Christmas is here! Can you financially survive?

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas season has officially begun. Over the weekend my neighborhood and the local stores have literally transformed into a sea of twinkling lights and jolly decorations in red and green. The Christmas season is met with joy, kindness and, of course, shopping.

While sometimes it is sad that Christmas is so focused on the material (that is another argument for another day), it is no doubt that a busy holiday shopping season is a big focus.

Black Friday kicks off the shopping season, pushing shoppers into a panic of Christmas arriving in less than a month. If you want to keep your sanity, follow these tips to keep your holiday season merry and bright.

  • Budget. Budgeting is the number one way to keep your holiday sanity this season. Stores try to lure costumers to overspending with deals, free gifts and an overall sense of holiday. There just is something about the holidays that makes people just want to shop. If you want to indulge that feeling, make sure to budget for Christmas gifts all year long. If not, you will feel the weight of your bad decisions just as the wrapping paper hits the floor. Make a list of everyone you plan on purchasing a gift for the upcoming year. Give yourself a limit for each person. Combine that number and you will have your budget. Make sure to add about $50 on top of that for gift wrapping, shipping, etc. Next, divide that number up by 12. That is how much you need to set aside each month to make your budget. If you save all year long it won’t seem like such a big burden in December. If that is too much for you to put aside every month then you need to pare down your budget. But most importantly, remember to stick to your budget. It may be tempting to go over to get that one extra gadget or thing, but just remember that is just isn’t worth it.
  • Center Christmas around things that are not stuff. Whatever your religious feelings are, Christmas can be more than just about giving stuff. For Christians, Christmas is celebrating Christ’s birth. If this is your cup of tea, try to focus your events, gifts and traditions around why you are celebrating the season. For those who are less religious, center your holiday around service and finding ways to benefit others. These memories will mean more than just getting things. And think back, which gifts/events do you remember most? Try to create memories instead of filling stockings to ensure a truly magical Christmas season.
  • Line up your bills. The last thing you want to do after Christmas is to receive a stack of bills. If you stick to the budget above, you should not have to charge anything on your credit card. But your other regular bills can be a pain during December. Make sure to put your payments for your car, inexpensive insurance and utility bills on auto pay so you won’t have to worry about paying them on time.