For the second year in a row, I spent only cash for all of my Christmas shopping, yet somehow this year I had a harder time covering it all and I even cut back on how much I spent. It seemed as if other things in life really hit us harder this year including all the everyday expenses plus large raises in college tuition for our second daughter. So then came Christmas, and though I am just about done, I am heading out today, early, for the last few items for stockings and some gift cards. I needed to wait until payday like I am sure so many others have.
When I was younger I would just charge everything I didn't have cash for and then cry when the bills piled in. I would over spend and buy way too much for the kids. These past years we have changed our thinking and spend much more carefully. Even though it is hard to always stretch the cash, it is so good to know I will wake up on Dec. 26th knowing I will not have Christmas to still pay for in the New Year. We have cut who we exchange with each year but the list is cut as far as I WANT to go. I still love to give gifts and if we can afford it, then I like to do it.
The kids gifts are mostly practical. No Ipads or anything fancy, Mostly new coats and clothes and of course some toys for Q. If our girls want something like a computer or expensive electronic they have to save for it. We can give them the amount of cash we would spend normally and they can add other gift money or savings to buy it themselves. This is nothing new for us but just what we have always done as we have four kids and never budgeted that much for a single gift. I think this has worked well as the kids have all of their original game boys and ipods that they have bought mostly themselves. You know the old adage, you will take better care of what you spend your own money on. Now don't get me wrong. If I could, I would love to give them these types of gifts, but like I said our budget never allowed for it so this is what we have come up with for our house.
Here is what I did that worked to help pay cash for Christmas but also improvements I need to make:
1) I bought gift cards I knew I would need throughout the year.
2) I have a gift savings account but clearly I need to budget more into it each month.
3) Purchase more gifts earlier in the year.
4) Budget more for those end of year expenses that always hit and I act like I am surprised. You know how that goes right?
My husband and I have committed that after the holidays we are going to develop a new written budget. Together at the table hammering it out. We have some specific goals we want to meet and I don't have much faith that the gov't is going to solve our fiscal problems. I see higher taxes in our future. We want to be prepared for this as best we can. Our expenses are not going down but up, as incomes stay stagnant. Some things are changing for us, and college expenses are rising but we need to prepare for the coming changes the government is going to hand us all next year.
You can find my posts on the Thrifty Living Series here.