Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but it can be easy to get into a jam if you’re not careful. I’m not talking about the cranberry jam. I’m talking about a financial jam.
Without a plan or considering your future, it’s easy to go into the Christmas season and overdo it. If you’re only focused on the Christmas season, what you do with your money can have a long-lasting negative impact on your financial future.
I don’t mean to dampen your Christmas spirit or ruin your fun. Quite the opposite. I want to help you create a great Christmas experience for you and your family while keeping you on track for a wonderful future where your money is concerned. I want to help you make millionaire choices!
Make a List. Check it Twice.
Don’t go into Christmas without a plan. Make a list. Check it twice. Leave off the people that are naughty, not nice.
To be successful with money, you need a plan. Christmas is the same. The better the plan, the smoother things will go. It’s Christmas 101, just like the song says, “He’s making a list. Checking it twice. Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.” Santa needs a list, and so do you!
I keep my list in a place where my wife can access it. I use Wunderlist. We start with names, obviously, and then move to how much we plan to spend. We total up the cost and then cut the list in half to save money! Just kidding. I’m not that tight! However, we do review and adjust the budget once we have all the names and “spending targets” for each person and gift.
If your love language is gifts like mine is, it is really really really easy to overspend at Christmas, especially on your kids and family! Even with a solid list and budget, you will stumble on that one thing that your kids will just love! Even if you don’t spoil your kids during the year (I don’t), Christmas kinda gives you an excuse to spoil them! Warning: Overspending is hazardous to your future!
My mom and dad grew up with very little. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized how much they lavished gifts on us at Christmas. They wanted us to have and enjoy things they were not able to have as kids. I was definitely spoiled at Christmas time and loved it!
However, knowing what I do about money now, I realize that my parents were destroying their financial future, and sadly, I don’t have any of the items they bought for me as a child. The toys were broken or lost. The clothes are worn out and too small. The newfangled camera became old technology. The telescope only lasted a few years. We definitely had some great times with the race track, building legos, and playing with all the Star Wars figures!
Don’t feel like you have to overspend to make Christmas special. Christmas should be special, even without gifts!
Don’t Finance Your Christmas.
As if overspending wasn’t bad enough, financing Christmas is even worse! If you’ve had a rough year and are short on money, don’t resort to credit cards to fix it. You’ll only be creating another big problem.
Financing Christmas means you’ll probably be paying 6% to 30%. Some credit cards even to up to 36% interest! Never mind that interest rates this high should be outlawed: financing your shopping is a Christmas recipe for financial disaster!
Don’t feel guilty or bad about not having money to spend on gifts at Christmas. There are plenty of other ways to make Christmas special!
Be Future Minded.
When you’re doing your shopping this season, consider the money you are spending. Don’t just look at what you are spending today. Think about what it means in the future. What do I mean by this? Let’s see.
Let’s say you want to buy a TV. That new 4k 60″ screen would look really good playing Die Hard! (Note: some men believe Die Hard is the greatest Christmas movie of all time) That’ll set you back $1,000 in today’s dollars.
However, let’s look at what that costs in future dollars. There’s an easy way to figure this out. Future dollars are what that money would be worth if you invested it in your retirement or as I like to say sometimes your 59 1/2 fund. (Note: 59 1/2 is the year your can retire and start drawing retirement funds without early withdrawal penalties.) Take that $1,000 and double it every 7 years until you reach 59 1/2. What’s it worth? I’m 49 so that $1,000 is worth about $3,000 for me at 59 1/2. That’s a $3,000 TV!
You could even move this date out to 70 if you need a little while to get ready for your future. I have 21 years until I reach 70. That $1,000 is $8,000 for me at 70. Wait! What?! I just bought an $8,000 TV? That’s crazy!
When you’re shopping this Christmas, consider your future!
Make memories. They last longer than gifts. One of the best things you can do for Christmas is to go lite on the gifts and heavy on the memories. Spend time figuring out how to make Christmas time special. Here are some ideas.
- Bake something. My mother-in-law spent every Christmas baking cherry-filled candy-cane shaped pastry. It’s a tradition that my wife keeps today, and my kids love it!
- Drive around and look at Christmas lights. Play Christmas music in the car while you do it. Tell family stories. Grab some hot chocolate while you’re out. With social media, it’s super easy to find the best places to see awesome Christmas lights!
- Hang some lights. Honestly, I don’t like hanging Christmas lights, but my kids love it! It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it to see their smiles.
- Watch Christmas movies! I grew up watching stop motion movies of Santa and Rudolf. Burl Ives voice still rings in my ears! Pick out your favorites and spend a little time watching Christmas movies with the family each week leading up to Christmas. Have the family vote on the best one and save that one till last.
- Serve in the community. Many people enjoy serving in the community at Christmas for those who are less fortunate. You can’t go wrong doing this. Giving and caring are truly some of the greatest Christmas memories you will make. They will become treasures when you look back over your life.
Use Christmas to Create a Life Experience. You won’t regret it!
Time. The Best Gift.
We spend so much of our lives working and rushing around life. Make more money. Buy more things. Move our lives forward. So often we neglect the most important thing. Relationships.
You may not realize it, but your time is your most valuable asset. Your time is limited. Everyone has the same amount of time each day, each year, and you never know when the time will run out.
My mom had been after me for years to spend more time with her and my dad. I heard her, but I kept on with my busy lifestyle. Heck, I have 6 kids! I’m an executive at a big company! I’m a busy guy! It’s not like I didn’t see my mom or talk to her. I called her fairly often to chat. We saw them at birthday parties for our kids 6 times a year, soccer games, and at other times as well. But mom kept after me. “We don’t spend any time together. We don’t get to see you,” she said. I disagreed, but whatever.
During Christmas 2015, I decided to make a change.
Our family always likes to do creative things at Christmas. Sometimes we had Christmas scavenger hunts to find your presents. At other times, you might get a brick in your package to hinder your ability to guess what’s inside. In 2015, I decided to grant my mother’s wish for more time.
I created some rather well-produced paperwork committing to spend more time with my mom and dad. I committed to a monthly family night where we would cook, eat, play games, watch movies, and whatever else we could dream up. I even committed to taking some trips. We had taken family trips together in the past, but it was more spontaneous and not a regular thing.
We vacationed during the summer of 2016 in Florida. It was a great time! The kids loved it, and my wife enjoyed it. But most of all, my mother got her wish.
In August 2016, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Things progressed quickly. After viewing the images, I knew she wouldn’t make it to Christmas. She passed away in November 2016.
Forget the money. Forget the presents. If you want to give the greatest gift you have this Christmas, give away some of your time.