Only 200 Saving Days Until Christmas

christmas ornamentWith less than 200 days (185, to be exact) until Christmas it is comforting to know that our budget debacles of previous years will not repeat themselves. For the last several years, the weeks leading up to Christmas were often spent hunting last-minute gifts while trying not to disrupt the delicate balance of our household budget. In the early years of our marriage we frequently turned to credit cards to foot holiday bills, but fortunately we recognized that was not a sustainable habit for financial success. For the last few years we have budgeted small amounts from the paychecks leading up to Christmas, but that means several trips to stores or rounds of online buying, and doesn’t exactly help spread Holiday cheer.

Christmas Savings Fund to the Rescue

A couple days after Christmas last year we decided to do something that up to that point we had never been able to do–save for an event and not touch the money for another purpose. We opened a savings account at our bank, and scheduled transfers in the amount of $25 per paycheck, or $50 per month, to our “Christmas Savings” account. Next year, when we are ready to do our Christmas shopping, we will transfer the money to our primary checking account and take care of all our Christmas gift purchases at once.

What About Left-Overs?

If you are as frugal with your gift purchases as you are with your own purchases throughout the year, you will likely have some amount left over in your Christmas savings account. With these surplus funds you could get a head start on funding next year’s Christmas savings account, make an extra payment on debt, send a little to the kids’ college funds, or my personal favorite–give it away to someone who needs it more than you.

After reading the inspiring book about the life of Larry Stewart, Santa’s Secret, our family is beginning a tradition of giving away $100 to a complete stranger during the Christmas season. This year, we are planning to go out for breakfast on the morning of Christmas Eve and leave a $100 tip to our server. You never know what kind of impression such a random act of kindness may have on someone, and their family. Imagine a struggling single mom working at a Waffle House on Christmas Eve, wondering how she will fill the stockings for her little ones at home. That $100 could mean the difference in her kids continuing belief in the spirit of Christmas, or disappointment on Christmas morning. For us, that is what Christmas is all about!

When the temperatures outside is approaching 100 degrees it is hard to even think about Christmas some six months away. However, now is the perfect time to start planning for the expense! By spreading out the costs of presents and gift-giving throughout the year, you will feel less of a pinch around the holidays and be able to enjoy a debt-free, worry-free Christmas season.

photo by: krisdecurtis


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  1. You know how some months you get an extra check? We usually have a 3 paycheck month towards the end of the year and we use that extra paycheck to fund Christmas. It works well for us.

  2. Oh man… Christmas shopping planning already?! 😉

    Here’s a topic for you: Is is frugal or cheap to regift used items that are still in great condition? Like a book you really enjoyed, a CD of an artist you think the other person would like, artwork, etc.

  3. OK, I got kinda nervous at the thought of 200 days….AH! But, I am excited about the fact that we too have our Christmas fund for the first time ever in our marriage! I love your generous tip idea! It is the meaning of spirit and love. Great idea 🙂

  4. I love your idea of giving away money as a tradition–I really hope you get a nice server! 🙂 My goal this year is to better communicate that I’m trying to get away from gift-giving, meaning that I don’t expect gifts but would love a Christmas day call.

  5. I think your $100 tip idea is beautiful! Thoughtful, generous and truly in the Spirit of the holiday.

    I’ve had dreams of being able to do that!

  6. @Laura: You can make it happen! I dreamed of it for years, too, but could never afford to do it when the time came. Start putting back a little each check throughout the year and by the time Christmas comes around you’ll have the cash to perform a random act of kindness.

    @Marue: I’d probably do it even with bad service. After all, the bad service could be because worries over money or bills is causing the server to be distracted or depressed. Our gift could boost her spirits, help her earn more money, and could even give her the confidence to return to school, look for a better job, etc. I know it’s a stretch, but you just never know the life-changing impact something like this has on people. It’s well-documented in the book I mentioned in the article. In fact, the author was the recipient of such a gift and it changed his life.

  7. What a wonderful idea about the $100 tip. We can afford this, but unfortunately I don’t have the heart of a philanthropist, so I just don’t think of those things. It’s something I’m working on and something I really want to do. Thank you for the idea–this is something we can definitely do to help make someone’s Christmas a little merrier (especially someone waiting tables on Christmas Eve!).

  8. Ahhhhh!!! Christmas already!?

    It’s bad enough they start decorating and playing music BEFORE Halloween! 😉

    I do like the idea of a Christmas savings account though. Maybe just a “gift fund” in general to cover birthdays and other gift giving days as well.

  9. What a great idea and what a blessing your family is to someone else. That is what the season is all about- thank you for that reminder!

  10. I SO badly want to do that!!! I’d have a really hard time doing it if service was bad though.

    I’ll have to start talking to hubby about it now or he’ll never go for it. I think I can convince him over the next 185 days though. ha!

    This also means that I only have about 100 days or less to gear up my jewelry creation and advertising. *sigh* I’ve been enjoying the last month as it’s been so slow. Ah well…busy is good too. 🙂

  11. This is a wonderful idea! However, I like to make sure that the server actually gets to keep the tip. Some restaurants pool tips and split it across all servers, and thereby minimizing the impact you’re striving to achieve.

  12. We also have a separate savings account for Christmas, it works beautifully. Christmas has never been a financial strain becuase of it.
    We take it one step further and create a list of everyone we wanted to purchase gifts for and how much we wanted to spend on each gift. This list gave us an idea of how much we should be saving, we than add more money for Christmas cards, postage and shipping costs, Christmas baking, and decorations.

    When Christmas comes along it’s a joyous season. It’s such a pleasure to tap into the Christmas savings account each year to make and buy gifts and send out cards and packages. The best part being that our regular monthly budget and checking account doesn’t change or suffer.

    if there is any money left over it’s a head start in saving for the next year.

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  14. Your tip idea is lovely. We sponsor a family at Christmas every year and tend to spend more on them than on most of our own relatives … because of the need factor. This year, we have budgeted that cost into our Christmas spending total, and we are putting away 1/12th of the amount each month in an ING automatic-transfer account. Can’t wait till Christmas!

  15. I love the idea of leaving the $100 tip on christmas eve! That is definitely something that I would love for us to do this year. I too have been thinking about christmas shopping now since we have 11 people(not including our family) to shop for every year and everyone loves to give more than one present each! I started shopping for christmas in april and have a few gifts down already. Wonderful post!

  16. I tend to Christmas shop all year long, and try to be finished by Sept/Oct…It takes the pressure off of me. There have been too many lean winters, but flush summers, so I learned to buy early and put away til needed. Plus, small rural area, very limited shopping, and once the coastal passes start getting snowy, my trips to the valley are done for several months.

    I have used the Christmas Savings accouns before with the automatic deduction/payments – but I used them to save for my property taxes which are due in mid-November here.

    I like the tip idea. I know around Christmas time, my daughter’s received tips increase dramatically – small town and local folks (the regulars) know her situation – and she is very appreciative of the extra given for her kids. It makes a HUGE difference in their lives 🙂

  17. PS – thanks for the reminder…. I need to start peddling faster on the sewing machine 🙂

  18. Great timing on this post Frugal Dad. You are reminding people in plenty of time to start saving for Christmas. The earlier you start, the easier it is to reach your predetermined savings goal.

  19. Like the post. My wife and I try to make as many presents as we can. It is difficult some years, but we know that the receivers really appreciate the effort. We always follow up with some gift cards, but the act of creating our own gifts is really special.

  20. Loved the idea of randomly giving to someone who needs it. I would like to share what my husband and I have been doing since the first of the year to save for Christmas. We save each $5.00 bill that we get in change, etc. Once we have $100.00 we put that whatever change we have collected up to that point into a savings account set up specifically for gifts. It has worked beautifully! We have saved well over $1000.00 so far and still counting.

  21. I find it surprising that in skimming all of these comments, I didn’t see a single one that focused on how to keep down holiday spending without being a killjoy during the holidays. So many people and families put so much pressure on themselves and those close to them to buy just the right gift, in the expected price range, that Christmas becomes a huge source of stress for those people in addition to a huge expense. Not exactly what the holidays are supposed to be about.

    I was brought up Jewish in a well-off family. My brother and sister and I each got one major gift and several small items for Chanukah when we were children. I married a man who’d been brought up with Christmas and piles of gifts, along with the expectations of getting the perfect gift for everyone once he became an adult. The first year I joined his family for Christmas, the sight of a huge tree with an enormous pile of presents, extending over much of the living room floor, just made me a bit ill.

    My (then boyfriend) had spent a lot of time shopping and stressing over what to buy for each person. In the weeks leading up to our trip to his home, I had become convinced that the amount of anxiety he experienced really interfered with the reasons why Christmas should be a joyous time. Personally, I thought having the family together was the most important thing — actually, the *only* important thing.

    The most amazing thing was that Jesus was never mentioned, let alone going to church. The expression “Having Christmas” was used to describe the time when everyone opened presents. That, to me, was a clear sign that something was wrong.

    After that first year, I started politely pushing back on their traditions of piles of gifts, just saying it wasn’t for me. One year I asked them to please not get me anything, but if they wanted to do something they could donate to one of three charities that I named. They did so, but opted out after one year because the charities kept contacting them for more money :-). I could understand their annoyance, but didn’t like it when they tried to hand me cash so I could give it to charity instead. Over the years, their tradition has developed into one where everyone brings one gift under $25, and we play the “Yankee Swap” game for the gifts. There are no small children. If there were, the expectations would certainly be different for them, but hopefully they would be modest.

    During Christmas, we all cook together, we go on destination trips many years, and we spend lots of time visiting and reinforcing family bonds. Much of the stress is gone. Our holidays aren’t frugal, since we travel to expensive places, but we spend our money on the travel and not on “stuff”. Last year we all went to Hawaii. It cost us as much as a mortgage payment to get there. Believe me, buying gifts on top of that would have made me cranky.

    I hope other families, especially those trying to eliminate debt, can address the issue of gift spending up front and develop traditions that are more thoughtful and less expensive. Merry early Christmas, and may all be of good cheer.

  22. This is the first year we’ve done a Holiday Savings account too (one of my smarter moves)… besides the payroll deduction I’ve tossed all my $$ earnings from doing surveys into the account as well. While I love your idea of donating the excess to charity I have a bad feeling it will have to end up in our oil tank instead! 🙁