“I worked Saturdays for a year for this.” It’s a line from the movie City Slickers where Phil (Daniel Stern) informs Mitch (Billy Crystal) just how hard he’d worked to save up for a present for his friend. That was in 1991, 20 years later, I can’t imagine this being said on a show or movie.
Real life doesn’t seem so far from cinema. According to the Detroit Free Press, 14 million American shoppers still haven’t paid off the gifts they purchased for Christmas gifts last year. Thanks to easy consumer credit in the form of credit cards, shoppers no long work all year to save for generous gifts. Instead they work years.
However, using credit cards to finance your Christmas gifts should be avoided. Grabbing my financial calculator – paying off the average family Christmas budget of $646, over the next 12 months, at a 20% interest rate; adds about 11% to your total costs.
So what are you going to do differently next year? Saving before buying may be a radical notion in today’s economy, but if you are tired of the stress caused by repaying your Christmas generosity each year. There are some no-hassle strategies for finding holiday funding for next year.
Trust me, you will never feel stressed because you planned a whole year in advance.
Hoard the Tax Return
The average family tax refund in 2011 was $3,129. The average family Christmas budget is $646. This year, why not save part of your tax return?
Most people see tax refunds as bonus or extra income, which is the main reason why most people get refunds. Based on the averages I provided, taking a bite out of your return for Christmas presents would still leave you with 80% and plenty of money for a vacation or home improvement. If you ask me, it is always easier to save “extra” money than to cut back on your monthly expenses.
Save the Extra Paycheck
Most of us get paid weekly or bi-weekly, which means there will be 4 or 2 extra paychecks floating around sometime during the year. Just like with your tax refund, these extra paychecks can feel like extra money, which means it is easier to part with. All you need to do is spend five minutes in front of a calendar and plan which extra paychecks you will be saving.
Make Money the Old Fashioned Way: Earn It!
I’m not saying that you should work Saturday’s for a year. However, there are numerous ways to earn a little bit of money over time. You could hold a garage sale, sign up for swag bucks or save your bottle returns. Efforts, spread out in small chunks, over a large amount of time will lead to a generous Christmas budget in 2012.
Direct Deposit to a Savings Account
If your employer makes use of direct deposit to pay employees, setup a direct deposit for your future Christmas gifts. The average family Christmas budget works out to about $25/paycheck if you are paid bi-weekly; or $12.50/week. If this seems like too much of a sacrifice, then it is a good indication that you shouldn’t be spending as much as the average family for vacation. For about $6/week, you can save up nearly $300 for the year.
Let the other 13,999,999 pay off their Christmas gifts for years to come. Break the spending cycle and holiday stress by planning ahead and saving up this year. There are plenty of no-hassle ways to save.