Last week my daughter participated in a Santa’s Workshop event at school. It is an annual event where children and their parents discuss a shopping budget, and the kids are allowed to walk through “Santa’s workshop” selecting gifts for friends and family while spending up to their established cash limit. Parents send in money the day of the event, and teachers help kids with the math to make sure they don’t overrun their budgets.
I know a few adults who could benefit from similar restraint, especially this time of year! With only two days until Christmas I bet there are at least a few of you out there thinking, “I don’t have this person enough stuff to open Christmas morning,” or “I need to buy my Mom another present to match the number I bought Dad.” Believe me, my wife and I are having the same discussions. The problem is we have already spent our Christmas budget for this year, so we are officially finished shopping. No last minute trips to Walmart to charge up a few “guilt” gifts this year.
Christmas shopping was a much more pleasant experience this year with cash. After last Christmas my wife and I vowed to save all year long and spend cash at Christmas. We managed to pull it off by setting up a $25 transfer to our ING Direct Christmas Fund each paycheck. We also tossed in some “found” money including a small tax refund and wound up with nearly $600 for Christmas shopping and our annual giving tradition.
If you are already suffering from the worry over Christmas debt I highly recommend setting up your own high yield savings account at ING Direct and stashing a little away each paycheck towards next year. It makes the entire experience more joyful not to have credit card bills rolling in right after ringing in the New Year.
Here’s what our automatic savings plan with ING Direct looks like:
Screen capture from our “Christmas Fund” at ING Direct
Notice that our account balance is already back up to $79.25 after contributions made since our November withdrawal. As an added bonus, we also earned a little over $15 in interest last year–enough to add a CD or book as a stocking stuffer. When the time comes next Christmas we’ll simply transfer the balance of our Christmas Fund back to our checking account, subtract a little for giving, and enjoy a cash-only shopping trip with the rest.