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It may seem early, but now that we are halfway through the year, it is the perfect time to start thinking about saving for Christmas.  If you set a budget and start saving early, you can have a Christmas that is a little more stress-free and doesn’t put you further into debt.  I’m guilty of waiting until last minute to shop for Christmas and used to put it all on my credit card.  Then I would spend the next 6 months stressing about the debt and trying to get it all paid off.  I finally started saving for Christmas ahead of time so I wouldn’t have that stress or debt by the end.

Why start saving for Christmas now?

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If you start today, you will have almost a full 7 months to save before Christmas day.  And, since you are saving as you go, you can also buy gifts as you go, as well.  Buying as you go will also de-stress your Christmas.  Further, the more time you have to save, the less money you will have to set aside from each paycheck, so you don’t feel it as much. 

Determine How Much You Need to Save

The first step you need to take is decide how much you will need for Christmas this year.  Make a list of everyone you plan on buying a gift for and decide how much you plan on spending on each person.  I always recommend estimating your amounts on the high side to account for variations in pricing and allow some wiggle room in case you find something slightly higher than your budget. 

After you add up your amounts, I also recommend adding a bit more to the total.  This will help you in the event that you end up adding someone else to your list last minute or, again, you end up picking higher priced items for some people.  If you don’t use it, great.  You’ll have extra savings.  But if you need it, it saves you from going into debt.

Follow a Plan

Once you have a total, you need to create a savings plan to follow to ensure you save enough.  The best approach is to take the total amount you will need and divide it by the number of paychecks remaining until Christmas.  This will give you a per-paycheck amount to set aside each payday.  If you find that this amount is not doable, then you will need to adjust the amount you can spend this Christmas. 

This is where a budget, like The Fab Life Budget, can come in handy.  The Fab Life Budget allows you to budget not just monthly, but by paycheck as well so you always have a good idea of what you have leftover each paycheck.  I created and have used this system for years and, because of it, I have never missed a payment, been able to save more, and been able to pay off more debt in a shorter period of time.

Make It Automatic

Out of sight, out of mind.  Making your savings automatic is a great way to save without feeling like you are giving up money.  When you have to physically set aside the money each paycheck, psychologically, it can feel hard to do and you start thinking of all the things that money could pay for.  When you set up a plan that automatically takes a portion of each paycheck and transfers it to a savings account or something similar, you quickly get used to having less money each paycheck and don’t necessarily notice or miss it.  Meanwhile, your savings account is growing.  It makes saving for Christmas a little easier.

Through Your Bank

Most companies have an option that you can choose to have a percentage or a specific dollar amount automatically deposited into a savings account while the rest goes to your checking account.  Contact your H.R. department to find out if you can do this.  If you work for yourself or they don’t offer this option, you will have to go a different route.  Some banks will allow you to set up something similar so you could try contacting your bank to see what your options are. 

Through a Third Party

Or, and this is what I use and love, you can use a company like Acorns.  Acorns is a save-the-change type of program where it rounds up all your purchases from the card you attach and deposits those round-ups into an investment account.  The round-ups come from your checking account, though, so you need to make sure you always have a reserve in there.  You should be doing this already just in case you have miscellaneous charges to your account and to avoid any insufficient funds fees.  I always leave a balance of around $40 to $50 to be on the safe side. 

Whatever option you choose, make sure you are consistent in your savings.  It is so much better to sacrifice a little now than to stress over a lot of debt later. 

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