I have friends who live for this time of the year. With bated peppermint-flavored breath, they eagerly await the day they can spark a gingerbread scented candle and blast holiday tunes. They live for all things merry and bright. They know an exact countdown to Dec. 25 and probably can rank reindeer in size, speed and alphabetical order.
I have other friends who roll their eyes at this first set and complain whenever they see season décor on display too early for their tastes. It takes all sorts.
Whatever your disposition toward the months of November and December, one thing is for certain. A season for effective money management is a hop, skip and a jingle bell away. Unexpected expenses, special opportunities and the sometimes last-minute nature of a need can toss your finances into seasonal uncertainty.
However, there are ways to build up a Christmas piggy bank to prevent a pitfall of Santa-sized proportions.
Take an inventory
Maybe it’s effective marketing or maybe it’s the pull of the magic of the holidays, but I easily can find myself in a state of want, ignoring what I already have. It’s a good idea early on in November to begin taking both mental and physical note of what hides in the closets, pantry and even storage areas of my home. From the flour and sugar to the ornaments and lights, if I know what I have, I’m less likely to make an impulse buy.
The same goes for our children’s toys and games. When your child already owns 45 stuffed animals, you really don’t need one more. Knowing what you own is half the battle against temptation.
Make grateful lists
By tradition, gratitude marks the month of November. However, no sooner than the turkey is gobbled down, our sense of thankfulness vanishes into a storm of consumerism.
I see nothing wrong with a child dreamily flipping the pages of a catalog filled with toys. But before he or she creates a list crammed with desires and wishes, it’s a good idea to have your kids create a grateful list. Toys, friends, food, warm clothes, family — we can often overlook the very best things in life while chasing the ever fleeting next, best thing.
I find that my own heart’s yearnings slip away when I reflect on what I treasure and refine what I love. So maybe this is a task as much for our children as it is for ourselves.
Build a stockpile
Every year, I’m caught off guard by a gift I forgot to purchase, a last-minute snack need or a neglected household essential. Early in November (after taking an inventory, of course), I begin to pick up items to help fill the gaps in case of such emergencies. I purchase some gift cards to keep on hand as potential gifts.
Expert tip: Stick to stores where you can purchase practical items if you don’t end up giving the gift cards away during the holiday season. I purchase extra quick-fix snacks for the pantry and freezer.
I order toilet paper, paper towels and tissues from Amazon to guarantee we won’t run short when friends and family visit. Not only will such a stockpile keep you from being shorthanded, it will also keep you out of the aisles where you’re more likely to commit a budget blunder, buying more than on your list.
Running out of something causes the panic of scarcity that can easily lead to excess. Building a stockpile of staples and gift cards provides insurance certain to last all season long.
The countdown to the holiday season is on; and before you know it, you’ll be jingling bells and filling stockings. A few extra steps of precaution will keep you from overspending and overbuying.