Faithful Budgeting

"He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful in that which is much...."
--Luke 16:10

Faithful Holiday Budgeting

When researching the origins of gift giving, I came across some startling facts.

Today, gift giving during the winter holidays is practically mandatory—so much so that I’m reminded of the story about the Roman emperor Caligula . It’s said that one New Year’s Day he announced he would stand on his veranda to receive gifts of money—if the amount didn’t satisfy him the giver was publicly shamed/humiliated. To those of us who dread opening the mail after the holiday, due to the abundance of bills accumulated, beware of the Caligula philosophy. To help keep holiday bills in check consider implementing the following strategies.

Create a budget. Decide before you shop the total amount you can afford to spend for holiday shopping. Next, divide that amount among the people on your list. (Seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people shop randomly, without a budget in mind.)

Track your spending. One of my favorite ways to organize my holiday finances is to establish an envelope system. Designating an envelope for each person on my holiday gift list does this. On the outside of the envelope I write the person’s name, the amount I’ve budged to spend on their gift and any gift ideas I have in mind for them. Inside the envelope I put the amount of cash I’ll spend on that person. When I do my holiday gift shopping I simply take the envelopes (and no credit cards) and spend only what I’ve budgeted. Note: Keep these in a safe, hard to get to compartment of your purse, or in your front pocket if you don’t use a purse.)

Drawing lots. To further reduce holiday spending, you might want to consider drawing lots for names of family members. As a result, you ‘all need to buy a gift for the person whose name you’ve drawn. Your family may wish to draw names annually, or create a list where givers and recipients are rotated each year. (This strategy is particularly helpful in reducing holiday spending in large families, and among large groups of friends or coworkers who exchange gifts.) You might also designate a limited spending amount on each gift, so that no one feels slighted or hurt if the values vary dramatically.

Consignment or EBay/Online shopping has saved my holiday budget on many occasions. Consignment game stores and children’s shops are great ways to stretch your holiday budget (or any time of the year). I’ve found used video game systems (fairly new) and games at less 1/3 the price of retail for my son at a consignment video game store; new china tea sets and American Girls ® dolls (with wardrobe some wardrobe and accessory pieces) at a children’s consignment clothing store (?); and most recently, we’ve purchased Juicy Couture® hoodies for $25 (brand new) and Diesel jeans (also brand new) for $48 on eBay. And for those artsy types who appreciate retro pieces or revamped vintage, Etsy has some fabulous bargains and is full of amazing artists.