Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Countdown to an Organized Christmas - Day 9 - Set a Holiday Budget

Article and Photo Courtesy of Organized Christmas


Do you know the cost of Christmas?

It's safe to say that most of us do not--and so we find ourselves blind-sided by the Financial Ghost of Christmas Past well into the new year.

When cash runs dry, we turn to plastic. Result? Credit card statements crowd the mailbox and burden the budget long after the tree and tinsel have been sent packing.

A head-in-the-snowdrift approach to holiday spending may feel good at the outset, but it's a sure recipe for financial disaster.

Time for a reality check ... because holiday debt is nobody's idea of a Christmas gift!

To Do Today

Print and set a holiday budget.

The first step on the road to an all-cash Christmas? Keep tabs on the cost of Christmas with a holiday budget. Today's reading assignment shows you how to create and use a budget to control holiday spending.

Whether you use our printable Christmas budget form, open a computer spreadsheet, or track your budget using financial software, establish your family's Christmas budget today.

Then stand back and admire your power tool, because a budget is more than just a piece of paper! It’s a dynamic way to allocate funds and track spending.

Used properly, a budget provides an at-a-glance picture of where your spending falls against your goals--and knowing where the fiscal limits lie will help you avoid the financial fuzziness that permits Christmas to burden the remainder of the year.

A holiday budget lets you give yourself the best gift of all: a debt-free Christmas.

Santa Savings: Make a Holiday Budget

How to make and keep a holiday budget? Try these three steps to take charge of Christmas spending:

For many families, Christmas comes not once a year, but lingers on for months!

Credit card bills arrive shortly after season’s end, not to be paid off until the following summer.

Grocery budgets groan under the burden of holiday meals and baking supplies.

Nearly two-thirds of American families don't know the true cost of their own Christmas celebration--and if they did, they'd be shocked. That much ... for a single day?

Fight the seasonal spending spree with the financial tool of choice: a Christmas budget. Try these ideas to create--and keep!--a holiday budget to save money on Christmas.

A budget is more than just a piece of paper! It’s a dynamic way to allocate funds and track spending. Used properly, a budget provides an at-a-glance picture of where your spending falls against your goals.

Knowing where the fiscal limits lie will help you avoid the financial fuzziness that permits Christmas to burden the remainder of the year. Take a deep breath ... and get ready for a debt-free Christmas!

First things first

To get grounded before you begin making gift lists and dreaming of décor ideas, set the season’s financial limits with a Christmas budget. Use our printable budget form, or make your own using a blank page in the Christmas planner.

To create a Christmas budget, you’ll need to (1) list spending categories, (2) set spending goals, and (3) track ongoing expenditures.

1. List categories

To begin, list all categories for your family’s holiday spending. Budget categories might include:

Gifts
Stocking stuffers
Gift wrap
Postage and shipping
Christmas cards
Holiday photo
Tips and service gifts
Holiday meals
Baking and kitchen gifts
Entertaining
Décor items and Christmas tree
Home improvements
Travel expenses
Holiday clothing
Charitable donations
Post-Christmas sales
Set spending goals


2. Next to each category, decide on a spending limit. Allocate available funds according to the most important categories; a year with heavier-than-usual spending on holiday meals may mean making do with no new decorations or trimming back spending on holiday cards.

When setting spending goals, keep the bottom line in mind! Sure, you’d love to bring in a carpet-cleaning service for the whole house before the holiday, but if the estimate exceeds your entire décor budget, it’s time for good workout with a rented carpet steamer.

When you’ve assigned a spending goal to each category, take a deep breath and add it up. Congratulations! You’re one of the minority who knows the true cost of the Christmas season.

If that cost seems out of balance, adjust spending goals downward. Look for low-cost/no-cost ways to celebrate the season without breaking the bank!

3. Track ongoing expenditures

Check the budget before you spend as an instant reality check on seasonal excess. After you spend, record actual spending to stay aware of the cost of the season. At least weekly, update current spending totals, and compare them to spending goals.

At season’s end, add this year’s budget to the Christmas Past divider in your Christmas planner. Reviewing last year’s expenditures (over-spending and all) is a great reality check as you begin to plan for a new season.

Today's Recipe

Peanut butter cookies topped with a chocolate candy kiss, Peanut Blossoms are a Christmas classic ... and a particular favorite around the Ewer household. Teen boys (and small grandsons!) are happy to unwrap all those chocolate kisses!

Tender peanut-butter cookies made memorable with a chocolate candy kiss, Peanut Blossoms are a holiday treat for children of all ages!

In the Ewer household, these are Christmas cookie-tray favorites. It wouldn't be Christmas without them!

While they're usually seen crowned by a chocolate kiss, try a simple recipe variation by filling a depression in the center with fruit jelly for Peanut Butter and Jelly cookies!

Ingredients
1 cupsugar, granulated
1 cupbrown sugar, packed
1 cupshortening
1 cuppeanut butter
2 eggs
1⁄4 cupmilk
2 teaspoonsvanilla extract
3 1⁄3 cupsflour, all-purpose
2 teaspoonsbaking powder
1 teaspoonsalt
2 9-ounce packages chocolate kiss candies
Instructions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream sugars, shortening and peanut butter. Add eggs, milk and vanilla, and beat well. Stir in dry ingredients.

Form into 1" balls and roll in granulated sugar.

Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven, and press kiss into each cookie. Return to oven and bake 3 minutes more.

Makes 6-7 dozen.

Notes
VARIATION:


With end of spoon, create "well" in cookies, and fill with jelly or jam for "peanut butter and jelly" cookies.

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