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"Silver bells . . . silver bells . . . soon it will be Christmas day." Remember that old tune by Bing Crosby? Well, the Christmas season is just around the corner.
Okay, maybe it’s not soon, but it’s coming—and we’re going to talk about it. Too many people wait until December to buy gifts. With no money saved, they turn to credit cards in a panic and end up paying for Christmas until April. Not good.
It’s much easier to get ready for the yuletide season little by little. You just need to know where to start. Here are five ways you can get a jump on Christmas—in August.
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Set Your Spending Goals Now
Take a look at how much you spent on Christmas gifts last year. Where did you overspend? Where can you cut back this year? Make a gift-giving goal amount and stick to it!
Once you’ve determined the total you want to spend on Christmas gifts, divide it by four (the number of months left until Christmas). For example, if your budget is $1,000, then save $250 a month for four months. In December, your Christmas savings will be fully funded and you can enjoy the season instead of feeling pinched for extra money.
Now’s also a good time to decide what charities you will give to this Christmas season. Be sure to budget for that throughout the next few months instead of waiting until November. Don’t feel bad if money is tight and you won’t be able to give like you wish you were able to. Remember, volunteering your time is just as important—and sometimes even more effective than giving money.
A great way to gather cash quickly for your Christmas savings is to use your "under budget" cash. When you come in under budget on monthly expenses like groceries or clothing, take the difference and stash it away in your Christmas savings. That $20 here and $50 there can add up in a flash. Plus, it gives you one more reason to look for bargains.
Look for Deals Now
There are plenty of end-of-summer sales going on right now. You never know what you might find after a little digging. Sift through the back-to-school sales and you might just score some great finds for Christmas gifts too! Colored pencils, crayons and markers can make great stocking stuffers for the crafty person on your list. Plus, laptops, camping gear, luggage, towels and more are typically on sale in August. Keep your eyes peeled for those deals!
Don’t forget to create a spending cap—especially for those specific sale days that can really tempt your budget. Think Labor Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
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Set Up a Christmas Savings Account
Have you ever thought of opening a separate account just for your Christmas savings? It’s a great way to be extra disciplined about putting aside that money and not touching it. Check with your bank about opening a side savings account for your Christmas spending.
Have a DIY Christmas
Hop onto Pinterest or Instagram to get some ideas for crafts that you can give as Christmas gifts. Searching for them now gives you plenty of time to buy the materials and put the effort into creating something that has just the right touch for the recipient. Even better, you have time to start over in case your first attempt looks more like a Halloween decoration than a Christmas gift.
Redirect Your Social Fund
Summer is the season for barbecues, swim parties and weekend getaways. With school back in session, though, your entertainment and travel budgets will probably go down. You know your kids will be busy with homework during the week, so save some money for fun on the weekends and redirect the rest for Christmas savings.
A little planning, along with some early saving, can make your Christmas a whole lot easier to enjoy. Wouldn’t you rather focus on Christmas traditions and quality time with your family than be stressed out about money? Yeah, we would too!
Plan for Christmas in advance. We hear August is a good month to start.
Get a jump start on your Christmas savings with EveryDollar, our free budget software. Visit EveryDollar.com to learn how you can focus your money on what matters!