It may be summer, but Christmas will be here before you know it! Between now and then, you might even have some birthdays, weddings, or possibly back-to-school expenses to plan for.
So how do you make sure you have enough cash to cover your costs during these important holidays and special occasions?
For me, Christmas will always be my number one spending holiday. The second biggest occasion I spend money on is birthdays throughout the year. I have found that taking a little time now can save you a lot of stress and money later.
Before you can start saving, you need to make sure you have a realistic budget already set up. A working budget will allow you to determine how much money you can set aside for savings throughout the year.
Here is how I currently save for upcoming holidays and events.
WRITE DOWN YOUR SAVINGS GOALS
The first thing you need to know is what holidays and special occasions you want to save for. To figure out how much money to save for each holiday and special event, grab a calendar and write down all of the holidays you spend money on.
I like to start the process of planning in January. I grab a blank yearly calendar and write down all of the major holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, etc.) I spend money on. I also write down all of the birthdays and special occasions (weddings, graduations, or back-to-school) that I will spend money on.
Once all of the holidays and events are written out on my calendar, I review last year's spending. I go through my expense tracker, and other financial documents to determine how much I spent on holiday-related purchases. I also do this for recurring events like birthdays.
This will give you an idea of how much you will need to save for the upcoming year so that you can set realistic savings goals. Write down your savings goal next to each holiday or special event on your calendar.
DETERMINE A SAVINGS PLAN
Once you have your savings goals written down for each holiday and event on your calendar, divide your savings goal by the number of months left until you will need the money. If you want to save weekly, divide your savings goal by the number of weeks.
A few pointers. Do you know that a family member will be graduating this year? Or how about a friend that is expecting a baby? Is there someone you know who is getting married? If you plan on spending money on any of these occasions, they need to be written down on your calendar with a savings goal.
When figuring out how long you have to save, never include the month or time leading right up to the event. For example, if you are saving for Christmas, you will need the money before December so you can go Christmas shopping and set up decorations.
If you start saving in January, you would have ten to eleven months to save money, not the entire twelve. It's up to you when you start your Christmas shopping. For me, I start shopping in the beginning of November, so I have ten months to save up enough cash for Christmas.
IT'S NEVER TOO EARLY FOR A GIFT LIST
If you wait a few weeks before the holidays to think about what you want to buy, you could miss out on some fantastic deals. Create your shopping list early to save money. Create a separate shopping list for each holiday or event on your calendar. Include all decorations and other holiday-related items.
Add prices by the items on your list by looking up current prices at your favorite retailers for reference. This will give you an accurate idea of how much the holidays are going to cost you. This will also allow you to scale down a bit if the final total is too far out of your budget.
Writing out an early shopping list for Christmas is very beneficial, but I also love doing this for birthdays throughout the year. By determining what I want to get early, I can tell right away if I need to pick up a more affordable gift that will fit into my budget.
For example, if I have six birthdays planned throughout the year, and I want to save $50 for each one, that's a total of $300 for the year. If I start saving in January and the first birthday is in March, I know that I will have two months to save my first $50.
If my budget only allows me to save $20 every month for birthdays, I know I will need to find a more affordable birthday gift for the birthday I have planned in March.
WHERE TO STASH YOUR CASH
For me, I am a cash envelope gal! Almost all of my savings cash for goals that are less than a year is put into a cash envelope that I use for spending.
Here's the great thing about using cash envelopes. If I start saving for Christmas in January, and I have a shopping list, I can purchase items on my list when I come across a great deal or sale.
For example, if you started saving for Christmas in January, and noticed that there were a few items on your list that were on clearance during the Toys-R-Us Store Closing Event in April, you could use the cash in your envelope to purchase some of your items early. You can quickly access your cash at any time, and it's there if you need to take advantage of great deals. Just make sure to cross the items off your shopping list.
Using cash envelopes is also a great way to monitor your savings. I use visual charts to track my progress, and it helps me stay motivated throughout the year.
If you prefer to use a savings account, make sure it's a separate account dedicated to each event (Christmas, Birthdays, Back-to-School, etc.). This article has more information on where to stash your cash for short-term savings goals.
FIND AREAS TO CUT BACK
If you find that your budget won't allow you to save for some of the holidays or events on your calendar, it's time to take a closer look at your budget. Can you allocate some of your “fun or entertainment” money to your savings goals?
If you can cut some of those costs on entertainment, eating out, or other miscellaneous expenses for a couple of months, you may be able to save enough cash for your savings goals.
No matter where you are in your financial journey, it's essential to set yourself up to succeed financially by planning ahead.