Make a list and check it twice
As Christmas is rapidly approaching, and it seems to be the main event of the year that either causes many people to go further in debt, or get further behind on payments, I’d encourage everyone to make a list (or a spreadsheet) of all of their expenses this holiday season. No, you may not want to know what they are or how much you spent, but the only way to get them under control and plan better for next year is to have a starting place. Make one for the food, one for travel, and another for gifts, and so on. Determine if these are typical annual expenses, one time deals, and if you normally spend more or less.
Next, total that amount and divide it by the number of paydays you have in a year. This will tell you how much you need to save every paycheck to pay CASH for these items next year. It will allow you to not go into debt on these expenses, AND not get behind on your bills trying to cover the cost. Each time you get paid, either transfer this amount into a savings account (some employers will do it automatically for you if you ask) or withdraw it in cash and put it in a safe place, a piggy bank, whatever works for YOU so you can access it when you need it, but not spend it until the holidays.
This will also allow you to shop throughout the year if you find great sales on something you want to gift (I keep a spreadsheet with what I’ve bought for whom and WHERE I put it so I don’t lose or forget about anything I’ve put back for someone). If you’re REALLY on top of it, you can include the amount you spend on birthdays and other holidays in the amount you save each pay-period. The important thing to remember is to develop (change and adapt as needed) as system that works for YOU that will keep YOU on target. What works for one doesn’t always work for everyone else.
I’d love any other tips and suggestions people may have!