Yesterday I talked about the basics of budgeting.  One thing that I wanted to mention about budgets is that they get a really bad rap.  For some reason, everyone thinks "budget" is synonymous with "joykiller."  But it's not!  A budget is your friend.  Embrace it!

Instead of looking at a budget as The End Of All Things Fun, try to think of your budget as a guideline.  It should be flexible and be able to stretch a little, like a rubber band.  But we all know what happens when you try to stretch a rubber band too far-- it breaks!  So stay within the guidelines of your budget and you'll find that it actually brings you peace of mind.

So, once you have your budget made, what do you do next?  Here are some ideas for how to work within your budget.

Brainstorm Some Gift Ideas
Think about the people on your list, and what might make a good gift for them.  Is there anything they've mentioned they'd like to have that's in your price range?  Something special you'd think they'd like?  Write it all down on your list.  This is important.  Don't keep it in a mental list.  Mental lists get erased.  Write it down, and it will be there forever.

Do a Little (Or a Lot of) Research
Remember in Miracle on 34th Street when Santa started sending people to other stores where the same toys were cheaper?  Wouldn't it be really nice if that really happened?  Well, fortunately for us, the internet makes comparison shopping a whole lot easier.  You can even use Google to do comparison shopping-- just go to Google's homepage and click "shopping" at the top.  Then, search for whatever it is you want to buy.  Google will return all the places online that sell that item and tell you how much each place sells it for.  (Google shopping used to be called "Froogle," which I thought was hilarious.)  There are other comparison shopping sites like Shopzilla which are also great.  Invest some time in comparison shopping, and it will save you money in the long run.

Also, if you have certain items in mind, start watching the sale papers to see if they go on sale or if there's a coupon available.  The Toys R Us "Big Toy Book" usually has a coupon attached to it-- that's great for big-ticket toy items.  Also, check out the clearance section of Toys R Us' website.   They have deals up to 60% off.

Buy a Little At a Time
The easiest and least painless way to do Christmas shopping is to spread it out over time.  There are a couple different ways that you can accomplish this:

1. Buy one or two gifts every couple weeks, starting in the Fall.  If you get especially motivated, you can go ahead and wrap them, too.  Just make sure you go ahead and stick a tag on them after they're wrapped.  Don't be like my Grandma and have to unwrap all the gifts because you forgot which one was for whom.  Be like my Grandma in other ways, but not in that way.

2. Take a little cash out of each paycheck and put it aside for Christmas spending.  Put it in an envelope and pretend it's not there, or otherwise it will go for pizza.  Trust me, I know this.  Put the money aside, and then when you're ready to do your shopping, try using only the cash that you've saved.  Alternately, some banks and credit unions offer Christmas savings clubs, which is a special account that you can pay into all year and take out at the holidays.

These are just a few ways to help you start thinking ahead about your Christmas purchases.  I said it before and I'll say it again: planning ahead is the key to not overspending.  One last thing: don't feel like you have to do all your early Christmas shopping at once.  I think we're so programmed that once we start Christmas shopping, we automatically go into panic mode thinking, "Oh no!  I must get it all done NOW!"  But don't sweat!  You've got time.  Don't put an arbitrary deadline on yourself, either.  Such as: "I will have all my Christmas shopping done by November 1st!!"  Chances are, you won't, and then you'll feel derailed.  So don't put that pressure on yourself.  Remember, this is about making things easier!


1 comment:

  1. I opened an ING Orange account a few years ago. I have it set up with an automatic deposit and it comes with a debit card. My budget is the money in the account. That way I can shop all year and not go over my yearly holiday budget.