It's almost October! While the stores may be full of pumpkin spice and Halloween, your mind needs to be thinking about Christmas. More specifically, how are you going to pay for all the expenses that come with the holiday season? Christmas is a major budget-buster in many families, and it isn't even a surprise or an emergency. It comes every single year, on the same day, and you can pretty well anticipate the expenses if you plan ahead.
Back when I was a much better planner, I had a separate bank account for our November-December expenses. I've slacked off on that this year, doh!, and I'm regretting it already. With today's pay, we have just five paychecks until Christmas. Our money is pretty tightly managed, and so we're going to need to get creative to get through the holidays without going into credit card debt. But I know it can be done.
The first step is to make a comprehensive list of everything you might spend during the holiday season. There are so many little expenses to remember - you can see some previous years' lists here, here and here. Then, figure out how much money you can reasonably put towards these expenses. Your list will probably be more than the money you have, so you'll need to start making some hard decisions. Do you need to host a big Christmas party? Do your kids need new clothes for pictures? Can you find a way to make traveling less expensive? Do you really need to give gifts to every cousin and aunt in your extended family?
Facing the holiday expenses head-on is the best way to keep the happy in holidays and not have a January spending hang-over. Put it all down on paper and refer to your plan throughout the holiday season to keep on track. You'll be glad you did.