This is a post from Make Love, Not Debt staff blogger, Abby.
One of the most revolutionary things my young financial mind discovered upon entering the world of personal finance writing after college was the concept of early saving for holiday spending. I had always found myself unpleasantly stressed as the holidays arrived, particularly after I started spending Christmas with my husband’s family. They are a very generous, and numerous, group, and I felt compelled to have something for everyone (even if that was only a batch of cookies). But costs added up – travel, gifts, baking supplies, etc. – and I couldn’t get my mind around a way to offset the sudden spending.
Until, that is, I read about a bloggers’ technique (sorry, can’t remember exactly who) for ending that exact stress. Rather than wait until November to think about cost, they put a small amount of money into a “holiday” account every month until said holidays, at which point, you have a small but healthy savings account to fund your spending.
This, quite literally, blew my mind. I already had automatic savings withdrawals taken out of my paycheck each month for other savings accounts, and so I added a small sum – I think about $25 – each month to this fund. While it wasn’t quite enough to cover all holiday costs, it substantially offset an amount that would have otherwise stressed me out significantly. I also didn’t miss the $25 each month, especially as it was gone before I could notice it.
These days, I employ a similar tactic; instead of a set amount each month, I tend to add lump sums of money when I can (after substantial overtime, for instance, or when I have a few freelance checks come in at once). This means that, while my husband mocks me for ordering holiday cards in October, I can take advantage of early bird sales because the cash is sitting there. I can also take money out of the fund to cover our plane tickets for holidays, and any other expenditures that come up. I don’t feel so cash poor the moment the stores pull out the holiday themed items (way too early, in my opinion), and most importantly, it alleviates stress during an already stressful time. Did the jam sandwich cookies I’d been planning to send to family turn into jam disaster piles? Not a problem, I can replace the supplies without stress. Find a good airline deal in July? Take advantage of it, because the money is there. It’s such a simple idea that I kick myself for not thinking of it earlier.
How do you manage the stress of holiday spending?