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Portrait of a No-Budget Christmas

3 Minute Read

It’s good when you can finish paying for Christmas in mid-December. It’s bad when it’s December of the following year.

That situation—or one very similar to it—is what most people find themselves in when the holiday season rolls around. Let’s use Doug and Lisa as an example.

Excitement starts to build in November as they get close to Thanksgiving. They buy extra food and perhaps make travel plans to see family. However, if Doug and Lisa haven’t made a plan to budget extra money for this expensive month (even though they knew it was coming), guess where those food and travel expenses will go: on their credit card.

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But that’s just the opening act. While getting caught up in the November holiday hoopla, Doug remembers that he and Lisa haven’t done a lick of Christmas shopping yet. Panic sets in as they realize they’re not only behind the eight ball, they have more people to buy for than they originally thought. Kids, parents, siblings, friends, nieces, nephews, people at the office . . . the list goes on and on. Plus, they are bound to be invited to some parties, so they better get some money ready for gifts/food/wine/charity donations for those. Alarm bells seem to be going off in all directions, and a season that is supposed to be joyous for Doug and Lisa is quickly becoming one that makes them want to flip the calendar to January.

Enter (once again) the credit cards.

It’s bad enough to approach Christmas without a plan, but now Lisa and Doug are scrambling just to make it through the season—at 19% interest. They are wound tighter than Santa when he realizes the blizzard is going to cancel Christmas, and they may start yelling at each other over stupid stuff.

Now they are in a bad mood, the kids are upset, the money is short, the stress is long, the weather seems colder, and the season can’t end soon enough for anybody.

Uh . . . Merry Christmas?

Now, let’s back up a minute. What is the one thing Lisa and Doug can do to stop all of this before it starts?

Make a plan.

If they sit down now and talk about how much they want to spend for Thanksgiving and Christmas, who they want to buy for, how to pay for it with cash and so on, they have something to guide them. Once they make a plan and write it down, Lisa and Doug aren’t hot and bothered by all the frenzied retail excitement. They look at the plan, they shop, and they’re done. Because they plotted when things were calm, they are able to think clearly during chaos.

Just think . . . with a plan, aggravation is replaced with joy. There’s virtually no stress, no panic and no overspending. Simply knowing what you are going to do before the hype starts makes you more likely to enjoy the holiday season.

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