The Christmas tree is still up and sparkling a cheerful greeting today. My organized friends are already put away for the New Year, but I’m letting the 12 days of Christmas linger on. It’s not our usual thing, but we’ve been working in extra doctor visits this week which included a 6 hour trip to see a specialist in the next state over. Times like these call for grace.
I know you’ll understand, when I say it was an accomplishment to just get the dishes washed and find clean underwear.
This week between Christmas and New Year’s, when you still have some lingering memories of Christmas and how you felt about everything, is the perfect time to make your life better next year. Were you joyful? Disappointed? Super Organized? Stressed? While you can still remember what went right and what went wrong, write a note. I have an excel document that I add a new tab to every year for gift budget planning. That way I can easily reflect on past year’s happenings and improve my plans for the next year.
At the end of the year, I write a few lines under the budget about things that I want to remember. (And trust me, we won’t remember if we don’t write it down.) For example, one year my daughter had a meltdown about not having a cute outfit to wear to our family gathering where her really trendy cousin would be. It’s not a big deal in the scheme of things, but it sure disrupted the happiness at our house. I made a note to work with her at the beginning of the season so that she’ll have a good option and then this year she surprised me by not caring anymore.
One time, I was surprised by “family gifts” that were passed around at our white elephant gift exchange party. I had thought we were doing the white elephant to avoid individual gifting and save budgets and stress on family members….but then I was handed a gift and had nothing to give in return, and I was the ONLY one who didn’t bring family gifts. That felt awful.
There are a myriad of possible ways to give charitably during the season. Our church sponsors families and we have the opportunity to buy gifts for those less fortunate. I also belong to a charitable giving group of local friends and we sponsored our local foster care system and women’s shelter this year. It was an awesome way to show my kids the joy of helping others, except I failed to plan for it in our budget. At the time of year when things are already tight, this had me scrambling. I wrote a new budget line just for that for next year’s budget.
Our grandmother passed away a year ago, and several of the grandchildren gave her daughter the grandmother’s favorite Christmas candy to remember her. It was really meaningful and I didn’t think of it, so it went into my notes.
One year I made several homemade gifts to help with our budget and improve the quality of the gifts I was able to give. The only problem was I got both kinds of flu 2 weeks before Christmas and had to wrap unfinished gifts to take back and finish at home later. Now I give myself a calendar notification in September to start choosing projects and a before Thanksgiving deadline to have them all done.
You see where this is going? It could be a good thing too, like wrapping my gifts as they came (with a code number on it so I can remember what’s in it!) and putting them under the tree and there was no last minute scramble or danger of the gift being found and the surprised ruined.
While I have the excel file open, I go ahead and copy my old budget over for the new year, then tweak it. If I have gift ideas, I add them in as well. In 2017 I’m doubling my gift budget for my own kids. It has been so small since they were born, that if we wanted to give them anything big, it had to be a family gift and use all the budget for all the kids–no individual gifts. I’m ready to change that and breathe a little. When we started out, we budgeted $20 per kid for Christmas. Then when we were debt free, doubled it to $40. For the last 4 years we raised it to $50. Next year I’m budgeting $100. I also raised the birthday budget to $100 per child. Since Darren’s salary didn’t go up, that means I’ll need to make up the difference. I kept the amount the same that comes from our regular household budget, and the rest I will earn extra each month to make it a reality.
This is also a great time to update the addresses in your Christmas card list. I almost forgot about that, because we haven’t managed to mail any out for the last 3 years or even take an updated family photo. I’ve set the bar low to improve next year, bwa ha ha.