As EMS providers, we just LOVE waiting for the absolute last minute to get things done. Case in point: My license renewal. I’ve had 4 years to do CE hours, fill out paperwork and pay my fees. 90% of the learning I’ve done during that time has been on my own terms (reading, practicing, researching) and not eligible for claiming CE hours. So what do I do? I wait until the last possible moment to cram in enough online hours to satisfy my license requirements and continue to work. Ridiculous, I know, but how many of us are guilty of doing the same?
Now, how many of us do the same with our personal finances? I know I’m guilty as charged. I’ve spent the overwhelming majority of my life waiting until the last minute to fund things like Christmas, birthdays, vacations, etc. This usually leads to excessive overtime being worked right around the holidays, other bills not getting pain, or racking up debt in order to cover the costs needed to buy presents, travel, do family activities, etc. This is what leads to the holidays being so freaking stressful!
I took a different approach these last few years, and it completely changed the way I feel about the holidays. I no longer stress over them. In fact, I actually enjoy them and look forward to them. I accomplish this by planning and saving. The holidays occur at the same time every year, so there’s absolutely no excuse to let them “sneak up on you.” With it being summer (assuming you’re reading this during the summer!), we’re already more than half-way to the holiday season. If you haven’t started to prepare, you need to start now! Don’t let money (or lack of it) ruin what the holidays are supposed to be about.
Start a Sinking Fund Today
A sinking fund is essentially a fancy phrase for the Christmas Cookie Jar (imagine that). The process is simple: Figure out how much you’re willing to spend for the holidays, then set a deadline on finishing your Christmas shopping. Now you divide the amount of money you need to spend by the amount of pay periods before your deadline and that is the amount you need to set aside every pay check. Let’s face it, you’re going to spend that money whether you save or not, so you might as well make it as easy and stress-free as possible.
This is process that I recommend doing all year long. For me, I figure out what I’m willing to spend on birthdays, Christmas, mother’s day, father’s day, etc and lump it all into a gift fund. I divide that number by the amount of pay periods in a calendar year and just plan on always putting that money away every time I get paid. It’s a never-ending sinking fund, but it’s totally worth it!
Start Cleaning House
By “cleaning house”, I mean getting rid of junk. Translation: Sell stuff and put that money away in your Christmas fund. I really try to go through my belongings a few times a year to get rid of stuff that I don’t use or want. The process is simple, go through your junk, look at each item, and ask yourself: “If I lost this or didn’t currently own it, how much money would I be willing to spend to acquire it?” You’d be surprised how quick you can clear out clutter with this mindset. Garage sales, Craigslist and Facebook “buy and sell” groups are awesome ways to make a quick buck. Don’t wait until December when nobody is interested in buying your used stuff.
Start Your Holiday Shopping Now
No, I haven’t lost my ever-loving mind. If you know you’re going to get specific items for people, why not just buy it now? You won’t be tempted to spend the money on other things, you’ll get it for way cheaper this time of year and you won’t have to fight the crowds. The same goes for decorations and winter clothing. You can browse around online now and find Christmas decorations for super cheap, so take advantage of it!
None of these ideas require you to do anything that’s impossible. Little things like sinking funds, and garage sales can be the difference between enjoying the holidays or spending them stressed out, wishing they were “over already”.
I currently live and work as a paramedic in North Texas. I've been involved in EMS since the age of 18, and have essentially spent my entire adult life doing what I love. My passion is helping my fellow first-responders achieve successful and rewarding through healthy minds, bodies and wallets. I love talking to and meeting new people, so please don't hesitate to reach out and say hi!