I love Christmas. I love the smell of a live tree, the music on the radio and in the stores, snuggling up with my boys, my husband, and Charlie the Dachshund watching Christmas movies. I love SHOPPING for the people I love, and I even love wrapping gifts.
I love driving around looking at Christmas lights. I love baking Christmas cookies and competing in our annual Cobb Christmas Cookie (or Ornament - we rotate) Decorating Contest (votes on facebook are official, right? 😜).
I love making and decorating my holiday planner. I love the candlelit church services, the Christmas hymns, and reading the story of the birth of Jesus in the bible with and to my boys.
I love spending time with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. The laughter is so needed after these last 18 months, and the memories we are making will last a lifetime.
About 3 years ago, I decided I was going to open a Christmas Club (Holiday Savings) account at my local bank. I knew they existed because I believe my parents might have had one back in the 1980s or 1990s, and I even had one when I got my very first job as an RN. I remembered how wonderful it was to receive my "Christmas Check" to do all my shopping. I remembered walking in stores and paying cash for every gift I bought.
While my husband and I have been very diligent with our spending over our 12 year marriage, we had never really discussed Christmas or the money that goes into it. Like most couples, there is usually one person who buys all the gifts and wraps them, and another person who finds out what we gave Cousin Bobby when he opens it. That "felt" like all the Christmas purchasing, budgeting, and quite frankly- funding- was on my shoulders.
We combine finances and sometimes he would order a gift or stop by and grab a gift for the kids, but he rarely considered the other 30+ people we buy for at the holidays. I tried to never use a credit card for Christmas, but with the busy holiday schedule and small children to wrangle, sometimes it happened, and I knew I wanted that to change. Cue the Christmas Club account!
Have you ever actually written down how many people you buy for and what you spend on average for each person? We buy gifts for a lot of people!
-Hairdresser, massage therapist, housekeeper
-teachers (up to 10-15 depending on how many kids you have), bus driver
-coworkers, boss(es), maybe a neighbor
-extended family (we draw names, thank you Jesus, but still)
-we usually do something for our trash/recycle employees, mail person, sometimes Amazon driver (Lord knows he knows me by name now)
-pastor, Sunday school teacher, youth group leader
-adult friends (I have some nearby and some out-of-state)
-coaches, band director, drama teachers
-our doctor, NP, PA ,nurses, office staff, pharmacist especially if we have had a challenging year with our health...I know the year I got sick, I gave gifts to my team of providers who worked so hard to help me get a diagnosis and start treatment
-Angel tree or other donations like Operation Christmas Child
-our immediate family and don't forget the stockings OR your spouse / partner!
This is the amount I received last November in my "Club Check" from my Christmas account.
I didn't need all $4300 for Christmas, but I did use some for some other unexpected expenses and that was wonderful too!
I had absolutely ZERO stress knowing that every single item I purchased for Christmas was paid for in full AND that I even had money left over.
I like to donate to specific charities around Christmas too, so I use my Christmas Club money for those donations as well. If you are looking for ideas, most children's hospitals have an online store from which you can choose gifts for patients or for the pediatric units themselves. I have the boys sit down with me and we take some money from their car funds (upcoming post soon) combined with money from this fund and the joy on their faces as the pick out toys and supplies for sick children is priceless. Wherever your giving heart leads you, I encourage you to follow it and include your children in that experience. We are teaching our children how to treat others. 🌻
This is my current account balance for 2021.
I started with some seed money in 2020, so my club check was higher than it will be in 2021, but that's okay too.
I contribute $100 per paycheck as a direct deposit from my employer every 2 weeks. I realize that is a LOT of money for most families, but after interviewing friends and coworkers about this topic, I have found that most American families spend at least $2000 on Christmas. Part of that $2000 is gifts, but we must also factor in:
-travel (gas, airfare, hotels)
-food (eating out more and hosting family)
-tickets to particular holiday events
-holiday outfits for pictures or Christmas pajamas
Pro tip: Not money related, but, super cool. I read this somewhere and I've started doing it. As you are wrapping each gift, pray over the person who will receive it. This has come more naturally since I have been doing this for a few years now, so my prayers have become more specific. They started as "Dear Lord, please be with Sally and allow her to have a safe and wonderful Christmas." Now they are "Lord, I have seen Sally go through peaks and valleys this year. I have witnessed her grief as she lost her mom and have held her hand as she faced various health challenges. I know You have plans for her and that You know every specific need she has right now. Cover her with Your grace and mercy and bring peace to her heart and family. Allow her to feel Your presence. Allow me to be a source of love and comfort in her life as I continue to walk in Your ways and learn as I go. Give me the strength to support my dear friend."
While I realize it's too late to have a Christmas Club account for 2021 Christmas, this is actually the perfect time to go open your account for 2022! Even if you only deposit $25 per paycheck, that will add up to a $650 Christmas Club check next November! Checks usually come the first week in November.
Final Pro tip: I do shop for Christmas year-round. If I find something I know my loved one will like, I snag it and keep it in my Christmas closet. This helps my wallet and my stress level. When Kroger has 4x fuel points for gift cards, I load up on gift cards. I keep these on hand for birthdays and Christmas. This is yet another way I've automated my life to help with time management when my energy levels are low from my chronic illness. 🌻