By Darlene Arechederra
Before we know it, the shopping season will be upon us. And,
just like Santa's little elves will be working feverishly, we've got to get busy
saving up our cash for Christmas. The alternative could be to watch helplessly
as our credit card balances increase.
But is it really possible to have a Christmas without using our
credit card? Absolutely! It isn't hard -- it's just a matter of getting started
now! Here are these 3 simple steps to begin ...
Step 1: Determine exactly how much cash you will need.
How much do you normally spend for Christmas gifts and goodies?
Be sure to add in special food expenses to your total, if you're providing the
main holiday meal(s) or responsible for a large portion of it. Not sure? Do a
guesstimate, erring on the plus side to be safe.
Step 2: Using your total from above, determine how much
you'll need to save daily or weekly. Divide it by the number of weeks or days
left to save up money.
Examples: (These are approximate amounts.)
$500 divided by 15 weeks = $34.00 wk $300 divided by 15 weeks =
$20.00 wk $400 divided by 107 days = $ 3.75 day $200 divided by 107 days = $1.90
Step 3: Choose your Method(s) to begin Saving
Pull out your old favorites, and get going! Listed below are a
few ideas to get you started.
Gift Certificates are Not Just for Others
Buy a gift certificate each pay period. When you're ready to
shop, use your certificate to pay for the items. Be sure to watch for expiration
Marlene, a good friend of mine, does this year round. She then
buys items as they come on sale, using her certificates. Marlene is a single
mother who has found a way to buy gifts for her children without using credit
cards or draining money from the checkbook.
There's still time to open a Christmas account with your local
credit union or bank. Make automatic payroll deposits if you can. If not, write
yourself a check each pay period and mail it in to your account. If you cash
your paycheck, take out your targeted amount and deposit the money before it
Remember, too, once this account is open, you can make small
deposits year round, eliminating the Christmas Crunch next year.
Pick up Some Extra Work Hours
Many businesses will need extra help as the holidays arrive. You
may be able to pick up some extra hours. Be sure to set aside any money saved so
it doesn't slip through a hole in your pocket!
$1 Per Day Keeps the Creditors Away
Don't forget the 'Tuck $1-Per-Day-Into-an-Old Sock' method. If
you have 110 days left, you'd have around $110 at $1 per day. Tucking away $2
per day will find you $220. $330 for $3 per day.
Re-think Buying Gifts This Year
Have you had a rough year financially? Do you owe on credit
cards? Consider not buying gifts this year. What if you were to save up money as
if you were buying gifts, but use it instead to pay extra on your debt? Can you
think of a better gift for your family? You'll be surprised how much better
you'll feel giving down the road, when you can truly afford it.
Get creative. Imagine that you had no job. What would you do for
gifts? Would you make your own? Send cards only? Email cards? Brainstorm some
Remember the Spirit of the Season
Above all, remember the original intent of the holiday
celebrations. The spirit of the season can be lost in the newly added debt and
additional stress created by copying what the Joneses next door are doing.
Prevent future stress by learning to celebrate without using your credit card.
It can actually be heaps of fun!
started, and set your strategy in place so you'll be ready and able to pay
upfront for next
year's holiday, too!
Arechederra is author of Rat Race Blues-How to Break the Stranglehold. She
offers hope and help in turning spending into savings, so you can do what
you *love* to do for a living, not what you *have* to do! Free weekly