Start Preparing for Christmas Now

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Christmas is by far the most expensive time of the year for most families. From holiday shopping for gifts, to travel, to decorations and meals – the expenses add up. Instead of financing Christmas on credit cards, there are some things you can do to start preparing for Christmas now which will alleviate the after-holiday…

Christmas is by far the most expensive time of the year for most families. From holiday shopping for gifts, to travel, to decorations and meals – the expenses add up. Instead of financing Christmas on credit cards, there are some things you can do to start preparing for Christmas now which will alleviate the after-holiday remorse!

Start Preparing for Christmas Now

Create a Christmas Holiday Budget

One of the best ways to prepare for the Holidays is to create a Christmas budget. Creating and sticking to a budget makes it easier to make sure you have enough money to cover your gift, travel, and other holiday expenses. Whether you make homemade Christmas gifts or buy gifts from the store, creating a Christmas budget also takes much of the guesswork out of the holiday season and helps you avoid sticker shock in January.

Open a Christmas Club or Special Savings Account

Many banks offer a Christmas Club or special savings account specific for holiday savings. These accounts work like a personal accrual account (See how to create a sub account at Capital One 360). You can contribute to it all year long consistently and when it’s time to start your holiday shopping, withdraw the funds.

How to make it easier. The average family spends over $600 a year on Christmas – if this is the amount you need, start saving in December or January for the following Christmas and you’ll only need to set aside $50 a month or about $12.50 per week to reach the goal. The best way to save is to have the money transferred automatically from your check or checking account into the savings account used only for your holiday funds.

You can also set up a savings goal with the popular Smartypig.com – a goal-oriented, online savings account. The money is automatically deducted from your checking or savings account at the frequency you choose. When you’re ready to pull the money out for holiday shopping, you have the choice of having the money deposited back into your bank account, or getting the money on gift cards. If choosing gift cards, you’ll also get a bonus which gives you a little extra money to spend.

Consider Using Layaway

Another method many people use to reduce the affect Christmas has on their budget is to begin shopping in August or September and use layaway programs. Layaway allows you to select all of your purchases, and place them on hold in the store. You’ll need to make a small deposit to hold the items (usually around 5% of the entire cost of your purchases), and then schedule weekly payments until it is paid in full. Once you’ve paid off your purchases, you can bring them home. The fees paid for layaway is almost always less than what you would pay to put the same items on a credit card (unless you paid your credit card in full before interest started accruing).

Layaway programs are also available online, through services like elayaway.com, and feature a wide variety of retailers who participate in online layaway. Make your selections and save them in your online “shopping cart”, make your deposit and schedule your payments and your items will ship once you’ve paid in full.

Travel Preparations

If you travel to visit family over the holiday season, begin your search for discounted tickets well in advance. You can sign up for email notifications when prices drop below a specified point, to help you find the best time to buy tickets.

Sometimes traveling before or after the actual holiday will save you money over traveling when everyone else is traveling. Consider celebrating the holiday with family from afar just before the Thanksgiving and Christmas travel prices hit, or after the new year, when the holiday prices have dropped.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of The Military Wallet. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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