6 Tips to Keep Your Christmas Spending on Track

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As a Prosperous Soul, you get to happen to life instead of life happening to you. You get to be a “money hero” even in December as you head into the potentially expensive season of Christmas.

Here are a few ideas that might help you stay on top of your finances this year.

1. Shop with a List

One day Dawna and our younger son went shopping together. Before they left, our son turned to her and said, “Mom, make a list because if I come, I’m going bachelor shopping. That means we know what we’re going to buy; we’re going to go straight to the one store and buy the stuff, and then we’re going to get out of there before we go ‘shopping’ and buy a bunch more stuff.”

Dawna laughed. “Okay,” she agreed and made her list.

At the store, she was gathering the items from her list and putting them into the cart when she saw something. “Oh, look at this!” She grabbed it and put it in the cart, but our son stopped her.

“Mom, that’s not bachelor shopping,” he said.

She laughed out loud and put the item back. They finished the list, bought only those items, and got home in a short time.

Though wandering through stores can be fun, writing out a list beforehand and then sticking to that list could save your family a lot of money this Christmas season.

2. Pay with Cash  

When we pay for transactions with cash, we tend to spend about 40 percent less than when we use credit. Cash can “feel” more valuable than credit. There is a real, clear psychology between the money in our hands and the items we are purchasing. We start to think, It took me time to earn this $10 bill, and I am giving it up in exchange for this thing I’m buying. My time became dollars, and then my dollars became this thing. 

If your goal is to be careful with your money this Christmas, try using cash while you’re shopping. This will likely increase your sense of value for what you’re doing and decrease the overall amount you spend.

3. Preplan Your Christmas Spending Limits

Know in advance the amount you have to spend this Christmas. How much are you going to spend in total? And how much are you going to spend per person?

If you plan on placing certain items on credit, preplan that amount as well. When Dawna and I use a credit card, we pay it off every month so we have a zero balance. But not everyone shops this way. If you aren’t planning on paying off your credit card balance at the end of December, know how much you are willing to carry on that card and then get that thing paid off as quickly as you can.

It’s always good to have a plan. Remember, if you aim at nothing, you’re sure to hit it.

4. Your Presence Can Be Better Than Presents

Over time Dawna and I have found that certain people in our family—parents, uncles, aunts—don’t want us to purchase gifts for them. They began to tell us, “We don’t really care about the gift. We just want you. So why don’t we plan on spending time together? Let’s come over or you come here, and we’ll just exchange Christmas cards.”

At first I thought, That’s kind of sad. But as time went on, I realized I actually felt the same way. I don’t care about the gift—I want the time. I want to exchange something of value with my family members instead of just trading “junk” we don’t really need back and forth.  

Some people in your family or among your friends may care more about your company than they do about any gifts you might purchase for them. If you can find these people, it shortens your shopping list and commits you to sitting around a table as you laugh with your loved ones and enjoy family time.

5. Sometimes Cash Is Better

I don’t like to give cash because it feels cheap to me, but as my sons have grown older, gotten married, built their careers, and established their own homes, they have started to think like homeowners. “I actually need some stuff for the house. I just need some stuff.

A Christmas gift of cash represents your time and gives the recipients the ability to purchase what they need.  

In addition, cash typically doesn’t stack up as another expense on your credit card. You’ve already earned this money; hopefully you’ve saved it through the year, and now you can give these people the money they need to make important purchases.

6. Don’t Forget Your Financial Goals and Upcoming Expenses

After months of hard work and financial planning, some of us adopt a casual attitude toward our finances during the Christmas season. We react to spending with this attitude: “Well, we’ll just see what happens.”

Don’t lose track of your original goals. See where you are with your “net altitude” (your assets minus your debts, which equals your net worth) and debt reduction plans. Now is not the time to let the chips fall where they may. Instead, look ahead and see where you’re going to be at the end of the year, which is only a few weeks away. If you have any tax payments coming up, do a little calculation and keep that money available.  

Sometimes we deny upcoming financial issues and then call them “emergencies” later, but they actually aren’t emergencies—we knew they were coming but just didn’t prepare. We can be diligent to manage these expenses so when they come up, we don’t have to panic—we get to feel like financial geniuses instead.

So, whatever you have planned for this Christmas, keep these tips in mind and God bless you!

Lauren Stinton