We are not buying the cats any hats this year!

It’s that wonderful in-between time of year….right before the craziness of the holidays, while the days are growing shorter, the kids are indoors more, and the fall season of football and TV shows suddenly fills up my DVR.  This is when I realize I only have a few more weeks of 2012 left.  Right after Halloween, the holidays start (the local Chicago radio station starts its all holiday music earlier each year) filling up the few remaining weekends and I only just now have a few moments to sit and think, “Have I accomplished all my goals this year?” Also about this time, I dig out the monthly/yearly budget to review, sometimes in a panic, to see what I have or have not done this far.  I find that if I don’t put myself on automatic pilot for our bills/savings, it just doesn’t get done.  A few years back, I realized we had nothing saved for holiday shopping expenses so we blew out the credit cards in a wild holiday splurge.  Left unaccounted for, we “bought hats for the cats” as we like to say, double buying for relatives (Oh, I didn’t know you got her anything) and overspending a ridiculous amount (wasn’t there a limit?).  We overspent so badly, that we wound up paying it off for months afterwards.  I actually felt a bit cheated and had a severe bout of buyer’s remorse.  By March, when I was longing for a sun filled spring break vacation, we had no way of paying for it and three hard lessons were learned.  One- winter is a lot longer in Chicago than I’d like, two- I really prefer to enjoy spring breaks with some fun in the sun and three- I hate paying off credit card debt for gifts that no one remembered 6 weeks later. So, every time I wrote that painful monthly check out to a credit card company, I promised myself never again! That caused a big shift in our family household budget.  We added a new line to our budget spreadsheet (yes, we track our spending now to avoid double buying!).  We have a holiday gift receipt only envelope.  And we set up an automatic savings payment each month instead.  I don’t write checks to the credit card companies anymore after the holidays.  I have a monthly amount set aside and transferred to a holiday fund.  I really like ignoring it until right about now, mid-October, because that’s when I see how my 10 months of savings have added up and I can hit the stores anytime I want.  Better yet, when I need to recharge my winter blues batteries in late February or March, we can get a deal on Groupon and head to warmer weather and pay for it up front! So, my suggestion to you for this upcoming weekend is this: reset your budget before the holidays get rolling.  Or at the very least, save your holiday shopping receipts so you can add them all up in January for a grand total.  Then next year’s expenses can be earmarked ahead of time, keeping you flush with cash and goodwill instead of credit card debt! Jennifer@ElginFoxValley.com

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