We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Christmas in October? You may think that is a bit premature – after all, we haven’t even gotten through Halloween yet! But hear me out. Gathering up just the right gift for friends and family before the final Holiday bells toll can be an overwhelming task if you wait to the last-minute. The pressure to find something personal and unique for everyone can really put a damper on what should be a joyous time. Just like our retirement discussions, planning and preparation can make the whole experience more enjoyable and affordable. I am a big believer in getting it all done early – my goal is to have everything wrapped by the end of November. Once the presents are taken care of, I have time to relax and enjoy the season, avoiding the battleground of the shopping mall as the final hour of midnight December 24 approaches.
Here are my personal goals during the year as the Holidays approach:
1. Get it done early
2. Get it done under budget
Here is how to do both.
Get it done Early
How many of you start Christmas shopping when you begin hearing the jolly jingles on TV and start seeing freshly cut Christmas trees tied down on the tops of passing cars? If so, you are too late. How can you expect to find 8-10-15 or more gifts that say you took the time to find something specifically for them if you only have 6-8 weeks? I start shopping basically on Jan 1. As my wanderings take me to stores and art festivals, as I travel, with each advertisement I see, I am keeping my radar up for that perfect gift. Those strange catalogs that come in the mail can be a treasure chest of really “different” gifts, some perfect for that uncle with the warped sense of humor or that parent who has everything and needs nothing. Suggestion made by friends and family during the year do not go unnoticed. Pay attention and you will be rewarded.
Once I buy the first gift for whomever, I start my list. Now I put down the names of everyone that I plan to buy for. Next to the names, I include possible gifts as I brainstorm a bit. And during the course of the year, as I buy the item on the list, I put an “X” next to the gift so I can quickly tell who is getting what and make sure the number of gifts is equitable. You don’t want to be opening presents and unexpectedly discover that one child has only a fraction of gifts as the other. What are they supposed to unwrap while impatiently waiting for Billy to open his pile?
As I said, my ultimate goal is to have everything purchased and wrapped by the end of November.
Get it done under budget
There are two ways to set a budget for yourself. One is to decide upon a total dollar amount that you will spend and then divide it amongst the total number of recipients. You have a little leeway here in what you spend per gift as long as you stay under your total budget. The second way to budget is to decide upon a total dollar amount per recipient and calculate your total budget based upon that. As for what is a “reasonable” amount to spend on your friends and family, that is up to you and your financial situation.
The key here is to continually tabulate your spending to be sure you remain on track. If you overspend on Aunt Suzie, cousin Chip may suffer so do your best to keep it fair (unless you like Aunt Suzie better).
I am happy with a simple list to keep track of my efforts. If you are more of a spreadsheet person, you may want to take a look at what Liz Weston shares in “Geek out with me: the holiday planning spreadsheet” .
To truly enjoy Christmas and the Holidays, get your shopping out-of-the-way early. You will earn yourself freedom from crazed mall shoppers, enjoy peace of mind and give yourself an honest chance to experience the season for what it really is before the advertisers got hold of it.
As a senior citizen, your eye is ever on your financial situation. Once you set a reasonable budget, stay within it so you are not regretting your kindness later when the bills roll in. And with a little digging and focused attention throughout the year, you will be able to find those personal gifts – not necessarily expensive – that bring a smile to a face and help to maintain your enviable status as the “cool uncle” who always gives the best gifts.
Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of my Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to email@example.com.