s not all a bunch of toys that will end up in on my living room floor.
- Watch Marketplace — Some people are very against buying secondhand, but for more expensive items, this could offer a way to get a great deal, especially if it’s something you could DIY fix up (such as a child play kitchenette), or comes refurbished. It’s also a good place to buy handmade gifts or items from local small businesses.
- Be Specific About Activities that Cost Money — December can be so expensive with extra activities, parties, family get-togethers, fundraisers, community service opportunities, and all of those things are important, and make it the Christmas season. In order to keep up, being intentional about which things we participate in. At our house, we try to pick 2-3 Christmas-y activities we really want to that cost money (Such as a local ice castle, or going out for hot chocolate or Polar Express experiences), and find a few things to donate to spread Christmas cheer.
- Look for Free Activities — Another way to save money during that time of the year is to look for free activities in the community to help bring the magic of the season without the costly bills. Some stores like Cabela’s or local shops or churches will have free Santas come, instead of expensive Mall Santas. There often community concerts or sing-alongs, or Christmas tree festivals to check out.
It’s never too early to start planning ahead, and be proactive about your finances and figure out ways to make your holidays merry, bright, and stress free!
- US Inflation Forecast, Knoema, 2022