I have a confession. I am not an early Christmas shopper. When people learn that I am a Professional Organizer, they assume that I have an organized system for Christmas shopping. They also think I have all my decorating, shopping, and gift wrapping done before Thanksgiving.
I do have a system, but I rarely do anything related to Christmas until early December. In fact, sometimes I even wait until December 14th to do my shopping. I kick into hyper-drive, get organized and get it done.
No system caused emotional and financial stress.
I remember a year when I shopped early. I put the gifts for my children and extended family in lay-away at a local store. A week before Christmas I had to cancel the layaway. I could not pay the balance. I returned the gifts, received a refund, minus service fees, and started over. That was decades ago, and I still feel the pain.
The following year my husband and I set up a Christmas Savings Account at our bank. They called it a Christmas Club Account. Remember those? The Christmas savings account took a lot of stress away.
Around the turn of the century, I began my pursuit of order. I organized the house and our financial record keeping system.
When the next Christmas came around, I created my simple shopping system. I wanted a way to track my holiday budget, gift list and keep up with receipts. The result is what I call my Christmas Envelope.
The Christmas Envelope is as relevant today as it was in 2001.
This is a pen and paper solution, not a phone App. If you are wanting a digital solution, there is no need for you to read further. This article in PC magazine reviews several gift buying/budgeting apps.
Like I mentioned, I’ve used this system for almost two decades. I know it works, and yes, I’ve tried some apps, but I’ve always returned to the Christmas Envelope.
Begin with a planning draft.
Use a blank sheet of paper to make a list that includes everyone for whom you buy gifts and assign a dollar amount. Include sales tax in the budgeted amount. Total your list. It should equal the amount of money that you have to spend. Adjust until you get it to balance.
Remember to include holiday food, décor, Christmas cards, postage, and charitable giving on your list. These are the items that will bust your budget.
Draw four columns on the envelope. Use a ruler if straight lines are important to you.
- Make the first column roughly one inch wide. Column Label: Name
- Make the second column about an inch and three-quarters wide. Column Label: Item
- Make the third column three-quarters of an inch wide. Column Label: Budget.
- Make the fourth column three-quarters of an inch wide. Column Label: Spent.
Next, draw lines across the envelope to make rows.
Create a row for each person and category on your list. Allow extra room for multiple gifts for immediate family members.
Label the bottom row: Total.
Transfer the names and budget amounts from your rough draft to your Christmas Envelope. Use a pencil to write down some purchase ideas for each person or category.
This planning and set-up process takes fifteen minutes or so. Using your Christmas Envelope will save you time and energy.
“Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives
you a 1,000 percent Return on Energy!” ― Brian Tracy
As you shop, use a pen to note the item purchased and enter the amount spent on the front of your envelope. Place the receipt in the envelope. You will stay much more organized if you will do this at the check-out or as soon as you get back to your car.This simple holiday shopping system saves time, money and energy. Click To Tweet
I have a file named Christmas Past where I store my Christmas Envelopes. They serve as great reminders of the gifts that I gave each year and prevent the repetition that can occur if I don’t keep track. Make a Christmas Envelope this year and let me know how it works for you.
This blog post originally titled “Simple Christmas Budgeting that Works” was published in December of 2010 on my Get Organized Knoxville Blog. This is an updated version of that post.