Christmas Cheer… A Few Months Early

“‘Tis the season to be jolly”… and then you sing… “fa la la la la, la la la la”. Seriously, it is so early to even think of Christmas, but that is exactly what my husband and I have been discussing this weekend. Oddly enough, I have spoken to two of my couple friends who are talking about the same thing this weekend. I think we are all looking at the fall, and looking at our financial picture and just trying to take inventory.

For Matt and I, this time of year is like a roller coaster that just keeps picking up speed until it ends with a bang at Christmas. This month is Noah’s birthday, followed by Ava’s birthday two weeks later. And then we have oodles of friends and family with birthdays in the next few months. In November is Thanksgiving and my brother’s birthday and then the roller coaster really gets cooking until Christmas. In years past we have typically had a reprieve from the party madness until my birthday in February, but now we have Luke’s birthday in January to plan for as well. Not to mention Aunt Jess and my little niece Emma in January.

As the endless, party planning and presents stretches out in front of us, Matt and I have just been having a serious financial reality check. It’s not that we don’t want to be generous or to be givers, we just want to be purposeful with our money and we don’t want to be wasteful. So, four months in advance we are discussing our Christmas budget.

This is one of those interesting topics because I am such a firm advocator of having a Christmas budget that you draw from your income every month. It is so important that you have a plan for any expense that you know is coming. If you don’t plan for Christmas, you will have to plan for how to pay off the debt from Christmas afterwards. This can be so destructive to your financial picture for the new year. It is definitely better to have a plan in advance. I have also found that it is better to have that Christmas money in cash because it gives you a very definite boundary for when you are out of Christmas money.

However, for the past three years, although we have had a Christmas budget, we have not had to budget in Christmas into our monthly budget. This is because for our family, our plan for Christmas has been to use a portion of Matt’s money from his side business to pay for Christmas. This has worked wonderfully for us for the last few years. However, in the past few months, Matt has actually launched his own graphic design business and is going part time at Liberated Living Ministries. This may not mean much to you, but what it means to us is… no more side money. Our side money that we have had for 9+ years, is becoming our income.

It has really been a season of change and transition for us, and I know that I will have many interesting blogs from this as we adjust and learn. However, for this weekend, that adjustment is taking the form of a radically reduced Christmas budget. But I really don’t feel deprived in it. We could take the money out of saving, but neither of us feel like that would be wisdom. We just feel such a desire to give what we have, and try to be as wise and resourceful with what we have as possible.

So, I have made my Christmas list of names, and figured out what we are going to spend on presents. The benefit of doing that this early is that I have lots of bargains and sales to catch before the Holiday madness. In fact, I would love to have my shopping done by Thanksgiving… or maybe the day after, because they do have some fantastic sales on “black Friday” (as it is known here in America because this is the day that many retailers get into the black in their books and start making money). And in this process of laying out a plan for the Holidays, I feel excited and hopeful. I feel like it is such a worthwhile challenge for me to be wise with what God has given me.

Every year I get sucked into the excess of Christmas. It is my absolute favorite time of the year. I start the Christmas carols on the day after Thanksgiving and usually our tree goes up that weekend. I just love the whole season, but it can be so destructive to finances. Consequently, we have always had a budget for Christmas so that we don’t get carried away with the season and right into debt. But this year I really want to take back the simple joy of giving, and teaching my kids to be givers, instead of just piling them with gifts. I love the thought of them having a mountain of presents to open under the tree, but the reality is they usually have two or three favorites and the rest are just extra. I am really going to be praying this year for the wisdom to know how to take back the season.

So I am making my list, and checking it twice… and probably three or four more times as I try to stick to the budget that Matt and I have agreed on. And I am asking the Lord for creative ideas in how to make my money go further and for creative presents that will actually be a blessing to my family and friends. It is really early to think about Christmas, however I think that I have a much better chance at actually succeeding by planning this early. So many stores are having amazing clearance sales at the moment, but more than that, it gives me a long time to involve the Holy Spirit in my shopping. It is fun to see it all as a challenge, and it is so fun to give, but it is really fun to get to January and not have any financial regrets from the Holidays. Plan early, shop wisely, give purposefully, and have no debt in January… now that sounds like a very Merry Christmas to me 🙂