June 15, 2012

Ways to Budget for Christmas and Life


And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.  2 Corinthians 9:8

When there’s more month than money, and the mason jar full of just-in-case coins is empty, what can you do today to reign in your spending and stay afloat this holiday season? Below are five ways:

Go back to cash

When we lived overseas, we were paid in dollars, which made for very short paychecks. For a while, we panicked. But once we prayed about our situation, we realized we could return to what we did when we were first married: pay in cash. Touted by Crown Financial Ministries, we took out our money and distributed it into discretionary envelopes (gas, grocery, miscellaneous, clothing, out to dinner, lunches, medical). Then we spent the cash as we needed it. If we didn’t have money in the food envelope toward the end of the month, we “robbed” from the out to dinner envelope. Plus, paying in cash hurt much more than simply handing a plastic card across the payment threshold. We become more careful with what we spent because we felt the weight of each expenditure.

This Christmas season, place all your gift money as cash into an envelope. Pray about creative ways to spend your cash. A helpful and insightful book you can read for inspiration is Unplug the Christmas Machine.

Pay off credit

Want to pay yourself great interest? Make it a goal to pay off your credit cards. Often those interest rates exceed any CDs or mutual fund returns by far. Forgo going out or buying new things for as many months you need to pay off your cards. And once they’re paid off, cut all of them up except one. Determine to pay that one off every month.

I know this is hard to do around Christmas time. But really, when is a good time? If you’d like financial freedom so that next year’s Christmas isn’t as tight, start now.

Make a budget

Are you living from month to month? Do you know how much you make and how much you spend every month? If you don’t, now is the time to figure that out. Record your expenditures for one month. If there’s more month than money, you have two options: make more money, or spend less. For budget help, go to www.daveramsey.com. But don’t simply create a budget for budget’s sake. Think of a goal you’d like to aim for. Here are several goals to save for:

  • Three months’ reserve income
  • Retirement
  • Children’s education
  • Debt retirement
  • Charity
  • Pay off mortgage

You can even create a budget for your gift expenditures for Christmas and birthdays. 

Buy some seeds 

Grocery bills got you down? Have a little bit of earth? (Even if you live in an apartment, you can grow gardens on windowsills.) Consider buying seeds:

  • Lettuce grows well nearly all four seasons. (In winter, try “winterwunder” fromwww.territorialseed.com.) One packet costs about the same as one head of lettuce, but will yield fifty heads!
  • Any kind of squash is easy to grow, and fun for the kids.
  • For the price of one package of basil, you can create hundreds of plants. (Simply place sprigs of basil in jars of water until they root. Then plant!) Later you can make homemade pesto for friends as gifts.
  • Planting spring bulbs or amaryllis in a nicely decorated pot makes a great hostess gift for the holidays.

Don’t have room for a garden? Consider joining forces with other families to join a farm co-op. You will get fresh fruit and vegetables, without pesticides, for a competitive rate. Or look into farm shares.

Don’t scroogify

Consider the value of planting seeds. We plant to harvest, and often a harvest means we are then able to give some of it away. It’s the same with our money. Even when money is tight and we’re struggling to make ends meet, consider finding little bits of excess to bless someone else. Giving from your abundance takes away a depression-era hoarding mentality. It frees you to live joyfully in the present in the midst of trying financial times, particularly at Christmas. Involve your kids in deciding how they’d like to spend a little excess money to bless someone else.

Spending the cash you have, eliminating debt, establishing a budget, planting your own groceries, and giving away from your abundance will help you keep your head in this crazy economy. Remember, too, that God will take care of you. He sees You. And He loves you!

Practical Tip:

Find a gift from this catalog to bless a child around the world. Involve your family in deciding what you’d like to give.

Find more from Mary at her website: www.marydemuth.com.

Photo cc by Kasaa on Flickr.

Originally Published: June 15, 2012
Category: Money and Stewardship
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