On June 25th, my mom sent a us a text asking if we knew what was was in 6 months? I figure it out. Mom is on top of Christmas shopping and planning. She gets her shopping done early every year. I always admire that she doesn’t stress about the holiday, but I often feel overwhelmed and don’t think I can do it. I’ve had Christmas ready early just once, so like almost every post I write, this topic is one that I am struggling through. With the weather hitting triple digits last week, and with crazy busy summer schedules, I know that Christmas is not on a lot of minds right now. I thought about changing this post, but there are some great reasons to start thinking about and planning for Christmas:

  • You can get better deals! Over the weekend I made a cheesecake and was reminded that when I plan ahead I can get a better deal. (I didn’t plan ahead, but if I had, I could have bought the cream cheese on sale or in bulk.) That purchase wasn’t a big one, but Christmas purchases can be. My mom shops sales throughout the year and can get the best possible price on the gift that she is buying. Black Friday prices can be the best prices of the year. This past year a lot of my friends gave their families annual passes to Lagoon for Christmas, and the best deal for those passes was on Black Friday.
  • Shopping early relieves a lot of stress during Christmastime. While I was stressing last year about finishing my shopping, my mom was relaxing. She avoided the lines at the post office by sending packages early to my siblings who live in other states. I wanted to relax but time was running out. I remember feeling uncomfortable chest pain caused by the stress. Pain can motivate me to change though!
  • You can have a more meaningful Christmas! Instead of fighting crowds and traveling in the cold weather, you can be home making traditions with your family. What are your favorite family traditions? We love decorating the tree. Another way to make Christmas meaningful is to make homemade gifts. I’m not crafty, but I am creative, and sometimes I think of the best gifts at the last minute when I have run out of time to do them. Also, my young kids love to make things, but kids need time to make their creations. So, I’m going to encourage them to start thinking about what they want to make for their Christmas gifts this year.
  • You can drink hot chocolate and play games with your family over Christmas break instead of shopping. Window shopping can be fun, but aimlessly walking up and down aisles isn’t any fun for me. In other words, you’ll have peace around Christmas time, which is what Christmas is about for me.
  • Selection is better! I’ll admit, there are some items that are only sold during Christmastime. Last week I was shopping for some makeup for my kids upcoming play, and the cashier told me that the only time they sell kids makeup kits is during Christmas. But, there are a lot of gifts that have a better selection throughout the year. For example, bikes go on sale in the spring. One year we decided to give our family camping gear for Christmas. We didn’t find good deals or good selection because we shopped in the fall. Please learn from our mistake, and if you want to buy a spring or summer item, shop during spring or summer.

Are you convinced to shop early? Please share why you are or aren’t convinced.

I’m determined to have my Christmas shopping done early by doing three things:

Set a goal!

Since there are so many stresses, getting ready for Christmas early had to become a priority for my family. My goal is to be done by Black Friday. Since I don’t like crowds, and I didn’t need what was usually on sale during Black Friday, it was a disappointment, but now that so many Black Friday sales are available online, I’m totally onboard with shopping on Black Friday for a few things. One good thing about stores putting Christmas items for sale after Halloween is that Christmas shopping can be done early.

Budget what you need to buy and how much will it cost.

I know this financial exercise can be painful, but it is so important because it’s the key to relieving stress during the holiday season. Plus, it gets easier each year you do it. We started doing a detail budget for Christmas in 2015. It’s a spreadsheet, so I just copied and pasted the information for 2016 and 2017. Christmas shopping is pretty similar from year to year. I usually buy for most of the same people. There are minor changes, but once you’ve done it, you can tweak the next year and it is a lot easier that the first year. Your presents will be more meaningful. Here’s a personal example. My mom’s side of the family always had their Christmas party on Christmas Eve. I remember one year as a teenager that I used my gift of money that I received from that party to buy my brother’s Christmas present. I remember I got him a CD holder at one of the few stores that were still open. I’m sure I didn’t get a great deal, and I didn’t get a really meaningful gift. When I run out of time, I buy gifts like that ... just to buy a gift, and I don’t like doing that.

Budgets help me do what’s best for our family. I mentioned that a lot of my friends bought Lagoon passes, and they are loving them, but Lagoon passes were not the right choice for my family. My husband and I don’t love amusement parks. We have only gone to Lagoon once together since we’ve been married (almost 14 years). Although we had a good time, we would much rather be at a national park than an amusement park. When I buy passes like this, I want to get my money’s worth, so if I had bought a Lagoon pass, we would be going more that we would otherwise go just to get our money’s worth, and I don’t want to do that. So, we bought a pass to an aquarium instead. I’m able to feel happy for my friends because Ty and I intentionally chose what was the best option for our family’s personality and ages of our kids. I enjoy my friend’s pictures and stories without feeling envious or left out.

Budgeting helps me figure out how much money we will need. Finding money for Christmas is the hardest part for me about shopping early. There are so many other financial pressures that make it a challenge to save the money early for Christmas, which is why I chose to publish this post during extremely hot weather. (It helps me to be accountable.) I don’t have an solution wrapped up for you that will magically make money appear. We all have to figure it out, but by thinking about it, we get so much closer to finding an answer to this dilemma than we will by burying our heads in the sand. Besides, the sand is way too hot for that!

One idea is to use extra income that you receive to pay for Christmas. This is what we try to do, although I also considered working part-time. What other ideas do you have? I would love to hear what you are able to figure out because it will probably help out someone else. Another idea is to use a Christmas Club account to automatically save for Christmas.

Shop while I’m running other errands or shopping for other items online.

Finding extra time to be shop can be hard! So, by starting early, I can shop a little at a time and multi-shop. Since my Christmas list is in the back of my mind, when I see one of those items for a good price, I can buy it. If you know what you are looking for, you can look while you’re shopping for other things. We are going to give our kids carry-on luggage, so when i was shopping for groceries at Costco, I walked by the luggage and started pricing it.

Although these are simple suggestions, they can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s our plan for Christmas:

1. Goal: Be done by Black Friday!

We want to give an experience — a trip to visit my sister’s family who lives in Alaska. My family is planning a family reunion there next summer. Everything will be that theme. Luggage and tickets.

When others share what they are doing, it helps me come up with ideas. So, I hope this helps!

2. Budget

Christmas 2017   Amount
Family Luggage 600
Ty   50
Nat   50
Jackie basketball warm up suit, book 50
Wes book, 50
Tommy   50
Chloe book, swim toys 50
Parents   100
Murray draw   25
Service Angel tree? 50
Neighbors use grocery budget 0
Teachers Make lotions 50
Stocking Stuffers use grocery budget 0
Christmas cards/ letters, stamps Smilebox Christmas slideshow 50
Decorations Tree Permit 25
Grandmas   50
Miscellaneous   100
travel use gas budget 0
Total   1350

 

Do you have suggestions to improve my budget?

We put Christmas music on the other day and my kids asked to put it on again. (I haven’t yet though!) I don’t mean to mislead you into thinking I’m not on top of everything. I’m not. I do plenty of last minute things, but I’m trying to start thinking about Christmas along with everything else.

Monday, 19 December 2016 09:26

Teaching Money Lessons to Your Kids

Everyday life gives us opportunities to teach others by using money. Here are a few we have had this month.

Money lessons from sports

My daughter loves playing basketball. She plays at recess with the boys in her grade. On Saturday, we went to the last game of the season for her recreation team. She has been invited to play on a competition team. Jackie and I discussed how much time and money it would cost her. We decided that playing on this team would be good for her. I asked when the fee was due. Her coach (who knows me well) said that if I needed to wait to budget for it, that was fine. I told her that I was letting Jackie pay for it. I pay for some of their wants, but this one I thought she would appreciate more if she paid for it.

I withdrew money from Jackie’s account for the competition team fee. Then I withdrew the amounts for their paydays from my account. Wesley (8), said, “Hey, you aren’t really paying us. You are just taking money out of our accounts and giving it to us.” After I laughed, I explained bank accounts and how they all had account numbers and I used different account numbers for each withdrawal.

Money lessons from school lunch

This is the first year Tommy (6) has eaten lunch at school. He prefers school lunch to packing his own lunch. He often left his lunch at home, so he went through his lunch money fast. I told him his balance was low, so he needed to pack his lunch to take until I paid more lunch money. He didn’t listen to me, and his account went negative. I told him that it wasn’t honest to eat without paying, but he didn’t understand. He responded, “No, it’s free.” In this electronic age, there is often a disconnect with what things cost. I remember taking my lunch money, and knew that I had to pay.

Fast forward a few months, and a neighbor posted on Facebook about her son not being able to eat because of low lunch money. That reminded me to pay for lunch since the balance was getting low again. I sent lunch money with my ten year old. Her dad asked if she had paid it, and she said yes. But I keep getting emails about low lunch money- especially for her and my school lunch loving first grader. So, I asked her again if she paid. She said, “I thought I did.” But then on Saturday, she found her lunch money in her backpack. These simple experiences are helping them learn responsibility.

Money lessons from Christmas shopping

This was a recent conversation between my kids. Chloe (4) said, “Santa is going to bring me a tramp.” Jackie (10) replied, ”First of all, it won’t fit in his bag. Second of all, it won’t fit in his sleigh. Third of all, it won’t fit under the tree.” My four year old replied, “It’s going to be a little tramp.” She has since changed her request. She is now asking for, “A talking dog that talks like us.” Where is Clifford when you need him?

Chloe is often my shopping buddy these days. She usually wants so many things every time that we shop. While we were waiting in the checkout line last week, she saw a Tootsie Roll Bank. She said she wanted it, and I told her no. I showed her how much it cost. I taught her what the dollar sign looks like and then talked about how it was $1. I told her that she had money to pay for things like that. She didn’t have her money with her and delaying her immediate gratification was hard.

Jackie (10) and Wes (8) decided what they were going to give everyone for Christmas. They have been earning their money so that they can buy their gifts. We went to to the Dollar Store. Jackie bought presents for each member of the family and for each member of her class. She also wrote a poem to go with each of the presents. My kids went to the checkstand before I was ready and backed up the line. Even though shopping was chaotic, thinking about their giving hearts is making me cry as I write this.

What experiences have you had teaching about life through money?

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