Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve have come and gone. Winter is full on. Vacationing is complete and you are back to the daily drag. Holiday pounds are slowing you down and credit card bills for your holiday shopping pile up on the kitchen counter, waiting for payment.
January can be a depressing time of year! While the holidays are fun, often we get caught up in the excitement and forget that the reckoning always comes due. It can seem to be a vicious circle each year. You struggle through the year to make ends meet, and you succeed in clearing debt and putting a bit aside and then the end of the year hits with all of its travel, entertainment, decorating and gift giving expenses. You put things on the card because it is safer, easy to do and you don’t really have the extra money now. Come January, the bill arrives and it is much, much larger than you thought it would be.
What to do? How can you keep this chain of events from repeating, year after year, decade after decade?
How to get a handle on the holidays and avoid post holiday blues.
So, next Saturday morning, get yourself a cup of joe, slide into your warm fuzzy housecoat and new cozy slippers and sit down at the kitchen table to think things through.
Getting a handle on holiday spending isn’t rocket science and you can do it. For years – actually about a decade – we struggled through year end each and every year and wound up on the down side in January. It really was very depressing to save and save all year only to see those savings disappear and more bills come in January – due to the holidays and other year end bills.
Now is the time for you to think ahead to next year – yes, even while you struggle to pay off this years exuberance! Here are a few tips on things that we used over the years to get control of our holiday expenses and avoid the post holiday blues.
Understand what happened.
This is just common sense and standard advice, but it does really help. Write down all of the people you bought gifts for this year, even including folks like your co workers, beautician and the mailman. Add up what you spent on each of them and then total that up to see what gift giving cost you this year.
List the holiday parties you hosted along with your recollection of the cost of each. Don’t forget family get togethers and office parties.
List the holiday events and parties you attended. If an event, list the cost (for example, we used to go to the city symphony’s Christmas performance each year). If a party, list any special purchases you made for it (such as a gift for the hostess or a new outfit, etc).
List the holiday travel you did this year and what it cost.
In short, try to collect all of the holiday related expenses you had this year. You will use them to project next year’s expenses.
Get a plan.
Now. Armed with the information from last year, project what you might spend on each holiday related category next year. If you gave to too many people, plan to reduce those numbers. If you spent too much per person, consider how you might adjust that (but plan for at least the same amount next year).
Add all the holiday categories together to arrive at your projected grand total.
Find the funds.
Now you know what happened this year and what you think might happen next year. You are ready to start finding the money to fund next years holiday time. Here are a few ideas to consider.
Dollar a day, dollar a week fund.
Starting today, set aside one dollar for next holiday season. Add a dollar to it tomorrow and each day from now until Christmas. Every Sunday, add one more dollar to this money pool. If you start January 1 you will end up with $359 + $51 (from your extra $1 on Sundays) or $410.
Add ins for your dollar fund.
- If you get a tax refund, add at least half of it to your holiday dollar fund.
- If you return a gift for something of lesser value, add the difference to your holiday fund.
- Sell any unwanted or unused gift cards online, add the difference to your holiday fund.
Spread out the pain.
You are sitting there at the kitchen table on New Years Day, sipping that steaming cup of coffee and dreaming about the new year. Why not plan on spreading out the painful expense of the holiday’s throughout the year?
Set a goal to buy at least one gift a month for those on your holiday list (over and above the dollar fund you are setting aside for later). Pick wonderful things, when they are on sale. Put them in a special place in our home, set aside to hold next years gifts and also list what you bought for each person in your plan – so you don’t forget what you bought!
Forbid funds use.
Find a way that works for you to make sure that you don’t touch the holiday funds (or gifts) you are saving for next years holiday time.
Some folks use payroll deduct to a special account. Some folks put cash aside in some unreachable place – such as a safety deposit box. Some folks leave it in a regular account and just make a budget line item. Do what works for you and your family. Some need more help than others in making these funds hands off.
Picture a bills free January.
Now that you have done all the work, enjoy your second cup of coffee and dream of January’s to come – holiday bill free Januarys, year after year, decade after decade.
Do you get post holiday blues due to the holiday bills in January? How do you handle them?