Christmas is coming, y’all!  I’m excited.  I love Christmas, but not as much as Nancy (who would play Christmas music year-round if I didn’t complain).

Having worked retail, we started getting our Christmas merchandise pushed out to our store in August and September.  Now I try to contain my Christmas celebrations to the month of December, because I think it keeps the season special.

Now I don’t know if little baby Jesus intended for his birthday to become all that we’ve made it.  That being said, there’s simply some things you have to do and consider to make sure that the Holidays don’t screw up the progress you’ve made.

If you haven’t started thinking about the financial impact of Christmas, it’s time!  You may need to prepare this month.  Here’s a few financially significant things you need to consider ahead of the holiday season:

1) Gift Giving

According to a recent Gallup survey, the average American is planning to spend $781 on Christmas Gifts this year.  How much are you going to spend?  Can you set your budget for December to include an additional $500-1000 in gifts, or do you need to be thinking about planning for that now?

A good way to help you figure this out is a Christmas budget.  Name the people who you’re going to get gifts for, and determine in advance how much you’re going to spend on them.  We spend probably the most on each other, a little less on parents and siblings, a little less on close friends, etc.  We just plan for it.  If we really want to buy a gift for someone that is more than what’s budgeted, we have to find the money in savings on other people’s gifts, or pitch in from our blow money.

2) Travel

Will you be visiting family this year?  Will they be visiting you?  What kind of costs will you incur from that?  Are you flying or driving?  Will you be expected to host and provide meals?  Do you need to have your car serviced before you leave?

All of these costs will add up, whether you are traveling to visit someone or family is coming to visit you.  There’s no getting around expensive plane tickets during the holidays, but hopefully you can think ahead for these expenses.

3) Home decor/maintenance/improvement

Our neighborhood is amazing at Christmas – we even have an official lighting contest!  We’ll take multiple nights and drive around checking them all out.  Some of these folks start planning early fall what they’re going to do this year.  Maybe there are things that you want to do this year for your house too, before family comes or before it gets too late in the season:

Christmas tree.  Replacement lights.  Carpet cleaning before family arrives.  New decorations.  A higher power bill.  A light-up reindeer for the yard.  Fixing up the guest bedroom.  A new wreath for the door.  More lights!

Start thinking about those things now!  You’ll inevitably need to replace or augment something in your Christmas decor that is broken or missing – think about that, too!

4) Charitable Giving

Last, but certainly not least, you’ve got to think about your charitable giving, because you’re gonna get hit up everywhere. You. Go.  You’ll be asked for money “for the children,” “for the homeless,” “for the unwanted animals,” “for those less fortunate,” “for the troops,” etc. ad infinitum.  

Hear me clearly on this: All of these causes are great and important.  But we can’t give all we might like to all of them.  We have to decide what are the causes that are most important to us, and be intentional about our support of those organizations that embody the cause.

But what about this?  Perhaps you are intentional about the times you’re going to get hit up for money.  You plan to give to your most near and dear causes, plus you set aside a little bit of walking around money so you can drop some in the red Salvation Army tin, give some to the guy on the street, buy someone’s groceries, or say “yes” to the Walgreens clerk when they ask if you want to donate $1 to whatever cause.

Nancy and I have been particularly inspired by our good friend Em in a giving post last year, to consider giving as much money away as we spend on gifts.  That’s a great challenge that we’re discussing how we’re going to implement.

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We also love giving donations as presents – sometimes there’s someone who has everything.  Giving a gift in their honor is a great way to bless someone, while letting the honoree know that he/she is thought of and loved during this season.  Samaritan’s Purse has a great Christmas Gift Catalog that they put out each year.

 

Be thinking ahead friends, to make sure you handle these holiday expenses with ease!  A little bit of planning can go a long way towards helping you live intentionally at the holidays and not feel like you got taken for a ride!