Everyone remembers Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. There have been about 8,000 different renditions of it, many of which have been on television for the past few weeks (I’m particularly partial to Scrooged, the 1988 comedy starring Bill Murray).
Of all the themes covered during the story, I draw financial connections with the concept of Christmases past, present, and future. For many of the people I meet with, Christmas is always about eight months away – even in October. And when Thanksgiving is upon us, reality sets in that only a few weeks separate us from the annual tradition of spending money we don’t have.
Christmas Past is typically comprised of great memories (we have selective memories, of course): the kids are opening what they so passionately desired Christmas morning and we’re visiting with relatives and in-laws we haven’t seen in a long time. And each January, the piper comes along to be paid. The piper named Visa, or MasterCard, or Discover.
How did you handle this Christmas? Christmas Present is still seen in lighted trees, neighborhood manger displays, and the trash bags bursting with wrapping paper piled around your garbage can. We’re you ready for gift, food, and travel expenses this year? How much of this Christmas went onto a credit card?
It should come as no surprise that if no changes are made next year, you can expect Christmas Future to look exactly like Christmas Past and Christmas Present. The best time to begin preparing for next Christmas is January. That means you must include a line item in your January budget for Christmas. If you determine what you intend to spend for next Christmas, divide by twelve, and begin saving that each month of the year, you’ll have exactly what you need come December.
You don’t have to be a Scrooge to save money for next Christmas; get started with a budget for next month.