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Holiday Spending

Every year, when the holidays would roll around, I used to think that I had to purchase the best, most expensive items. I grew up in a family where the holidays were a very special time of year. When I was old enough to start buying presents for those dear to me, I felt it was important to buy only the best. Money was really only an afterthought – and not because I had loads of it to spend, quite the contrary, I just never realized that I should only spend within my means. I would buy TVs and the latest toys and gadgets and the top brands in clothes. I must say I really enjoyed watching my loved ones faces when they opened a gift from me. Cause I always tried to buy the coolest items!!

The last several years I’ve actually gotten somewhat better about my holiday purchases. In particular, my siblings and I have decided not to exchange gifts anymore because it’s just too expensive. So, I just buy for my nieces and nephews and my parents. I have 6 nieces and nephews so that still keeps it pretty pricey. Last year I imposed another limit, which was that after my nieces and nephews graduate from college they no longer get gifts from me for Christmas. Although, last year it was only my nephew Zach who didn’t get a present and I felt really bad so I gave him a card with $5 bucks!! I also decided to limit my purchases for each of the other kids to $40.  

As we enter another holiday season, and with plenty of budgeting and cost savings on my mind, I know that I will have to impose further limits on my spending. I joked with my family for a while that there would be no Christmas this year!! Unfortunately, for many people who are struggling this year, that actually isn’t a joke and I imagine many Wisconsin children and families will have to go without this year. I’m actually in a decent position this year – probably better than ever before to buy gifts for my family. And with Emily’s encouragement at the start of Project Money, I actually established a holiday savings account. I’ve been putting money into that account since June so I have a little bit of savings that I can use to spend on gifts this year. It’s such a different mindset for me and it feels so reassuring to know that I actually have money set aside and won’t have to go broke buying gifts.  

In years past, I would wait until the weekend before Christmas and then take that paycheck and spend almost the entire amount on gifts. That would leave nothing for me for the next two weeks for groceries, or bills, or gas. It wasn’t a very good strategy!! So, this year, I will take the amount of money I have in my holiday account and divide it by the number of individuals I have to buy for and that will be the limit for each one. So, it may not be $40 a person, and it definitely won’t be the hundreds from prior years, but it will at least be something. 

It’s hard for me to not buy the biggest, best, coolest items out there for my nieces and nephews. But it’s so much better for my budget to stay within my self-imposed limits.  And doesn’t the saying go… it’s the thought that counts?




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