I know we talk a lot on here about staying money smart throughout the holidays and not letting things like Christmas destroy your bank account. But let’s face it, many of us – myself included – probably slipped up at least a little and have some recovering to do. Don’t beat yourself up over it!
Regardless of how far you may have set yourself back, you can and should take the steps towards not only recovering as fast as possible but preparing for next year. By doing so, we can take the stress out of the holidays and truly focus on the positive things that this time of year brings.
Commit to Living on a Written Budget
I know I say this a lot, but I simply can’t stress it enough. We have to live on less than we make and we have to be intentional with our money if we want to succeed. In EMS, we tend to turn towards overtime as a solution to our money problems. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but where we go wrong is we fail accompany that with a written plan.
Starting this pay period, try coming up with a written plan on where you are going to spend your money and stick to it! I strongly recommend actually taking cash out for items that you will likely pay for in person and separate it into envelopes. You can also download the YNAB (You Need A Budget) program. I personally do both. If you’re not doing this already, then it needs to a top priority.
Get Caught Up
If the holidays set you behind on your bills, then you need to setup a plan to get caught up. This is never a good situation to be in, so make sure that you don’t take any options off the table, other than going further into debt. When my situation was at it’s worst, I had to do an inventory on everything I owned and start selling everything that I wasn’t completely attached to. It was painful, but getting caught up over the course of a week made it worth it.
If you racked up credit card bills, then the damage is already done. Yes, it needs to be paid off, but it shouldn’t take any more priority than other debts that you have. You can read one of the previous #MoneySmartMedics articles on paying down debt using the “Debt Snowball” method to help guide you through this process. You basically need to be paying off your debts in the order of smallest-to-largest. Your credit card bills should be placed wherever they fall in that order.
Start Saving for Next Year NOW
With Christmas being in just a couple days, we need to start writing down our plans for next year. Christmas saving needs to start on Dec 26th, or your next paycheck…..you get the idea.
Here’s how you do it:
Figure out a set amount of money that you’re willing to spend next holiday season and be realistic. Now divide that amount by the amount of pay periods in 2015. This will give you the amount that needs to be deducted from every paycheck. It’s important that you stick to this! Don’t let Christmas sneak up on you again.
There’s a number of ways that you can manage this money. I personally setup a sinking fund in YNAB and set it to allocate that money every 2 weeks. You can use a cookie jar, envelope, gun safe, shoe box or whatever you want. If you think that you’re going to have trouble saving, then open a separate savings account and have payroll automatically deduct that amount and deposit it there.
There is absolutely, 100%, no reason not to do this. You’re going to spend the money anyway, so you might as well be smart about it and take the stress out of the holidays!
Trust me on this. The first time you enjoy a holiday season without the stress of money issues, it will be like being a kid all over again. The holidays are meant to be meaningful and enjoyable. Don’t let money troubles take that away from you and your family. Be smart, plan and really commit to making 2015 the best holiday season you ever had!