I hate hearing about the whole last quarter of the year.  I have some sort of birthday (where gifts are assumed, if not always given) every two weeks or so, including my own starting in mid-September.  I’m not so concerned with my birthday, but I include it because it is something that ultimately comes out of my budget.  Add to that the expense of Halloween (costume, candy, stomach pump from eating too much candy because you ‘neglect’ to turn on the light for trick-or-treat’ers), Thanksgiving (bigger pants), and the big one, Christmas (figure it out).  This time of year can easily make a person go broke, if they don’t have a plan.

If you have been following Finance For Youth, you understand that I’m not about telling you to skip something that you enjoy so you can keep a few pennies.  For me, it has always been about moderation and planning.  You can do the same, because you have the ability to see into the future!  That’s right, I said you can see into the future!

Let’s take my birthday, for example.  It usually falls on the same day of the year every year (October 16, if any readers want to send me a card!).  Knowing this, it would probably be pretty wise to start planning for next year with the paycheck I’ll be getting right afterwards.  Okay, stick with me here, because here comes the part about moderation.  If I were to buy gifts for myself for my birthday, I would want to set a reasonable limit for the cost of these gifts, say $100.00.  That seems like a pretty substantial amount, but if I get paid every other week, I can put aside about $4.00 per paycheck to make sure I have that amount waiting to be used.  Four bucks works out to be about one lunch, if I buy out.  So, all I have to do is skip lunch one time each pay-period, put that money in my “Gifts for Me” account, and before my birthday, I’m golden!

The same thing can be done for everyone on your shopping list, but I would caution you against overkill.  Rather than set up separate accounts for each person, try setting up one called, “gifts”, and do a little math to figure out your expenses.  Now you can attack the holidays with all the zeal and excitement that they deserve, and if you’re really lucky, you will even get paid a little interest that can compound for something nice for yourself.

Of course, I like having my “Gifts for Me” account, because I really enjoy buying myself gifts.  With all the hustle and hassle of the holidays, I usually forgot that I got myself a gift, and everybody likes a surprise!

What strategies have you found help to get rid of some of the stress that comes with any  gift-buying holiday?  Let me know, I always like to try new ways to save money!

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