Of all of the systems that I have been able to put together and put to good use in my life during the holidays. The one we’re going to talk about today is by far the most important, the most impactful, and probably the simplest of them all. The one system you need to be financially prepared for Christmas this year and every year.
Today we’re going to be talking about how you can start your holiday season every single year, fully prepared, cash in hand, ready to provide all of the gift-giving that you really truly want, without feeling the burden and the pressure of where you’re going to find the money. Where you’re going to pull it from and how you’re going to move money around? Which credit card you’re going to swipe?
There is an easier way. There’s a much better way to come to the holiday seasons, to Christmas, and to gift-giving for your kids, for your loved ones, for the teachers, for the best friends, and everyone else involved. You truly can be prepared financially for gift giving and for celebrating the holidays.
It doesn’t have to be complicated, and I’m about to break it all down for you. I’m sharing the exact system that Blaine and I have been using in our house for over five years now. This has allowed us to get out of credit card cycling every single time a big spendy holiday comes around and to face it, head-on, with cash in hand.
Listen below for the entire episode on The Systemize Your Life Podcast
Be financially prepared for Christmas
Here is a 12-month system, and it’s really quite fantastic the way that I have broken this down. This one system allows Blaine and I to be financially prepared every single year with no credit cards involved. Because at one point in our life, credit cards were very much the only way that we were able to provide the Christmas that we wanted to provide to each other and to our children, even on the most conservative budget. It’s really how most people are functioning and it is actually backward.
This is the time when I need to bend your ear just a little bit. I need to get you really into everything that I have to say right now so that I can get your buy-in. So I can get you to really believe in this process and in this system that I’m about to teach you. I need you to fully accept these certain steps that I’m about to lay out for you so that you can come to the holiday seasons next year, whether that starts at Thanksgiving or Christmas for you.
And honestly, we’re going to take it a step further than that. We’re going to talk about a few other main points throughout the year where you’re having heavy spending. We’re going to talk about that too, but specifically focusing on how to be financially prepared for Christmas because it’s typically a heavy spending month for a lot of people, and how you can really come to that table super prepared.
I’m going to tell you exactly how we stopped doing this whole thing, backward. How we actually got on the right path to being able to show up every single year with the cash that we wanted to be able to spend on Christmas.
The first thing that you really have to look at is how much cash do you want at Christmas, and the only way to know that is to collect data.
If I asked you right now, how much money do you spend on Christmas every year? Do you have a really good targeted number? It’s like a thousand bucks, but it’s really like $4,000? Are you like, it’s like $500, but it’s really like $1,200? Are you in this $6,000’s? Where are you? How much money?
I’m talking about everything you spend at Christmas time. There are Christmas pajamas, Christmas cookies, Christmas Starbucks, Christmas everything. Even things like the Christmas movies that you buy on iTunes, on I movies. There is literally so much stuff that we buy because it’s the holidays from Black Friday to Cyber Monday. I want you to go in and I want you to look at your spending habits through all of that.
This is what we did. We literally looked at every penny that we spent. And you can go back years in your bank account and filter out November and December for the past four years. We literally printed it out and took a highlighter and highlighted everything and tallied it up.
That’s the first thing. It sounds like a lot of work, but guess what? You’re about to change your life and it’s amazing. So, we did all of that, and then we put that to the side.
Then we sat down and wrote a wishlist. What is everything that you would ever want to do during Christmas? We like to celebrate. Life is about having fun. We choose to try to stay heavy on finding the joy and being grateful and celebrating things. Oftentimes that costs money. Entry Fee’s, Airbnb’s, or any Christmas festivities. We literally wrote down the things that we would love to do.
When you sit down and add all those things up, plus the gifts that you want to give people, we put a dollar amount to it. We literally said, okay, what does this look like to spend $400 bucks on each kid? And how long does that last? Is that good until forever? Does that number go up when they’re teenagers?
We really looked at the right now and the next three to five years, what is this going to look like? You can just look at the next year, put down everything. I’m talking about everything that you would want to potentially spend, write it down and put an estimated budgeted number to it.
After you’ve written out your wishlist of what you would love to do, regardless of how much money it costs, write it down. Now on the other side of the spectrum, I want you to write your super-conservative list. The bare minimum, if you had to just to scrape pennies what would you want to see and have for your Christmas, for those holidays to be so great for your family? What would that look like?
A lot of that will be based on tradition. There are so many things that play into that for some families. Even if you’re hosting, I’m talking about the money that you spend on the food, everything. What can you pair down and still say, yeah, if we only did those four things and we only had X amount of dollars to spend on the kids, that would be a good Christmas.
It wouldn’t be off the charts, but it still would be a good Christmas. That is what I would want that to feel like. Write that number out and then see what your numbers are. See what the difference is between the two of them. Ours was a huge difference. There was a huge difference in our liberal and our conservative numbers for what we really would want Christmas to look like.
Collect The Data
So once you’ve gone and you’ve collected that data, you’re going to see, let’s say that your conservative number for Christmas, you’d want to have a thousand dollars put aside. You need a thousand dollars to be able to jam Christmas out the way that you really want it, versus maybe a bigger Christmas for you is say, $3,000. That’s a difference of 2000 bucks. That’s a lot of money to come up with.
So if you have credit cards at your disposal and you have that completely open to you, chances are you’re going to go more towards the liberal side. And that’s what we want to get you away from. We want you to get out of pulling money from places that aren’t actually earmarked for Christmas. That way you have it there and no number is the right or the wrong number.
What you want to look at is giving yourself a window of how much money you want to have by the end of the year. And once you have those two numbers, the next thing that you’re going to do is you’re going to make a plan for how to reach that conservative and that liberal spending number. And so this is very easy math, like ridiculously easy math here, and this is why we’re starting this right now because you’re going to start in January, you’re just going to take that $1,000 for easy numbers.
Your number will be your own number a nice and even number, and you’re going to divide it by 12 months. If you put aside a hundred bucks every month, you’ll have your $1,200 for Christmas. So it’s just under a hundred dollars a month if you want to have cash in hand, a thousand bucks set aside for you for Christmas for next year.
Instead of putting all of that money on the credit card and then paying the credit card back a hundred dollars every month, you’re not going to put it on the credit card this year. You’re going to start saving a hundred dollars every month and you’re going to have that money sitting there waiting for you next year.
Systemize Your Money
Here’s the thing, if you right now are in this habit of putting Christmas on a credit card or borrowing money or finding things like money in random places or pulling from the savings account or wherever you’re pulling money from. You don’t have a fund specifically set aside for Christmas and Christmas alone, which means that you are likely spending money every single month on other things that you don’t actually want to be spending it on. This is the systematic approach that I use for everything.
A lot of the reasons behind having systems is obviously to be efficient and to be effective, but so much of it is actually preparedness. And preparedness is a huge part of reducing anxiety and stress and worry, which is another big reason why I just automatically lean into these systems.
I don’t function well with stress. It physically tears me up. I get major tension and migraines. I’ve had major autoimmune issues in the past because of stress. Anxiety in and of itself causes me major issues. And so I’ve found that systems relieve 99% of that, they help tremendously.
As hard as it may seem to think about starting this new year with another bill. If you were to say, okay, I’m all in for a hundred bucks a month and that’ll give us 1200 bucks next year for Christmas, awesome. But then it’s just like, well, where am I going to come up with that hundred bucks every single month? I don’t really know where that’s going to come from.
That’s because you’re not using my hybrid budgeting system. Likely this little piece that I’m teaching you right now is just one part. We, Blaine and I, do this exact method with every part of our finances.
To take this to the next step so that you can see how this flushes out from beginning to end. I have my number, I have my plan, I’ve put it in place. Then you’re going to want to scale back on spending depending on when you put in place, you’re going to want to scale back on your spending as much as you possibly can. If you’re going into Christmas and you’re putting it all on a credit card, or you’re trying to scrape money together and you don’t know how you’re going to really afford the things that you want to afford, force yourself to go as conservative as possible.
Let’s say, maybe you don’t start this process for months into the year, so you have lost a few months worth of savings. Then you’re going to be like, oh, shoot. I just missed three or four or five months of putting a hundred dollars in, so now I’m really going to have a small amount whenever I come to Christmas. Okay, great, that’s all right. At least you came to that next year with a good rhythm in place, and then you’re just going to have to scale that Christmas back.
If it means scaling back your spending in other areas of your life so that you can make this $100 and it’s actually going to be put into a Christmas fund, which is the same thing as a sinking fund. A sinking fund is just this savings account that hangs out over there and you are putting money into it, and it’s specifically set aside for Christmas. So let me talk to you a little bit more about how this actual sinking fund or Christmas fund works.
What does it actually look like? Where are we putting it? How are we doing this? So in the big picture, what you really want to have happen is you want to sit down and see all the things on this list that are conservative to liberal. If you’ve been able, say, your bare minimum for that conservative is a hundred bucks a month, but a couple other months you were able to save a little bit more, then obviously you’re going to get to pull some things off of that liberal list.
You’re going to be able to afford more. And that’s the fun of it. How much can you bank inside of this Christmas bank account before you get to next year? Once you do this one time, you’ll be hooked for life in every area, because nothing beats that feeling.
” Once you do this one time, you’ll be hooked for life in every area, because nothing beats that feeling. ”
The more we do this, the more we are able to save. And it’s mind blowing because now we don’t ever touch that money. There will be so many temptations, you’ll be like, oh, well, I’d rather have this month. That’s not even a thing now because we know how good it feels to show up to target with literally a thousand bucks ready to spend. We do all of our shopping in one fell swoop. We’re not waiting for the next paycheck.
It’s Not Just For Christmas
I can’t even explain how much fun it is. And to be honest, we have done this with every single thing that we want to celebrate in the year, we do this for our anniversaries. How much money do we want to spend on an anniversary, our marriage retreat, on the girls’ birthday parties? How much money do we want to spend on hosting Thanksgiving dinner?
We have calculated that all out because here’s the thing, you’re going to show up. You are going to show up to that event and you’re going to spend money regardless if you have it set aside or not. I would rather show up and know that I’ve been diligent enough to put the money aside, and it’s a number that is actually going to satisfy our spending habits so we truly can stick to that budget.
Be very realistic whenever you go and you look at your spinning habits and you’re collecting your data so that you set yourself up for success.
I’ve learned this from Dave Ramsey and his philosophy, and then I use Profit first in my business. I’ve literally taken the best of both of those worlds. And I have made my own hybrid system using what I learned from both of those. Blane was so in the weeds with Dave Ramsey and I was so in the weeds with Profit First, and we brought our brains together and made this miraculous system.
So with your Christmas fund specifically, you just go down to the bank and open up an account. We chose to open up a checking account for this, not a savings account but really it doesn’t matter as long as they’re not charging you fees. You want to find an account that doesn’t charge you as many fees.
Then the next part of it is deciding whether you want to have a card attached to it or not. If it has a card attached to it, which ours does because we didn’t want to have to take the money out of the Christmas fund and transfer it into our normal spending account. But, those cards are not carried with us on a regular basis. We have them stored away for safekeeping. And when it’s time for a calculated and conversated, celebratory or Christmas spending item, then we get the card down and we use that card. That has helped us so much to be able to be really specific and strategic with our spending.
Make It Simple
And it’s really that simple. You’re just going to go down to the bank, and open up your account. Every single time you get paid, allocate by percentage all the way out, all thea way to $0 every single time. We know you could just take a dollar amount and say it’s a hundred dollars, but we’ve broken this down into percentages for everything.
So we have very specific categories, and our Christmas account has a set percentage of our total income that gets set aside every single paycheck. And that percentage allows us to have the money that we want to have when we show up at Amazon or Target or wherever we’re spending for the holidays.
That truly is how simple it is. And like I said, we’ve broken this down for other holidays as well, and you can either choose to put those holidays into their own separate accounts, or you can just have one celebratory account, which is what we choose to do. Our Christmas account is actually labeled a celebratory account, and we have line items inside of there for birthdays and anniversaries.
We know how much money needs to be in and how much needs to be spent. And we’re always looking at our account, say our Christmas fund that’s inside of our celebratory account. There is enough money in there for Christmas, but there’s actually more than that. But say, Blaine’s birthday is coming up. We can’t spend all of that on Christmas because we have your birthday coming up, and this is how much we wanted to set aside for that.
So we’re always looking at those numbers. We’re always truly trying to set ourselves up for success. It helps me whenever I want my children to have all the things at Christmas, and I don’t really, but when you get in the store and you know how happy it’s going to make them, I mean, you can’t help yourself, right?
There’s something about that holiday spirit that I swear just gets me. It gets me every time. And so this is what we’ve done to really be able to help ourselves. I really can’t put into words how happy I am that we’ve been able to be disciplined enough to do this.
Watch It Grow
If you do choose to set money aside every single month, you’re going to watch that grow. And then when it comes time to hit your Christmas shopping for next year and maybe even get some cute decor for your house that you’ve already set money aside for, you’re going to be so darn proud of yourself.
It’s going to feel amazing. It also is going to truly relieve so much stress when you’re just paying your bills like normal and you’re not having to skimp on anything.
I hope that you take this and it inspires you so much to make different decisions with the way that you choose to manage your money so that you can support the spending and the celebrating that you want to do every single year. I would love for you to head over to the FREE Systemize Your Life Facebook group and share some celebrations you’re going to be saving for. Get yourself excited about this and make it happen for you and your family!
If you want to learn more tips on saving money here is another post on our blog How To Save Money On Groceries.