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Christmas Planning Part IV: Paying for Christmas

While scaling back can take a big chunk out of the burden of paying for Christmas, the burden won't be completely gone. We still have to buy gifts or materials to make them, and we want to do fun things around Christmas that sometimes cost money. Since I don't advocate going into credit card debt for anything short of the most dire emergencies, here are a couple suggestions on how to pay for Christmas. One way we have done it in the past is to set up an extra savings account at our credit union and transfer $10-$20 a paycheck into it depending on what we can afford. If things are really tight, we sometimes only move over $5. If we have a windfall (such as a bonus or tax return) we will take a portion of that money and add it to the Christmas account as well. This Christmas account pays for both gifts AND activities thorough the Christmas season.

I know someone that insists that they are too poor to save even a few dollars a pay check, so they put everything they buy for Christmas on a credit card and then pay it off. If they could get the card paid of quickly, or scale back enough one year not to use it, then they could put aside what they would normally pay each month towards the credit card into savings for the following Christmas.  

Another way to get some cash for Christmas is to sell things that you no longer need or use. Have a yard sale in the summer or early fall, when the weather is still good, and tuck the money away for Christmas. If you live in a warm climate, you might be able to have a yard sale in November or December even. Advertise on Craigslist and Facebook with plenty of pictures to build interest. Live in a colder climate and missed the opportunity to have a yard sale? List items on Craigslist or on a local buying/selling group on Facebook. Just remember to not agree to ship any items, only deal in cash, and practice safety when meeting prospective buyers. Also keep in mind that some items, such as clothing, shoes, and housewares sell better at a yard sale than online, and try to keep your prices realistic. No one is going to pay full retail (or anything close to it) for something used, no matter how good of condition it is in. Also, try to keep your emotions out of your pricing. Sometimes people sell things for more than others are willing to pay because they put a "sentimental" value on it. When selling, ask yourself: "Would I be willing to pay that much for this if it came from my least favorite neighbor's house?" If the answer is no, then it is priced too high.

If you need to earn some real cash for Christmas, consider getting a temporary or seasonal job, but don't limit your options to the months just before Christmas. There are often events and festivals going on in the summer that require short term workers. Find out if your local summer theater troupe is hiring for ushers on evenings and weekends...not only do you get paid, but you might get to see some good shows as well. If a summer-long commitment is too much, look at local art and music festivals that last only a week. I spend 10 days every summer working at a concessions stand at the state fair. I make about minimum wage (plus occasional tips), and I don't start my shift until Hubster is off work, and then I work until between 9 and 11 pm (depending on how busy we are) and come home. It wears me out, but it only lasts for ten days, so I just push through. That money goes into our Christmas account and I just "forget" that it is there. Last year, the money I made at the fair paid for 90% of our Christmas expenditures.

The other part of what I did last year, and I am doing this year, is saving credit card points. The trick to doing this is to not use your credit card as a credit card. Use it as you would a debit card and KEEP TRACK of things. Whatever you are using for budgeting, enter in all of you credit card expenditures in your budget as though it were a debit, but figure out some way to mark it so you know it is on the credit card, then subtract it from your account or budget balance. That way, when the credit card bill comes, you can pay it off and not accumulate interest. I use my check register to keep track and label it as "CC" in the check number column, and then write the date I paid it off next the description once it is paid. 

Now, if you have any doubt at all about your ability to keep close track of your credit card spending so that you don't spend more than you have available, or if you are in any way in doubt of your ability to resist the temptation to use the credit card to buy something you can't afford with plans to pay it off later, DON'T USE THIS METHOD of "saving" for Christmas. You will likely end up paying more in interest than you make in points, and end up with a load of debt that may put you in a bad position financially.

About the end of November or the first of December, figure out how much money you have in that Christmas account and use it to create a budget for Christmas. How much of what you have are you going to spend on each person? How much do you want to allocate for activities? Stick to the budget once you have it figured out, stick to it. There is something rewarding and satisfying about sticking to a budget. If you get it done early enough, you can shop black Friday sales if you feel so inclined, but be careful not to get sucked into the frenzy. Use the ads to plan carefully, keeping in mind what your family members really want and need. Don't buy something just because it is on sale. If I shop black Friday (and often I don't) I usually use it to purchase the "something to wear" items, and maybe a "something they want."  But I only buy something they want if it really is something they want, not if it is something I think is cool and that they will like. I have made that mistake one too many times and paid the consequences for it 😉.

What other creative ways have you come up with to pay for Christmas?

That does it for our Christmas Planning Series.  It has been fun sharing with you the ways that we make our Christmases more manageable, and I hope you have gleaned from it some ideas that can help you do the same!

Did you miss the rest of the series? Get caught up! Introduction: A Christmas MiraclePart II: Our Gift Giving PhilosophyPart III: Emphasizing Traditions and Memory Making

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