Christmas is fast approaching, and I’m already hearing people joke about putting Christmas on their credit card. In the past, I’ve written about saving up little by little over the course of a year for Christmas spending. It’s too late for that, but it’s not too late to cash flow your Christmas spending. No credit cards necessary. Cash flowing Christmas is when you don’t save up, but you don’t use credit either. Hence the use of the word “cash.” Cash flowing Christmas is somewhat of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants approach to Christmas spending. If you need to spend money this December, haven’t started saving, and really want to avoid using a credit card, here’s what you do.
Make Up Your Mind
Don’t overlook this point. If you want to be in control of your money this Christmas, you have to make up your mind about it. Mentally resolve to follow through on your decision to have a debt-free Christmas and believe you are able to accomplish it. I realize that may sound a little obnoxious-self-help-ish, but I don’t know how else to say it. Your ability to follow through on things is directly related to what you think. (This is actually true in every area of your life, not just for money.)
If you decide that there is no way to make it through this holiday season without spending money you don’t have on credit cards, then you will end up spending money you don’t have on credit cards. If you decide that going into debt for Christmas presents isn’t worth it, then you will figure out a way to not use a credit card. And hopefully this post will give you some ideas about how to get that done!
Our minds are way more powerful than we often realize. The extraordinarily wise King Solomon observed that, “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7).
So, the first step to cash-flowing Christmas is to make up your mind about cash-flowing Christmas! Write it down, tell someone, make it a goal, repeat it to yourself daily from now until December 31… Whatever it takes. Here are some practical ideas about actually accomplish what you’ve mentally decided you want to do.
Make a List (and check it twice!)
Make a list of everything you think you’ll spend money on this Christmas.
- Every single person you buy gifts for and how much you want to spend
- Hostess gifts
- New outfits for anyone in your family
- Christmas cards & stamps
- Party expenses (food, decor, etc…)
- Stocking stuffers if you stuff stockings
- Extra charity giving
What am I forgetting!? Please comment with extra expenses I have forgotten because a big part of cash flowing Christmas is having an accurate cost list.
Once you have an estimated list, add up the total cost! You might want to add some cushion money in there if you’re like me and you love buying extra last minute gifts.
For the rest of the post, I’m going to pretend our total to spend came to an even $1,000.
Check Your Bank Account & Budget
Now that you have your total estimated cost of Christmas, you need to know whether or not you can afford it.
The main question is – based on your regular monthly income and expenses, do you have enough extra cash to cover the $1,000 you just estimated that you want to spend on holiday-related fun?
If so, great! Go ahead and keep your expenses list with you at all times, so that when you’re out and about, you can check your list frequently and see what you budgeted. Exercise self-control and don’t go over your budget.
Your options for making sure you don’t overspend are:
- Use YNAB to create a “Christmas fund” and move $1,000 to it. Link YNAB to your debit or credit card and track every purchase easily that way. (More on why I’m borderline obsessed with YNAB here.)
- Take out $1,000 cash (or whatever your total amount to spend is) and put it in an envelope. All Christmas spending comes out of here. Keep receipts in here too! If you do most of your shopping online, I don’t suggest this method 🙂
- Keep your $1,000 in your regular checking account, but track your spending on the list you’re carrying around and once you hit $1,000 that’s it.
Revise Your List
The previous step had you check to see whether or not you had a surplus in your budget equal to the amount you need for Christmas.
So, what if you don’t have the money?
You have 3 options:
- Don’t spend as much – Spend less per person by hand-making something or giving the gift of time in some capacity. Maybe you can suggest everyone in your extended family skip gifts and just have a fun themed dinner party and game night. Swap last year’s holiday outfit(s) with a friend… or wear the same one. Go the less-is-more route with your kids by giving them each one gift and a few stocking stuffers. Skip buying new decor that goes with the latest trends. Give time if you don’t have money to give to charity causes you want to support this time of year.
- Find more money in your budget – Move money around by reevaluating spending priorities during November and December. Reconsider all the optional spending you would normally do and put that money towards your Christmas budget. Some optional categories you might be able to cut back on (or not spend in at all) during November and December would be clothes, dates, entertainment, eating out, home projects, a short-term savings goal, etc… If you spend money like the average American, chances are you have quite a bit of discretionary spending money that could be put towards Christmas instead of whatever it’s usually spent on.
- Side hustle – I wrote this post a while back about side hustling from home. And while the turnaround time is too long for some of those extra things, you still have time to do the following:
- Swagbucks – sign up for Swagbucks and earn points that you exchange for gift cards to most major stores. The gift cards take up to a week to clear, so make sure you don’t wait until the last minute to swap out your points for gift cards. The fastest things to make money with on Swagbucks are surveys and the special offers in the Swagbucks inbox.
- User Testing – apply to be a website tester! You get $10 per website that you test and there are new ones all the time. Just leave the dashboard open during your free time and take tests as they appear. There are tons of sites that pay people to test websites, so you may consider applying to a few different ones. User Testing is the only one I have experience with.
- Sell Stuff – Between Craigslist and the new Facebook market place, it’s very easy to sell your used junk without the work of a garage sale. Take a picture, post it, and voila! You have to put up with some of the hassle of going back and forth with people on meet-up times and prices, but overall, I’ve have great experiences buying and selling on Facebook and Craigslist.
Even though Christmas is just over a month away, it’s not too late for you to think about cash flowing Christmas. Commit to not spending money you don’t have, find some extra cash in your monthly budget, and simplify spending. And if you haven’t already, go read this post so you can successfully save in advance and have a Merry Little Debt Free Christmas next year 🙂
Grace upon grace,
(Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.Read my full disclosure policy here.)