In the United States in the early part of the 20th century, banks advertised “Christmas Club” accounts to encourage people to save for Christmas. It was a simple enough concept, in which people deposited a little bit each month, and then withdrew it in December. It was kind of a cute way of calling it a savings account, although I believe the bank didn’t allow the account holder to withdraw the funds until November or December, so it was kind of like a CD today. But that is not really the point I want to focus on.

Today I suggest that you calculate what you spent on Christmas gifts this past Christmas. You might have already tracked that through one of the Christmas gift tracker apps I recommended. Or, you might have kind of stuck your head in the sand and lost count. I did a little bit of both because I tracked my own expenses but I did not really track my husband’s expenses, partly because he bought me a gift and I didn’t want to spoil the surprise. But now it is January and so there is no reason why I can’t look at my bank statements and get a grip on reality. Figure out how much you spent and decide if that is a realistic budget for the Christmas that is coming up in 347 days. Well, less than 347 shopping and crafting days left. Once you’ve decided on your realistic budget, now you can divide that by 11 months and put away that amount from January through November. Or do 10 months for February to November, or January to October…or divide the amount by weeks – whatever makes sense for you.

Don’t forget you can supplement your Christmas budget with the ibotta app, which worked really well for me last year.

Now, where to put that savings? Many small banks and credit unions still offer “Christmas Club” accounts today! But read the terms and make sure they make sense for you. Some banks offer 1% interest on savings accounts, but then charge a 2% fee, so you’d actually save more money sticking cash in a shoebox under your bed. Sometimes putting the money in a shoebox/jar actually makes more sense. Decorate your shoebox/jar with a Christmas theme to help make it fun.

I like this post by Road Ninjas that sort of gamifies different ways to save $1000 or more over one year. My favorite is their money saving chart where you choose the amount to save each week. At my house our income is variable and this method makes the most sense for us.

So, to recap step by step: 1) Be honest about what you spent for the past Christmas. Include gifts, food, travel expenses, decorations.  2) Figure out how much cash you want for next Christmas. 3) Decide when you want to have that goal completed. November 1? December 1? Black Friday? 4) Figure out how many weeks/months/paychecks you have from now until that date. 5) Decide if it makes sense for you to save the same exact amount each week/month/paycheck, or if you will use a different method. 6) See if your bank offers a savings account or Christmas Club account or similar, that actually makes sense and helps you save money and possibly earn interest. Don’t choose an account with fees. A separate account is very helpful, and that’s what I do, but if it doesn’t work out then a savings jar is great too. 7) Try to automate the deposits if you can.

And have fun with it! Make it a game so you are more likely to do it.

 

 

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