Starting the Budget Now

This week on the brain train I share some of my best tips for how to fund your holidays without derailing your budget. Personally, having attention deficit issues means that if I wait until November, or worse December, to think about the holidays shopping will be a train wreck! Everyone will get shiny, probably awesome gifts, but come January those poor impulse control purchases will bite me in the butt. These are some strategies to keep ADD (or just impulse spending) from wrecking the new year.

First, start December 26 with the normal stuff like wrapping supplies that are heavily discounted. Then as the months progress keep a look out for that “perfect” gift at discounted prices or in places you least expect. Recently, I had to make an emergency trip to Virginia and was literally there less than 24 hours. However, when grabbing lunch at a roadside cafe I saw the most amazing thing for my sweet aunt and knew I had to have it. So I carried it home on the plane with me, now I can hardly wait to give it to her. Shopping throughout the year and in various places allows me to give truly unique gifts with an added story.

Special Tip: I keep a large tote in my bedroom closet that holds gifts I buy through out the year for birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Christmas. This keeps everything easy to find and organized for me.

Now “Christmas in July”appeals to me in an unique way. So here are five tips for surviving the holiday season with my spending on track.

1. Start with the end in mind. Each summer I make a list of whom I plan to buy for that year. I list who I bake for, who gets a homemade gift, and who do I send a card. With all that information in front of me, I have my end point. Now it is time for the budget, the total amount of what I reasonably can spend. Lastly, divide that total budget by the amount you set for each person, making sure that final amount does not exceed the total budget. I write all this down and carry it with me when I shop. As I buy something it goes on my list and the amount spent. This gives me the entire picture on one simple page.

2. $5. I learned this from a friend. She and her husband always takes $5 from any change they get and save them. When we vacationed with them, they had close to $1,500 from this one adjustment in just 6 months! Personally I debit most things; however I did this last year between July and November resulting in $320 in five dollar bills the morning of Black Friday! That is a significant chunk of change. Thank you Sue!

3. Gift Cards. I have a set grocery budget every week and I stick to it. While I am at the grocery store shopping I pick up a gift card to a store I always spend money on Black Friday or Cyber Monday (like Amazon). Having this in my hand reminds me to stay on budget. When my groceries are totaled, I then add the gift card to the grocery bill as long as it does not put me over budget. This is a great incentive to not add items to my cart I do not need, probably saving me calories as well as money. I do this pretty much all year (they are great for unexpected birthday gifts, back to school clothes, vacation, or that time I had to speak at a function and needed a new white dress shirt). Each year I do this and my friends and family marvel at the fact that come Thanksgiving I have between $400 and $500 in gift cards waiting for me to spend.

4. Clean out the clutter. If you have things that you are not using, why not ask “is this something that would make an awesome sentimental gift for someone?” Maybe you have a silk scarf that you never wear but you know your best friend loves; write a sweet note to enclose with the scarf to make a fabulous gift. Maybe you have duplicate prints of old photos in a box somewhere that could be fashioned into a scrap book for your mom that she would love better than anything you could buy. Maybe you have stuff to sell that can generate funds to buy gifts without having to use your budget (or your credit cards). Clearing the surplus items from your life brings so many positive benefits, this is just one more to add to that list.

5. Get creative. Most of the people you love do not want more stuff, they want more time. Try gifting an activity instead of an item. Something that can be done together in the new year may just be the BEST gift you could give. Start now & you have five months to plan it…. You may even find fabulous activities you can do for free. Look at state parks or nature trails for inspiration and plan a trip. This creates memories that will last a lifetime.

I would love to learn from you too! Feel free to post a tip in the comments section below. Sign up to follow the blog and check me out on Facebook at Well Focused Life or instagram @laurawellfocused.

              Until next week,