Thursday, October 2, 2014

31 Days to a Peaceful Holiday Season: The Budget

Welcome to Almond Place! This month, I'm participating in the Write 31 Days and focusing on ways to make our holiday season a little calmer this year.  Each of these daily posts can be found HERE if you'd like to go back to the beginning and read them all.

So after we've established a rough idea of just how much we are willing to tackle calendar wise, the next thing on my to-do list is to figure out just exactly how we are going to pay for it all.

It's no secret to those who know us that we are very intentionally trying to get out of debt. This has been an ongoing thing for us the past few years...we had a lot of debt...however after some drastic lifestyle changes (we live in a 2 bedroom condo with our family of 5), we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel!

The last thing I want to do is to derail our plan of being debt free in a year. Now because I tend to be the one who spends all the money, I am the one whose shoulders the weight of the budget falls.  This time of year tends to bring out both the best and the worst in people...particularly when it comes to spending.  We have so many demands placed on us financially that don't come up any other time of year.

So where do we even start? Well, our family works on a Zero Based Budget....meaning every dollar we bring in has a name. So once we've established our incoming $, we determine where it's going and how much we want to dedicate to "extras". And yes, for us....holiday spending is "extra".

  • I take into account a larger grocery budget for baking, for guests, for our Feast days of Canadian AND American Thanksgivings, Christmas, and New Years and for all of us being home together more in general.
  • I consider our Charity giving and Church tithes. We try to do a little more here this time of year....but we are also strategic in this.  More on this topic in a couple of weeks.
  • I am choosing to not purchase ANY holiday decorations this year. We have enough....and while it will break my little shopaholic heart to walk away from all of the cute Target stuff this year, I will remind myself that even cuter stuff will be out next year...and that I won't need it then either.
  • I carefully examine our gift giving policy. Again, more on this specifically in a couple of weeks.  However I will tell you that we spend very little on gifts compared to what "most" people spend.  I have some very specific ways to keep our spending in check.
  • We generally opt to not travel at the holidays.  This is in large part because of my church job but also because right now, financially it's not something we're ready to spend money on. Many of you though will be heading out and it's a good idea to plot that expense out.
  • While we don't travel, we do try to do fun things as a family while we are all off on Christmas/Winter break....that means paying for 5 people for every activity we'd like to do.  It doesn't take long before that fund runs out.  So, we plot the activities we feel we most WANT to do and we try to set aside the money for those.
Once I've isolated all of the "extras", we set budgets for those line items and determine where that money is going to come from.  Ultimately, things get cut. Usually more than I would like. And Yes, I feel bad and I have my little pity party but then the Holy Spirit seems to swoop in and tell me to knock it off.  Cause really, we've got nothing to complain about, or feel badly about. 

We usually start saving/planning right around this time. Again, because we really don't spend that much, it doesn't usually take us more than a couple of months to put that money together. 

We are blessed.  In more ways than I can even imagine. I try to turn the focus back on that and away from mass consumerism, and what the Joneses are doing/spending/vacationing at and realize that none of this is about that.  For our family, it's about Christ and focusing on our family. For your family, it might be something totally different and that's okay too but let your focus guide your budget and not all of those "Joneses".

Tomorrow we're talking Thanksgiving.  It will be here before we know it....especially for our Canadian family and friends!

-Mandy


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