Andrew Harmon



Getting Ready for the Holidays NOW:
How to Have Jingle Bells and Not Jingle Bills

by: Jennifer S. Matthews

Regardless of which year-end holiday you celebrate, by reading this article now and consistently taking some simple steps, I hope that you will have a debt free holiday season this year! Make sure you share this article with your friends and family members so that you can all enjoy a holiday season that does not include additional debt! Even if you don’t celebrate holidays, follow these tips and start having extra cash!

The first step is to commit to a personal goal of having a happy and enjoyable holiday season without starting 2013 with additional debt. Once you have fully committed to this goal, set your spending limit, i.e. $500. There are approximately 10 weeks until Christmas, which is about 5 bi-weekly paychecks. A $500 spending limit means setting aside $100 from each paycheck. Contact your bank and see if you can open a free savings account with an automatic transfer of $100 on each pay day. If not, select an online bank and set up your account with automatic transfers.

Some of you are probably saying ‘hey! I can’t afford $100 per pay!” Remember that you set your spending limit, not me! Here’s your reality check…make a list of everyone you plan on buying a gift for. Next to their name, write the maximum amount you will spend on each person along with 3 possible gift items.

Just like Santa, you need to check your list twice! Here are 3 critical questions to sincerely ask yourself:

  1. Do I really need to buy a gift for each person on my list, or is buying for some of these people something I simply want to do?

  2. Can couples agree to exchange gifts of time or service instead of gifts that cost money? Examples include a massage every month, kitchen duty “x” times per month, a 1-hour walk or bike ride or other outing twice a month, etc.

  3. Can your children and grandchildren make or bake gifts for each other and for the people they want to give gifts to?

Add up the totals listed next to each person. Are you over or under your maximum spending amount? If your estimates are over your maximum spending limit, check your list a third time! Go back over your list, adjust the proposed spending amounts down, and see who you can take off your list. Perhaps you can celebrate with them in another way that does not involve spending as much money.

While you’re putting money aside from every paycheck to cover the estimated cost of your gift buying, you need to start buying now! Get a copy of the Sunday paper each week from now until Christmas. Look through all the sales circulars and ads and see if any of the items you listed as possible gifts for the people on your list are on sale. If so, buy the items and set them all aside in one location (so you can find them later!). If you don’t see the specific item you listed next to the person’s name, do you see any appropriate alternative gifts that are on sale? See how many gifts you can purchase in October and early November. Many stores will refund the difference if an item you purchase from them goes on sale later.

In addition to newspaper circulars and ads, watch the websites for your favorite stores to see if items on your list go on sale online. Check the website’s clearance page for items on your list and for appropriate alternatives. Create your own deals! Watch the circulars for stores like Target™ and Wal-Mart™. Often, they will offer free gift cards with certain purchases, such as laundry detergent. If you get free gift cards with your purchases, set them aside. You can pool the free gift cards together to purchase some of the items on your list, or give the cards to people as their gift!

Start looking for surprise deals in the most unlikely places! Did you know that many thrift and consignment stores carry brand new merchandise that still have the tags attached? Periodically check your local thrift and consignment stores to see what you can find, including brand new designer merchandise!

Start new traditions in your home. When your children receive toys, have them choose one old toy to give away for every new toy they receive. The donated toys can go to children in need including orphanages, homeless shelters, and domestic violence non-profits for their safe houses. As your family members receive or buy new clothes, purge an old clothing item for each new item and donate them. In addition to creating a spirit and habit of giving, these traditions will help keep the clutter down in your home!

Finally, get ready for next year’s holiday season because it will be here at the same time! Keep putting money into your holiday savings account after December. Even if you drop the $100 per pay down to $50 per pay, you will have about $1300 in your savings account for the 2013 holiday season, or your vacation, or whatever your goals are!

© 2012 Creating Financial Literacy, LLC


About the Author: Jennifer S. Matthews is a noted author, motivational speaker, and is trained as a financial coach. She is the author of the award-winning book 12 Ways to Put Money in Your Pocket Every Month Without A Part Time Job. The book shows readers how to create hundreds of dollars in cash every month from within their existing income. Visit Jennifer online at  and sign up for her newsletter. While on the website, you can also purchase her book, take advantage of free downloads, and much more.



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